May 01 2023

Head Gardeners’ tips
May 2023

Ashley Edwards - Head Gardener, London & South East

May can be one of the most spectacular times of year in the garden.

Bulbs begin to fade, and flowering herbaceous plants take centre stage. Deciduous trees are clothed in fresh green leaves and the first hints of summer can be felt.

In the Garden

You may need to start a watering regime, especially for pots. Collect as much rainwater as you can, you will need it during the summer months. Watering plants deeply, rather than little and often, will encourage them to form deep roots more resistant to drought.

Frosts will become less likely, so you can now harden off or plant out your tender plants. This includes dahlia and canna tubers. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts though and use horticultural fleece, or bring plants indoors, to protect them from any late frosts.

Resist mowing your lawn and it will become a carpet of flowers. Although dandelions, clover, hawkweed and self-heal may all be considered weeds, they are great for pollinators, who need all the extra help they can get right now. Mow the edges of your lawn, or a pathway through to keep it looking intentional!

Prune any spring flowering shrubs once they have finished. This will give them enough time to put on flowering growth for next year’s display.

If you haven’t already put stakes in place for tall herbaceous plants, do this now. Using willow is a great way of supporting plants, whilst being an attractive garden feature.


In the Veg Patch

Earth up your potatoes as they appear above ground. This means drawing soil around the new shoots and will encourage more tubers to grow.

Prick out and pot on tomatoes. If you sowed early in the year, they may even be big enough to go outdoors once the temperatures are high enough.

Watch out for pests, especially aphids. Companion planting will encourage beneficial insects that will help keep pest numbers down. An adult ladybird can eat 50 aphids a day! Plant calendula, nasturtium, and herbs next to your veg crops.

Indoors you can sow herbs and salad leaves for the windowsill. Sow every few weeks to provide successional crops.



Many houseplants will begin to grow again with the increased daylight hours.

Feed your houseplants with an organic liquid feed. Liquid seaweed is good for leafy plants. For orchids, cacti and citrus, you will find specialised fertilisers.

Tie up climbers such as Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) and Epipremnum aureum (Golden Pothos). You can use a moss pole to support them, and they will eventually root in themselves.

It’s also a great time to repot those houseplants you’ve been meaning to give some extra room! Choose a peat free houseplant compost and choose a pot that has good drainage. As a rule of thumb, the new pot should be around double the size of the current pot. The rules are totally different with orchids and other epiphytes, so make sure you cater to your plant’s needs.



May is the perfect time to be observant in the garden. Every day you’ll notice rapid growth and buds bursting. Why not start a nature journal? Spend the morning observing what’s new in your garden or local green space and note down what it invokes. Look closely at the textures, colours and even scents. Maybe it’ll trigger a sentimental memory, like the scent of roses in your nan’s garden or perhaps it will have a calming effect, setting you up for the day ahead. However you like to spend time outdoors, be present and in awe of nature.

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