A truly fine month in our gardens…

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Horticulturist and garden designer/consultant Hannah Hobbs-Chell is the gardener at High Mead Farm, looking after four acres of gardens and landscape. If you have a question for her, email:hannah.hobbschell@outlook.com including a picture if relevant

Your Garden in May
May sees the end of cherry blossom, the wonder of apple blossom to start the month, and some of the first fruits of the year at the end of the month. It truly is a fine month in the garden.
The fresh spring greens of
trees as they finally spring to life and provide food for
insects and baby birds in
return is pretty heartwarming, and the sun has strength and promise. It also happens to be my birthday!
Weed!
Those weeds keep coming in earnest in the warm weather, so pull out or hoe off any weeds whilst young to prevent seedheads from forming.
Check Lilies for lily Beetle and Box for box moth caterpillar
Both of these pests are difficult to control, and can cause quite serious damage to your plants if ignored. Box moth has been an increasing emerging pest in the UK over the recent years, and I had a brief battle with it at the end of last year so it has reached Dorset now. Many owners of substantial box hedging and those planning to plant have chosen to replace their box with a similar looking plant due to both the devastating impacts of box moth and box blight on the plants.
There is some hope for box moth however, as blue tits are now starting to try them out as a food source (though not sufficiently to protect bushes from significant attack). Currently there is no official UK licensed product home consumers can use for box moth caterpillar. There has been some mention of a product called Xentari, but currently this product is not licensed and not on the UK pesticide register. Only one product, which is licensed only for professionals with a PA1/6 qualification, is available as a pesticide control for box.
A product has been available in the EU for a couple of years, but has yet to pass UK regs. Other generic systemic pesticides will have some effect, but do not spray when
in bud or bloom due to the
threats to pollinators. If you can, pick off any caterpillars you see, and consider replanting with a different species if the problem is unmanageable. Good alternatives include
Euonymus, Yew, Pittosporum
and Berberis. The RHS is
running a survey to produce
an up to date map of sightings, so if you do get
them, please log your findings at apps.rhs.org.uk/
surveys/submitrecord.asp?type=9 , to help with further research. Lily beetle damage is caused both by adults and larvae, bu t the larvae do the most damage. The adults are bright red on top, but have a tendancy to fall off the plant upside down when they sense vibration as a defence mechanism, rendering them invisible! Their larvae generally hide under the leaves and disguise themselves with a layer of their own dung! Keep watch, and pick off and kill any larvae and adults seen.
Prune spring flowering shrubs once they have finished flowering.
This is essential to do now, so that the plant can grow and produse the stems for flowers next spring.
In general, spring flowering plants produce flowers on old wood, so foliage needs at least nine months to mature and develop buds. Forsythia, Rhododendron, and Camelia are all examples.
Support growing herbaceous plants
You can buy special hoops and rings to help prop up taller herbaceous plants, these look great, but can be pricey if you’ve got lots or are on a tight budget! Other homemade alternatives are small sections of bean canes and string or wire. Propping up really helps to make the most of the display, and stops the wind from snapping taller plants.
Earth up potatoes
To get the most out of potato plants, earthing up is really important; it increases the length of the stem that will bear potatoes. Do this first when they are about 10cm tall – mound soil over them to completely cover. This mounding can be repeated once or twice more at twom to three-week intervals to ensure the best crop.
Plant hanging baskets and harden off any tender plants ready to plant at the end of the month
Revise outdoors, or go for a walk in nature before or after your exams
Year 11s and Year 12 and 13s will be starting your exams this month, a stressful time for most I know. Try to get some fresh air by revising outdoors if you can, and take a walk before or after an exam to help clear the mind and de-stress the body. Exams produce lots of adrenaline, and as a result lots of glucose, and walking in nature helps your body to rid itself of that excess so that it causes less unwanted anxiety and physical symptoms.
Wish you the very best of luck, you’re a star no matter what as you’ve done your best and that’s all anyone can ask for and all you can ask of yourself.

By Hannah Hobbs-Chell
Horticulturist and garden designer/consultant Hannah Hobbs-Chell is the gardener at High Mead Farm, looking after four acres of gardens and landscape.
If you have a question for her, email:hannah.hobbschell@outlook.com including a picture if relevant

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