Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 36 - May 2014
What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • Finish off sowing hardy annuals early this month. Continue to sow biennials such as honesty, foxgloves, stocks and wallflowers.
  • Keep on top of the pricking out, pinching out and potting on of seedlings.
  • Harden off and plant bedding and tender plants (leave towards the end of the month in cooler climates) including containers and hanging baskets.
  • Plant out summer bulbs including acidanthera, cannas, eucomis, dahlias, gladioli, galtonia, calla lilies, arisaemas, liatris, oxalis and tuberous begonias.
  • Clear spring bedding to make way for summer blooms.
  • Continue to deadhead spring flowering bulbs and camellias. Cut down the foliage from spring flowered bulbs six weeks after the flowers have died down.
  • Put supports in place for tall perennials.
  • Train climbers such as clematis while the shoots are still young and pliable.
  • Prune back overgrown ivy, but make sure there aren’t birds nesting in it first.
  • Prune spring flowering shrubs such as Ribes sanguineum, Clematis armandii, pyracantha, chaenomeles and forsythia after flowering.
  • Clip beech, hornbeam, box, thuja, privet, Lonicera nitida and leyland cypress hedges late this month, making sure no birds are nesting in them.
  • Divide primulas and primroses after flowering.
Fruit and veg
  • Sow tomatoes under glass and, later in the month, sweet peppers, chillies, aubergines, melons and cucumbers.
  • Plant out leeks.
  • Outdoors you can sow swedes, beetroot, maincrop carrots, Brussels sprouts, autumn cabbages, autumn/winter cauliflowers, calabrese broccoli, peas, Swiss chard, radishes, lettuce, mangetout, French beans, runner beans, turnips, endives, fennel, kale, kohl rabi, sweetcorn, courgettes, squashes (including butternut squash), pumpkins and spring onions.
  • Continue to earth up potatoes regularly.
  • Keep soft fruit bushes well watered.
  • Put straw or other liners under strawberries to protect the fruit from grey mould.
  • Cover or put up a barrier (of fine mesh/plastic film) 45cm high around carrots to protect them from carrot fly. Cover cabbages with a similar material to keep off the cabbage white butterflies.
  • Train the shoots of fruits into supports and tie loosely with string or a clip, snip off any wayward stems.
  • Continue to harvest forced rhubarb, but ensure you’ve removed the forcing jar by next month.
  • Start harvesting your asparagus, lettuce, radishes, rocket, baby potatoes and overwintered onions.
General tasks
  • Mow your lawn weekly to around 2.5cm, longer if a drought is forecast. This is your last chance to re-seed any dead patches before the summer.
  • Use a 'weed and feed' product on your lawn, if you didn't do it last month.
  • Keep on top of the weeding.
  • Apply summer shading to your greenhouse towards the end of the month to protect plants from scorching.
  • Ventilate greenhouses during warm days, but remember to close them up in the evening.
  • Scoop duckweed and blanketweed out of ponds and re-stock with aquatic plants.
Plant of the monthCamellia japonica Rubens

Camellia japonica 'Rubens' is a dark pink, formal double camellia which flowers in late spring. The neatly shaped flowers have a distinctive white stripe through the centre of each petal. It grows to around 10m tall and 8m wide and is relatively low maintenance, although it benefits from protection from late frosts and deadheading to remove the old blooms. Find out more...

Problem of the monthRose powdery mildew

Rose powdery mildew is a very common problem with roses. The powdery, off-white fungus grows on the upper (and sometimes lower) leaf surfaces and looks unsightly. Severe infections can weaken the plant and cause early leaf drop. Mulching and watering well can reduce the problem and it's sensible to use more resistant varieties if you have had previous infections. Fungicides can control the disease and should be sprayed on every 2 to 3 weeks from April to September. Find out more...

In the news

Kew £5m funding deficit

Following government funding cuts Kew Gardens is facing a shortfall of £5m, which could lead to the loss of 125 jobs. Almost 80,000 signatures have been collected in a petition to reverse the funding cuts. Kew trustee and broadcaster Anna Ford has suggested that Prince Charles, patron of the botanic gardens, could use some of his wealth to help reduce the shortfall.

Meanwhile the BBC has announced a new TV series 'Kew On A Plate'. Four, sixty minute episodes will be hosted by Raymond Blanc and Kate Humble and will follow the creation of a fruit and vegetable garden on an area at Kew which used to contain Queen Victoria's royal kitchen garden. The programme will focus on the heritage and science behind the plants, as well as growing and cooking them.

B&Q 'teabag' plants

DIY chain B&Q have replaced polystyrene packaging for bedding plants with new 'easyGrow' containers. A teabag-like material encases the 5cm2 growing environment, retaining moisture and enabling mess-free planting. They are sold in trays made from a lightweight corn starch/coir material. B&Q claim that this will reduce their use of polystyrene packaging by 22,500m3.

New roof gardens for Battersea and John Lewis

On the 3rd May the flagship John Lewis store in Oxford Street, London, will be opening a new roof garden, designed by Tony Woods, the RHS National Young Designer Of The Year 2013. The garden is part of the department store group's 150th anniversary celebrations.

Designs for three new roof gardens at Battersea power station have been revealed. Designed by Andy Sturgeon and spreading over one hectare, the gardens will be themed around fire, water and air, reflecting the power station's original function.


Designing a low maintenance garden


There is no such thing as a 'zero maintenance' garden. Like a house, any garden will need some care and attention to keep it in good condition. But you can certainly create a garden which is low maintenance, taking minimal time and effort to keep it neat and tidy. Here are some of our top tips on what you should, and shouldn't, consider when designing a low maintenance garden.

Bare ground

Making sure that the ground is covered will greatly reduce the time needed to control weeds. Cover bare ground with paving, decking, evergreen perennial ground cover plants or bark mulch to keep every inch as low maintenance as possible.


If you want low maintenance, then you need to manage your expectations about lawns. To have a 'perfect' lawn you need to spend a lot of time mowing, scarifying, aerating, feeding, weeding, and more. So you can either accept that you'll have an untidy lawn or replace it with a lower maintenance solution such as paving, decking or fake turf.


Choose plants which don't require too much work. Plants such as roses, tender perennials and formal hedging take more work than trees and shrubs, so think carefully before you plant. Don't select plants which will eventually outgrow their allotted space, otherwise you're giving yourself the extra work of cutting them back or moving them.

Putting plants in containers and hanging baskets might seem to be a low maintenance solution, but they will require regular watering, feeding and the compost will need to be refreshed each year. Whereas plants growing in the ground will often be able to look after themselves once they're established.

Shaping your borders

If you are going to include beds and borders in your garden then you can make them easier to maintain by edging them in brickwork or steel edging strips, which won't need to be neatened each year, and which you can mow straight up to. Having straight edged beds and borders, rather than curves, will make it cheaper as there will be a wider range of edging products you can use.

Water features

Introducing water into the garden can be a low maintenance way to bring interest and movement into the garden. A small, pebble based water feature should only require maintenance once a year to clean out the pump and an occasional top up in dry summers. Ponds can also be fairly low maintenance – make sure you include oxygenator plants to help keep the water clean, and surface floating plants to shade the water and discourage algae growth.

Get more ideas for low maintenance gardening

Photo courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


What's on this month

After the April showers why not get out and about to see the May flowers:

  • 2nd & 3rd May - West Country Garden Festival, Powderham Castle, near Exeter, Devon
  • 3rd May - Plants That EAT you!, Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Cambridge
  • 3rd to 11th May - Grand Designs Live, ExCeL London, Royal Victoria Dock, London
  • 8th to 11th May - RHS Malvern Spring Festival, Malvern Showground, Worcestershire
  • 9th to 11th May - Garden Show Ireland, Antrim Castle Gardens, Antrim, County Antrim
  • 11th May - See It, Grow It, Taste It!, Martineau Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands
  • 13th May - Guided Walk: The Magic Of Spring, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh
  • 14th May - Study Day: Propagation, Woburn Abbey & Gardens, Woburn, Bedfordshire
  • 17th May - The Kitchen Gardener Workshop, Capel Manor College, Enfield, Middlesex
  • 17th May - Plant Fair & Farmers' Market, Hospice In The Weald, Pembury, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
  • 17th & 18th May - Spring Festival, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, Powys
  • 20th to 24th May - RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London
  • 21st May - 'Champion Trees' Guided Walk, Castle Kennedy & Gardens, Rephad, Stranraer
  • 23rd May - Edible Hanging Baskets Workshop, RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate, Yorkshire
  • 30th May to 1st June - Gardening Scotland, Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh
  • 31st May & 1st June - Garden Show, Hatfield House, Hatfield, Hertfordshire