Garden Advice from The Mains of Drum Plant Expert Dr Jane Bingham

Summer Bedding

Our shelves are filling up with a fabulous selection of summer bedding plants. A word of caution though, ‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’.

‘May’ in this old saying is taken to refer to either the blossom of the Hawthorn or the month of May. Whichever the meaning, this is important advice for gardeners. Here in the north-east we should curb our enthusiasm and wait until June 1st (when May is out) before planting out our summer bedding plants.

To guarantee success it is vital that young plants are gradually and fully hardened off before planting outside. This ensures that they are robust enough to cope with the great outdoors. Keep them in a cool, frost-free, well-lit place such as an unheated greenhouse, cold frame, cloche or porch. Move them outdoors on mild days and back under cover at night before finally planting outdoors.

Our growing season is short – planting summer bedding plants closely together gives the loveliest displays with the greatest impact. Use fresh, good quality, well-drained compost mixed with some slow-release fertiliser. Once planted out, have fleece at the ready should temperatures plummet. Water well during dry spells, deadhead faded blooms, and admire and enjoy a riot of colour all summer long.

Inspiring Gardens

Are you struggling for ideas? Come and see our new ‘Inspiring Gardens’ displays in The Mains of Drum Outdoor Plant Area. Get creative and stamp your personality on your garden.

1. Front Garden
Make the most of your front garden no matter how big or small. Make it beautiful, warm and welcoming and even a haven for wildlife. Include fabulously fragrant plants like roses and lavender or add a touch of elegance with topiary.

2. Seaside Garden
Have fun creating your own seaside garden. We have chosen tough, drought-tolerant plants that thrive in free-draining soils in exposed sites, and that are tolerant of salt-laden winds and sea spray. Many drought tolerant plants have silver or grey-green leaves; this colour reflects the sun’s rays. Others have narrow leaves, hairy leaves or a waxy coating on their leaves, which reduces water loss.

3. Shady Garden
Create a tranquil place to sit and unwind, a haven for nature or even an enchanted fairy woodland for children to play in. Get the woodland garden look by choosing plants that thrive in the dappled shade underneath trees and large shrubs.

4. Wild Garden
Make your garden a haven for wildlife. Pollinating insects, like bees, enjoy flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen and that are easy for them to access. Encourage birds by choosing a mixture of plants that provide cover, nesting sites and food all year round. Include water for birds to drink and to bathe in. A pond will encourage an even greater diversity of wildlife.

5. Balcony Garden
A balcony is a perfect extension to your living space. Big enough to sit outdoors and enjoy plants close up, but small enough to be low maintenance. Growing plants in pots and troughs is ideal for balconies. Pots are traditionally the home of bedding plants, but small trees, shrubs, climbers, grasses, fruit, vegetables and herbs can also be grown in pots adding extra impact and interest to your displays.

6. Cottage Garden
Recreate the free and easy charm and delicate beauty of a traditional cottage garden. Mix roses and fruit trees with a tangle of pretty flowers and tasty edible crops. The addition of a quirky, characterful tree or formal topiary lends a touch of enchantment to the scene.

7. Edible Garden
You can’t beat home-grown fruit, vegetables and herbs for freshness and taste. Get the whole family growing and get fit and healthy in the process.

Companion planting

Garden plants benefit from a little help from their friends. Did you know that if you plant garlic with your roses, the strong smell from the garlic can deter aphids? ‘Companion planting’ is the term used to describe growing different types of plants together in order to:
• Deter pests, reducing the need for chemicals
• Attract pollinating and predatory insects
• Add nutrients to the soil (e.g. yarrow, lupins, sweet peas, peas, beans)
• Provide shelter (e.g. peas to protect smaller crops)
• Improve the yields of crops
• Some gardeners even report that it improves the flavour of crops

Good companions:

• Tomatoes and French Marigolds. 
Marigolds emit a strong odour which can deter greenfly and blackfly.

• Basil and Tomatoes. 
Basil acts as a decoy plant enticing greenhouse whitefly away from tomatoes. It is thought that tomatoes taste better when grown with basil.

• Carrots and Salad Onions. 
The strong smell of salad onions can deter carrot root fly.

• Sage and Carrots. 
Sage is thought to improve the growth of carrots.

• Cabbage and Nasturtium. 
Nasturtiums act as a decoy plant amongst brassicas (cabbage family). Caterpillars love to feed on nasturtiums, thereby leaving the cabbages alone.

• Courgette and Calendula. 
Calendula (Pot marigold) attracts pollinating insects, which improves the pollination of courgettes.

Timely Tips for May

• Plant out young vegetable plants.

• Salad leaves are growing quickly now – keep sowing new batches for a continuous supply.

• Protect young plants from cold winds with fleece.

• Close greenhouse doors and cold-frame lids in the evening as cold nights are still prevalent.

• Warm spells can cause an explosion of pests – be vigilant and take action early.

• Deadhead tulips and other early flowers.

• Stake herbaceous plants early before stems flop over.

• Grass is growing rapidly now – mow regularly, little and often is best.

Enjoy your garden!