Gardening jobs for May: 10 tasks to tick off before summer arrives

Here's what you should do in your garden before temperatures start to rise

may gardening
(Image credit: ArtPhoto_studio / Freepik)

Despite April being an extremely wet and dreary month, it doesn't mean we'll start seeing some warmer weather very soon. Whether you're hoping to host family and friends in your garden this summer, or would just like to enjoy it yourself, May is the perfect time to make sure it starts looking its best. 

As it's the beginning of the month, it's time for me to share the garden maintenance tasks I'll be completing this month. As usual, I've received some extremely helpful tips from Craig Wilson, Co-founder, Director and in-house gardening expert at Gardeners Dream

Make sure you check out my gardening jobs for April if you haven't already. 

Garden maintenance

1. Prepare your garden furniture

As the weather warms up, now is a good time to start getting your garden furniture ready. Wash down any plastic or glass furniture with warm soapy water to remove any dirt and debris that has collected over the winter and treat any wooden furniture. 

This is also a nice time to think about refreshing old wooden furniture, by sanding back and re-staining. If you are particularly creative, you could give it a new lease of life with a fresh coat of paint.

2. Clear weeds and pests regularly

Hoe bare soil and remove weeds in planters and beds regularly to ensure that weeds are not getting enough time to fully establish and set seed. Keeping beds free of weeds is important as not to allow them to steal water and nutrients from your plants. 

It is also a good idea to regularly check plants and leaves for the presence of aphids. If you spot them, brush them off or spray them down with soapy water, especially if you want to prevent a large infestation.

Flowers, plants and shrubs

3. Cut back box hedging

Aim to cut back the stems of young plants in May to encourage new growth, whereas mature plants are best trimmed in August. Shape them how you want them, and they should hold their shape for the year.

4. Plant out Dahlia tubers

Once all risk of frost should be (hopefully) out of the way, mid to late May is a good time to plant out your Dahlia tubers. Remove some shoots before planting into the ground or in a pot, leaving around five remaining. This will help to encourage bushier growth and a plant that provides lots of flowers.

5. Control your climbers

By now, you should have noticed new shoots on your climbing plants such as Wisteria or Clematis. Before they get too long, it's a good idea to start tying them back. Not only will this tame them and keep things looking tidy, but it's a chance for you to manipulate the direction you want them to climb.

6. Start to harden your tender plants

As the temperatures slowly start to rise, May is a good time to start hardening off some of the tender plants that you have been growing indoors, such as Begonias. 

Start placing them outdoors during the day, before popping them back inside when the temperature drops in the evening.

Fruit and vegetables

7. Earth up your potatoes 

Now that your potato stems are likely to be around 10cm, you should start a process known as ‘earthing up’. This essentially covering as much of the shoot that is above ground with soil to increase the length of the shoot that is below ground, meaning it will bare more potatoes.

8. Harden off outdoor tomatoes and courgettes

Start popping your tomato and courgette seedlings outdoors during the day, and bringing them back inside in the evening. This will harden them off before planting early next month.

9. Remove weeds and pests from your vegetable patch

Whilst many of your fruits and veggies are about to enter the biggest stage of growth, ensure that you remove any weeds. This will ensure there is little to no competition for water and nutrients, and your crop is getting everything it needs.

If you notice any pests, tackle them in advance by hanging pheromone traps in fruit trees such as apple and plum. You could also use mesh to cover soft fruits such as strawberries, which will keep birds from eating your crop.

Lawn care

10. Lower mower blades and feed 

In May, you can lower your lawn mower blades back to the regular position for summer cutting. It is also a good time to feed your lawn with a high nitrogen feed, which will encourage lush green growth over the coming months.

Before you go, have you seen these 8 cheap DIY garden projects that will transform your outdoor space?

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.