Seven simple ways to love your garden in May
It’s May, and we are settling in for the ever so damp and dreary wintery Melbourne weather. Most of us are setting up to hibernate – wood fire roaring, tea brewing safe from the elements of the outdoors. Don’t be fooled, though; while the rest of the world is hiding under the sheets snuggled up warm and desperate to stay in bed until september, your garden is actually hard at work beneath the surface – preparing for spring. What you do in the month of May can impact winter survival and spring readiness. Here are some of my top tips:
In the culture of ‘eat your street’, these tips are relevant to gardening in May. You may need to adjust accordingly.
To mulch, or not to mulch. That is the question.
The purpose in mulching in Spring and summer is to discourage weeds and keep the moisture in. But what about in winter? It’s still best to mulch, particularly if you live in a frost-prone area. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best to mulch just a little bit less than in summer in order to let some precious sunlight in. When you think about it, there is a naturally occurring mulch from autumn leaves – so perhaps we are ought to mulch after all!
Plant now! Or forever hold your peace….
May is really getting a bit too late to sow seeds and if you want to grow garlic, you probably need to think about getting that in the ground too. You can still get some seedlings in the ground from your local nursery – the best things to go for will be lettuces, spinach, onions, shallots, spinach and brassicas such as broccoli and cauliflower.
Kink that hose
Actually, don’t kink the hose; as that’s the quickest way to not have one before spring. But as for watering, when the cold snaps of May come by it’s time to hold back from watering too much. The plants simply don’t need as much water and damp conditions can often lead to waterlogging and diseases. It’s better to water your garden in the morning if possible, and onto the roots – not foilage. On the topic of water, seeing as winter typically is a wetter season, have you considered May as a good time to buy a water tank to conserve this precious water for the warmer months? And if you already have a water tank, don’t forget to clear your gutters of those autumn so you won’t miss a drop.
If you’re worried about vampires, would like to keep your partner at distance due to bad breath or are simply a lover of home-grown produce, why not grow garlic? Fresh, organic and Australian garlic can be hard to come by, which is strange as it’s so easy to grow! It’s better to get your “seed” garlic from an actual garlic seller such as CERES or The Diggers Club and plant it as soon as possible. While traditionally garlic is planted on the winter solstice and harvested on the summer solstice, most of my sources seem to say for Victoria these little cloves of health inducing wonder need to be planted in April/May – my guess is because we are further south.
Move any pots under cover – under a patio, into a greenhouse or even indoors if you can. This will give them a little more protection from the harsh elements to come.
Colour in the most grey of days
Just because winter is imminent, does not mean your garden must be devoid of colour. Great choices for our climate include carnations, gypsophila, azaleas and camellias.
Food for your food
It’s time to cut back on any “food” that you’re giving to your plants – such as fertiliser. Most plants are hibernating and need to rest and conserve their energy, so only feed them once a month at the maximum after giving them a good final feed in May.
So enjoy that warm cuppa and fire – knowing that your May preparations have secured your garden for the dreary weather ahead.
Sam is a local journalist, Mum and co-admin of the “Food is free South East” group. She is also a very keen gardener and has been known to secretly “seed bomb” family and friends on occasion.