Malcolm Griffiths

The month when good things begin to happen

  • Now’s the time: Avoid the urge to constantly cut or prune. If it appears this is necessary, it is because the plants are too close together and should be thinned out

May is usually the month that moves us from questionable weather to more settled conditions.

With this in mind, consider tackling the lawn with regard to weed control, verticutting, aerifying and fertilising.

Lawns generally cover a high percentage of a property and, when poorly maintained, reduce the impact of the landscape.

Creating a thick, healthy sward not only enhances the appearance of the lawn, it also reduces the introduction of weed growth.

As new growth becomes more rampant, consider the plant beds in their totality.

Now is a good time to remove weak or unwanted plants, thus giving neighbouring ones more freedom to grow and produce more flowers.

Avoid the urge to constantly cut or prune. If it appears this is necessary, it is because the plants are too close together and should be thinned out.

Doing so will lead to less time wasted on labour and increased flowering.

If you intend to add new plantings, find out as much as you can before you buy: will it grow in the conditions (ie wind, salt spray, shade etc) it will face in the proposed location?

What is the potential height and width? A hibiscus hedge, for example, has an average growth width of four feet.

If planted at four foot on centre, each plant only has to grow two feet sideways and it will be touching its neighbour.

Planting at a closer distance makes no sense and is a waste of time and money.

The same principle applies to a shrub border; by allowing growth, the bed fills in and looks more natural and more floriferous.

Having space between plants allows more light to the lower regions of the branches, which encourages growth.

To reduce weed control, use ground cover plants between shrubs; this will enhance the area by creating a carpet of green.

As the plants establish themselves, they will ramble into and through the lower branches of the shrubbery, creating a meandering wavelike appearance.

At this stage, weed growth is basically non-existent, with maintenance being given over to, perhaps, deadheading as required.

With the gale force winds now hopefully over, it is a good time to have large trees checked professionally by a tree surgeon who should climb into the tree to inspect the upper regions for soundness and disease problems.

Rot can be a major problem in large trees.

If they have to be cut down, it can negatively affect the garden’s appearance; added to that, the cost of removing a tree and its roots is expensive.

Planting a hedge on a boundary line can create problems, especially if on a main thoroughfare or footpath.

As it grows, half the plant ends up not being yours as it sits on a neighbouring property.

It can therefore be cut back to the boundary with the result that you end up with a one-sided plant, which can be top heavy, especially in high winds.

A similar problem occurs when root systems trespass onto neighbouring properties and cause structural damage; roots can also be a problem if near footpaths as they can uplift concrete or pavers thus creating a trip hazard.

Remember the adage, ‘what you create you have to maintain’; failure to do so can be a costly exercise.