It's May and we all want to plant things…vegetables, bedding plants, shrubs, fruit bushes and trees…..The good news is, it’s time to get on with it and here at Skye Shrubs we are making sure that there is plenty of choice to satisfy everyone.
In particular, Summer bedding and vegetable plants are now available at the Garden Centre. Bedding planted now will produce a magnificent summer display. A word of caution though, just keep an eye on the weather forecast and if we are going to get frost, it is VERY IMPORTANT to protect bedding with either a garden fleece or other light weight material to avoid frost damage. Also, watch out for forecasts of strong easterly winds which can quickly dry out those containers containing your prized flowers.
There is also just no substitute for growing and eating your own vegetables. Vegetables to sow outside now include beetroot, carrot, peas, radish, turnip and spinach. We prefer to grow our lettuce leaf in growbags where we can put it in a sheltered place. If you find that sowing seeds is a bit fiddly… you will find an increasing number of vegetables are now available in plant packs. The selection available at the Garden centre varies week by week, but we normally have the standard cabbage, broccoli and Brussels as well as leeks (a great favourite). We also often have celery, garden peas…These are great if you only want a few plants rather than the vast numbers that often result from planting a pack of seeds! This is particularly the case with the brassicas. Plant out the cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower in the vegetable plot now. French and Runner beans grow best in a poly tunnel up here. We grow them in ½ whisky barrels for a great flavour! Don’t forget the tomatoes, we like the little ones ( Supersweet 100 or Sungold as they ripen quickly). Now is the time to get tomato and other 'poly tunnel' plants from the Garden Centre and pop them into a grow bag, or better still, an old fish box filled with compost, keep them warm in a greenhouse or poly tunnel, feed them with plenty of tomato food and await results!! Do the same for cucumbers, courgettes and peppers, also now readily available as plants at the Garden centre.
Fruit Trees and Bushes
In the fruit garden, we suggest a regular hoeing of weeds to maximise the light and food available to soft fruit (strawberries, blueberries, goosberries and blackcurrents). Adding some potash to the soil around the bushes will also improve the chances of a bumper crop later. Remember to water newly planted trees and bushes as, despite what you might think, it doesn’t always rain enough here to keep them alive!
There are few things more disheartening than to see your cherished plants eaten by pests. On Skye we have to wage a constant battle against slugs. I’m told that there are about seven species of slugs that are garden pests. They can cause damage throughout the year on a wide range of plants, but seedlings and new growth on herbaceous plants in spring are most at risk and may need protection. Choose your weapons (pellets, we ONLY SELL the ‘organic’ ones that don’t kill birds and pets, liquid slug killer, or slug traps). Then set to work on the impossible task of total extermination. Other winged pests eg carrot flies, can be kept off a wide range of crops by using a fine woven defender mesh…..but make sure that the edges are well tucked in to prevent them crawling in underneath, or indeed, the wind blowing the fabric away! We are also trying growing carrots in a bag which will keep them above the level of the surrounding ground and hopefully above the level of the ‘low flying’ carrot root fly. Nip the tops out of broad bean plants once they have flowered to discourage blackfly.
In the flower garden feed your shrubs and hedges with bonemeal, or a shrub/rose fertiliser. Anticipate growth of tall perennials and put supports in place. Provide peas/Sweet peas with a mesh or sticks on which to climb.
Hanging Baskets, Pots and Bedding
Now for the pots and baskets..an excellent place to plant bedding plants as you can control the amount of food and water available to the plant to get best results. Get a good selection of hanging basket plants and be creative with your pots. Hopefully, all the ‘couch potatoes’ among us will be taking their pots and baskets to the garden centre where they can be planted up …if you haven’t…DO IT NOW!! This second approach has the added benefit that the pots will be protected from bad weather until ready to give your garden the extra ‘wow’ factor. Don’t forget to feed plants in pots with a liquid feed such as ‘Phostrogen’ every week or alternatively pot some ‘continuous release’ plant food tablets into the surface of the compost and let the rain and watering take the food to the plants. Do remember to water regularly to ensure the best displays.
Finally, the midges…although not detrimental to the plants, they will almost certainly be attacking you soon. Don’t despair, midge jackets are available which give complete protection from the little pests.