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May under-cover growing

20 April 2023
undercover 5

Be sure to stay on the grow in a month that can feel slow. Words & Photos Sarah O’Neil

May is possibly the slowest month on the gardening calendar and can easily disappear into a pre-winter inertia as the weather becomes increasingly cold and bleak. This descent into less than desirable gardening conditions means late autumn can slip away without much ado in a month that lacks the pressing demands of other seasons, such as preparation, planting and harvesting.

Being intentional

It takes a determined gardener to be intentional in May and get things done. Deciding to proactively finish tasks, chores and projects that have been put off for too long is a great place to start. A greenhouse warmed by the weakening sun can double up as a work space for making plans and preparations, which may spark the required enthusiasm for getting out into the garden. Taking a moment with a hot cup of coffee – and making a to-do list while looking out at the garden through the dew-coated glass – is a great way to start a productive and enjoyable day in the garden.

Setting up a hospital

If you can’t help yourself and end up making a beeline to the discount section of the garden centre to rescue plants, or you find plants in the garden not coping well with the harsh conditions of the encroaching weather, the controlled environment of the greenhouse is just the place for you to fuss over poorly plants and nurse them back to health. Although sometimes the greenhouse operates as a hospital, more often than not it becomes a hospice where plants can you like to eat. Check on the back of the seed packet to ensure it is the right variety for this time of year so it grows well. Consider adding just a few more if you have the space to share with your local food bank come harvest time.

Having a regular seed-sowing session will result in the need for transplanting and potting, which is the perfect reason to be drawn from the cosiness of the house for some gentle gardening therapy.

Grow some sunshine

On the threshold of the gloomiest season, it is a wonderful idea to inject some hope and sunshine into the garden and give yourself something to look forward to..

The best way to do this is to plant some spring bulbs in the warmth of the greenhouse. Find some cheerful containers so you can bring them into the house when they are on the verge of flowering, filling your home with a pop of bright colour and the sweet scent of spring at a time when you need it most.

Don’t get caught out

Although we are close to winter and the expected chilly conditions that brings, we aren’t quite there yet – and May has the ability to reach back through time and pull out a stunning day with beautiful clear blue skies and wonderfully warm temperatures you would expect from earlier in the season. While this may be a welcome delight, in the greenhouse it can wreak all kinds of havoc. This raises under-cover temperatures beyond comfortable for the horticultural inhabitants and can result in thirsty plants, dried-out pots or even – in a worst-case scenario – a mass frying with high casualties at the end of the day. So, before you grab a picnic and head to the beach for one last hoorah before winter closes in, spare a thought for your greenhouse – make sure it has adequate ventilation and that the plants are well hydrated to help them through what is generally considered to be an out of the ordinary situation.

A greenhouse not only extends the growing season but can also extend your productivity as it provides you with a place to plan and potter about on days that aren’t really suitable for gardening outdoors.

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