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May – The splendour of Autumn

Although autumn is a time when growth slows down and nature prepares for its winter sleep, there is still plenty to do in the garden during May.

From planting bulbs and harvesting crops to tidying up and preparing for the colder months ahead, there’s no shortage of tasks to keep any gardener busy.

Dutch iris and tulips

Dutch iris and tulips can still be planted. Place the irises where height is needed.

Tulips should not be planted where there is hot sun or strong light.

Tulips do well in a mixture of loan, well-rotted kraal manure, compost, sand and superphosphate.

What to do in the Garden:

Veggies to be planted: beetroot, broad beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots celery, egg plant, peas, parsley, spinach, onion, tomatoes and turnip.


Lawns: Where frost is heavy during winter, the lawn-mover can be given a thorough cleaning and be put away in a dry place.


Roses:  Beds can be cleaned up, fallen leaves removed and destroyed and the mulch replenished.  In frosty areas, cut right down on feeding and watering before pruning in July.

General:  Look for snails and slugs under stones where they may be settling down for their winter rest.  Lift dahlias and label them before storing in a warm place.  Remove tendrils from sweet peas and give them an application of fertilizer high in potassium.  Cut plectranthus back hard after flowering.


Leaves:  Leaves should be swept from lawns to prevent unsightly patches form appearing, but where they fall in beds and borders, they can only bring good, acting as a mulch, and eventually decomposing into compost.

May Chores

Tidy flower beds and remove collapsed plants and cut back anything that needs it.  Clear remaining annuals and debris. Plant grasses to encourage birds in winter.  Prepare soil that is bare over winter by digging in plenty of compost, manure and organic material such as leaf mould and cover with a layer of mulch ready for spring planting.

Trim conifers to keep their shape being sure not to trim old wood. Plant and transplant roses using plenty of compost and make the hole deep enough to cover the graft union. Prune existing roses to about half their size and burn all the fallen leaves to help against fungal diseases.

Plant bulbs according to the suppliers’ instructions in groups of 10-25 or more for the best effect. Water well throughout winter. In areas of heavy frost, now is the time to get out the frost protection fleece and cover tender plants.  

Brighten up your garden by planting winter bedding plants

Brighten up your garden by planting winter bedding plants such as pansies, violas, petunias, primroses and cyclamen in your flower beds, containers and hanging baskets. 

Divide perennials such as daylilies. Cut back ornamental grasses and bamboo.

Plant soft fruiting plants such as raspberries and gooseberries in well-prepared holes at the same depth as they are in the bag. 

Prune established apple and pear trees to keep the centre open allowing for the air to circulate and the sunlight to penetrate into the middle of the tree.  Plant garlic, shallots, broad beans, and peas. 

Protect brassicas if necessary and continue to harvest carrots, leeks, brussels sprouts (from the bottom upwards) and parsnips.