May Gardening.

Winter dragged its feet into April and with so much rain in the first 10 days of the month it started to feel as though spring would never arrive but at last temperatures are on the rise! One of the main jobs in the flower garden during May is to harden off and plant out young vegetable and bedding plants.
My plant of the month for May is Irises. Irises are named for the Greek god of rainbows (Iris) and the name couldn’t be any more suitable as Irises are available in every colour you can imagine. It’s easy to see why the Iris is a much-loved garden perennial, it is hardy, reliable, and easy to grow. Irises also attract butterflies and make lovely cut flowers.
Irises are classified into two major groups, Rhizome Irises and Bulbous Irises. Within those groups are countless species, varieties, cultivars and hybrids – some 300 types in total. Rhizome Irises are thickened stems that grow horizontally, partially underground. After planting, iris rhizomes produce sword like leaves that overlap, forming flat fans of green foliage. Bulbous irises grow from bulbs that require a period of dormancy after they have bloomed. The bulbous irises are typically smaller than rhizome irises and usually produce smaller flowers. The most familiar irises are the bearded irises (Iris germanica) and Siberian Iris.
Bearded Iris grow best in well drained soils alkaline soils (so perfect for our soil!) and in a sunny location. Plant bearded iris with the upper part of the rhizome partially exposed to get a summer baking, particularly important in August and September to bake the rhizomes ready for next year’s flowers. Bearded iris may fail to flower for the following reasons: too damp, too shady or planted too deeply. Overcrowding can also affect flowering. Feed with a slow-release fertiliser in spring and avoid excessive nitrogen fertiliser as this will encourage foliage at the expense of flowers. Don’t allow other plants to grow over the rhizomes as this can create shade and damp. Also avoid mulching as this blocks light and may cause rhizomes to rot. Bearded iris can be used in the classic cottage garden border and are effective with alliums, lupins or peonies
In contrast, Siberian Iris prefer a moist soil and will grow in sun or partial shade. Siberian Iris Plants quickly form large clumps of 2-4 ft., deciduous, grass-like foliage. They should be planted slightly deeper than other types of Iris, covering the rhizomes with one to two inches of soil. It makes a great planting partner for other moisture-loving plants, such as hostas and ligularia. For a bold effect plant it next to purple-leaved shrubs.
Top Tips for May:
• When planting up hanging baskets use a good quality compost, an add some slow release fertiliser and water retaining crystals
• Trim back spreading plants such as aubrieta, alyssum and candytuft after they have flowered to encourage fresh new growth and more flowers.
• Start to closely inspect your plants for pests and diseases – early prevention is easier than curing an infestation.
• Protect crops from carrot fly by covering with horticultural fleece or enviromesh.
• Pinch out the growing points of broad beans as soon as beans start to appear at the base of the plant to reduce the risk of blackfly attack.
Whatever May brings I hope you get a chance to step out into the sunshine and enjoy the season as you tackle this months gardening jobs.
Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk

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