What to do in the garden in May: Plants, weeds and pests – full gardening guide

Gardeners’ World: Monty Don on sweet peas

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Gardening can be rewarding all year round, but even more so in the spring and summer. This month is crucial for adding fresh growth and harvesting fruitful crops in the garden, but what other jobs should you be getting on with? Express.co.uk spoke to Tom Hilton, director at National Greenhouse, to find out exactly what to plant, harvest and tend to before the end of May. Read on for your complete gardening checklist.

What to do in the garden before summer arrives

May is an unusual time for gardening in the UK, with some parts of the country basking in warm sun – and others experiencing delayed cold snaps.

While controlling the weather is impossible to do, there are plenty of small jobs you can do to keep your outdoor space looking full and fresh as the seasons change.

Before adding new plants to your garden soil, there are a few key things to consider – but what are they?

Late frosts

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Tom Hilton, director at National Greenhouse said: “Remember to be wary of late frosts in early May – particularly in colder parts of the UK.

“These can often hit during the night, and if your plants aren’t sufficiently protected, you risk them being killed off.

To prevent this, use garden fleece to cover emerging crops, and polythene or sacking to cover cold frames.

Newspaper can also be repurposed to wrap around and over young plants in your greenhouse.

Too much sun

For those in southern areas of the UK, whose plants are more likely to be subjected to higher temperatures, now is a crucial time to provide protection from the sun.

Tom recommended setting up some shade – either with a big beach umbrella, old bed sheets, or propped up cardboard for a cheap alternative.

He said: “Plants can end up wilting when exposed to severe sun, so make sure that you’re keeping them hydrated if the soil feels dry.

“If, however, the soil feels damp, refrain from giving them water to avoid your plants rotting.”

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The warmer weather will bring a flurry of new pests to the garden, so take the time to ensure that all of your plants are adequately protected from harm.

Alongside the regular slugs and snails, many insects such as viburnum beetles and lily beetle grubs will emerge during warm and wet periods.

Tom explained: “There are a number of preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk of pests – such as removing sources of food, water and shelter and reducing clutter – but if you do resort to pesticides, make sure that you’re using them correctly and safely.”


Although a climb in temperature is largely beneficial to both yourself and your plants, it also creates the perfect conditions for pesky weeds to grow throughout your garden.

To avoid them battling with your plants for the additional light and nutrients, Tom recommended:

  • Digging perennial weeds out from the root to make sure they’re definitely gone
  • Hoeing the soil once a week to prevent recurring growth
  • Using weed killers to banish surface growth
  • Use natural weed barriers such as mulching, edging boards, root barriers and weed control fabric which should be placed over recently cleared soil

What to plant in the garden in May

There are plenty of flavoursome vegetables and sweet fruits to plants in May for a late summer crop, including:

  • Beetroot
  • Sweetcorn
  • Sprouting broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Courgettes
  • Carrots
  • French beans and runner beans
  • Turnips
  • Strawberries
  • Gooseberries
  • Flowers are another great addition to your transitional garden, so focus on summer flowering varieties for a sun-soaked display.

According to Tom, the best flowers to plant in May are:

  • Cornflowers
  • Sunflowers
  • Zinnias
  • Scabios
  • Dill
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Nasturtiums
  • Cosmos
  • Calendulas
  • Asters
  • Marigolds
  • Poppies

What crops can be harvested in May?

While there is plenty to plant throughout the month, there are just a handful of fruits and vegetables which can be harvested.

These include:

  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Mizuna
  • Globe artichokes
  • Rhubarb

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