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Make hay till end of May; Lots to do in busiest month In the garden with Steve Riches OUR MAN WITH GREEN FINGERS.

Byline: Steve Riches

MAY lays claim to being the busiest month in the gardening calendar - and the fat lady hasn't started singing yet... PATIOS always need attention, but that's fair enough because it's where you'll spend most of the summer.

Watch those hanging baskets in particular. If you let them dry out you'll never re-hydrate them. And if you don't dead-head you won't get the profusion of flowers you're after.

If you have got climbers around them, show them who's boss. Clematis, honeysuckle and sweet peas, in particular, will head off in all directions unless you rein them in.

It only takes the odd snip of the secateurs or a twist of wire.

Make sure you support lilies in pots and check they're not sharing them with the dreaded red lily beetle (pick them off) or slugs, who are also partial to hostas, herbs and fuchsias. LAWNS should be looking good by now, nice and neat and ideally cut every 10-14 days with the blades on a low setting. Keep the edges trimmed or they'll look tatty.

If there are ugly bare patches, you can still scatter lawn seed. Or even turf if the area is large. But your main job will be weed killing, which means digging them out in the case of plantains, daisies and buttercups and sticking them in the recycling bin, not on the compost heap.

FLOWER BEDS are fun right now as conditions should be ideal for sowing.

There is no real need to use seed trays for later planting once frost danger has passed.

I can't possibly recommend which flowers to go for, since you have a choice of about 800. But, as always, I would go for single-colour displays and make sure you check the projected height and spread or you could end up with a right old mess.

When they start poking through the soil, thin them out ruthlessly so the survivors thrive. Otherwise they'll all choke together in the search for light and nutrients.

If you're putting in plants, rather than seed, do so when it's cool and damp. And if they will need staking, like dahlias and lupins, do it now. VEGETABLE PLOTS should be ready for second or third sowings of all salad crops to maintain succession harvesting and it's time to put in outdoor tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and courgettes. Sow runner and dwarf bean seeds and plant out any leeks grown from seed.

Busy, busy times - but it will be well worth your efforts.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 22, 2011
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