This is the month when it really all starts to kick off in the garden.

This year’s winter and early spring have been much milder in East Lothian than last, and we are enjoying the bright and welcome colours of tulips and other late spring blooms nearly a whole month earlier than last year. Green fingers will be twitching (ours certainly are, as we see the exciting deliveries that are arriving at Merryhatton!) but it’s very important to watch out for late frosts – those parts of the county away from the coast could still experience them even well into June.

One of the questions we have been asked the most recently is “Is it too early to put my summer bedding out?” As with many things in gardening there is no definitive answer. Some people will risk it, others prefer to wait a couple of weeks and watch the weather. We recommend keeping some horticultural fleece handy to lay over tender plants if the weatherman threatens a cold night.

As the weather improves sadly weeds will also be in full growth and the best way to deal with them is a “little and often” approach with a hoe. This will prevent annual weeds taking a hold anywhere and reseeding themselves, and will dig out perennial weeds before they grow big.

Pests will also be enjoying the spring weather. Watch out for any early sign of aphids. The best way to deal with a small number (although yucky!) is just to squash them between your fingers. Try and keep roses well watered, particularly those growing in containers, to help them keep fungal diseases at bay, and remove any infected leaves you come across.

The foliage of spent spring bulbs can look rather untidy but do let it die back naturally for at least six weeks if you can bear it. This allows the bulbs to build up far more reserves for better flowers again next year. They will also appreciate a feed with a high-potassium feed, such as tomato fertiliser.

The first trim of evergreen hedges can be done in May but do be very careful to look out for any nesting birds before you start.

In the edible garden earth up your potatoes to encourage higher yields, or if you are growing them in a bag then top up with more compost. New shoots of blackberries and cane fruits should be tied in to supports to prevent wind damage.

Finally don’t forget your houseplants – they will appreciate a spring clean too! Dust can build up on leaves and not only looks messy but will prevent the plant from growing at its best.

School gardening competition
If you have children at any East Lothian primary school, please encourage them to enter our latest school gardening competition. Using the theme “It starts with a pot”, we’re asking children to use their imagination and creativity to plant a container of any kind for a chance to win £100 of gardening supplies for their school. It could be an old welly, a toy truck or whatever takes their fancy! We’ll have all the entries on show at Merryhatton as they come in this month. So do pop in and be inspired! (Closing date Sun 8 June, 5.30pm)

Ann Rosie and Julie - merryhatton team