Gardener’s Journal - May 2024

by Head Gardener Jenny Huddart 

“Slugmageddon”- as the month of May 2024 will be now known in all the gardening history books. I have never seen such an epic scale of destruction of newly emerging seedlings, and with it the subsequent heartache and frustration, as to what we have experienced in the garden this year and  I fear I am not alone in my rantings on what a tricky growing season it has been so far. 

Here at Water Lane we use organic methods to help keep on top of our slugs - such as a six-weekly application of nematodes, applied to the ground, in particular around the newly emerging Dahlias; thorough weeding - by clearing the weeds the slugs will hopefully have fewer places to hide; the use of ‘beer traps’ – this can also help keep on top of attack on more advanced plants; organic slug pellets which we scatter around newly planted plants to give them a fighting chance to become established. But ultimately, I have found that the best method is to go out with a torch after dark and catch the fiends red-handed and remove to a safe distance - outside the walls!

May has traditionally been seen as a transitional month in the garden, from spring to summer. This is apparent in our switch from winter salad crops in the Cucumber House to the summer’s tomatoes and cucumbers, from the overwintering tulip and narcissi bulbs in the Pelargonium House to more summer edibles such as peppers and aubergines, while tulip displays in the cutting garden are being replaced by an array of annual flowers.

The daylight hours are evidently longer, with the weather hopefully becoming brighter. The soil is now warm enough to start direct sowing and it is safe to consider planting out half-hardy annuals, now that the risk of frost has gone.

Another obvious change in the seasons in the garden at Water Lane is the movement of the restaurant from the Carnation House glasshouse to the canopied terrace. Diners are now fully immersed in the garden and can watch it take shape before their eyes from their dining table during the summer months.

May is the month of multi-tasking with sowing, pricking out, potting on, planting out, preparing of beds and weeding all being a priority. The end of the month was also the time to perform the ‘Chelsea Chop’ on some perennials, such as Phlox, Heleniums and Jerusalem Artichokes to improve their shape and extend their flowering period. There is no time to sit back and survey our work. But hopefully that will come in time. Come and see for yourselves soon.