Welcome to Lee’s gardening advice for May 2021 written for Fethiye Times by local resident and keen gardener, Lee Stevenson (aka An English Gardener in Çalış).

“May” you enjoy gardening

Gardening is one of the best – if not the best – forms of exercise and is a great way to pass the time whilst staying safe during the current restrictions. Neither does it need to cost you much to get a great selection of plants, whether in pots or a garden if you have one.

I have collected several of my plants from those people have discarded. It’s also possible to start a new plant from cuttings taken from shrubs and most bushes you like the look of. With cuttings, try to cut at an angle and, if possible, remove some of the outer ‘skin’ of the cutting before placing in the soil and keeping it well watered for the first two to three weeks. You can also use cinnamon powder as a rooting agent, simply dip the cutting in water and then dip or sprinkle the powder on the cutting and place in soil where you want your new plant to grow. If the new cutting is in a pot, placing a clear plastic bag over the top will help retain moisture until roots develop. Some cuttings (geranium, mint, tomatoes etc) can be placed in water until they develop roots before planting in the location you want. This is a great way to grow tomatoes if you don’t want to grow from seed.

I mentioned last month about using plastic bottles cut in half as mini cloche’s, this is useful with cuttings to help keep the moisture in. Another use for plastic bottles is to first remove the plastic cap and make two or three holes (I used a corkscrew to make the holes), fill the bottle with water, replace the cap and simply place the upturned bottle in the soi. This is especially useful for pots as it will slowly release water into the soil. This can be extremely useful if your going away for a couple of days and have no one to water your plants whilst your away.

I have recently created a bamboo “wall” around one of my raised beds in an attempt to stop cats fowling the area and digging up my precious plants – I know it looks like a scene from ‘Tenko’ but before it was more like a scene from Indiana Jones with upturned wooden BBQ canes to stop the cats using it as a posh toilet.

It’s still not too late, despite the heat, to grow plants from seed. They will just need a bit more attention so stop them baking in the sun. Basil is a great, easy-to-grow plant that does well in pots and should germinate in about a week.

Another plant – or should I say fruit – that goes well with basil is tomatoes. I know there is normally a fantastic supply at the village markets this time of year but even those cant beat the taste of homegrown tomatoes eaten straight from the plant – and you can grow varieties not available at the markets. Tomatoes are easy to grow providing you keep them regularly watered, if not there’s a chance the fruit will crack as the sudden change of watering schedule will cause the fruit to grow quicker than the skin. Some varieties may need canes to support them if they’re not the tidy bush types and grow tall with heavy fruits. If you’re growing one of the larger varieties of tomato, pinch out the side shoots and the tip once five to six trusses have set.

It doesn’t hurt to remove leaves to help the sun get to the unripe fruit and will also keep the air circulating around the plant to avoid leaf mould, which normally only affects plants grown in greenhouses but can affect plants outside if grown to close together.

If you do grow tomatoes – or anything else – feel free to post on my Facebook group, an English Gardener in Çalış, and tell others of your successes – or failures. If you’re unsure whether your tomatoes are ripe, just give them a gentle squeeze or a slight pull from the plant. If ripe they will feel firm and come away from the vine easily. If you reach the end of summer or your plant looks like its dying before the fruit has ripened remove any unripe fruit and either leave on a sunny windowsill or place in newspaper in a warm, dark place, making sure you don’t place any damaged fruit in with others as this will rot and possibly affect the good fruit.

Other vegetables that can be sown from seed in May include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sweetcorn, melons and peas.

Flowers that can be sown from seed in May include sunflowers, cornflowers, nasturtiums, poppy, marigolds and zinnias.

Don’t be afraid to try and grow something different or at a different time of year to when the ‘experts’ suggest we should as, with a bit of care and attention, you can grow almost anything at anytime. 

If you grow herbs such as sage, rosemary or thyme, you may notice them becoming ‘leggy’ as they just want to grow bigger. An easy way to stop this and keep them tidy and compact is a quick yearly haircut, reducing stems by about half will keep them looking tidy.

If growing flowers in pots or hanging baskets here are few ways you can help to stop them from drying out.

Place a layer of mulch on the surface, use an upturned plastic bottle with holes in the cap as suggested above to create a drip watering system, water in the morning as roots are more willing to absorb water after nightfall cools the environment around them, try not to use dark coloured pots as these will retain more heat than light-coloured ones, you could even place a sponge at the bottom of the pot to help retain water.

That’s it for this month, I’l leave you with this funny.

What do you call two young married spiders?

Newly webs.

Happy Growing!

What do you want to know about gardening?

If you have any questions or suggestions about gardening and there is something in particular you wold like me to cover in future articles, please let me know via an English Gardener in Çalış or Fethiye Times.