Gardening in May

May is one of the best months in the garden. There’s gorgeous blossoms and flowers everywhere, it’s not too hot or too cold, with the promise of a great summer ahead. Spend time enjoying your garden, while planning for what is to come. 

Here are some suggestions of great jobs to do this month! 

If you haven’t already…

  • Plant your second early and main-crop potatoes
  • Build support structures for climbing beans and sweet-peas whilst the ground is still soft enough to push the sticks in. Wigwams of strong canes or sticks in double rows crossed at the top are great! Push them in properly and tie them with thick twine, to help support the weight of a heavy harvest and to withstand strong winds. 

What to do this month…

  • As the weather warms up, adjust your watering schedule. Little seedlings especially need more water on sunny days but larger plants are vulnerable too. A stressed plant will attract pests such as aphids, and regular watering is the key to keeping them away. 
  • Harden off indoor grown plants and seedlings by gradually acclimatising them to outdoor conditions. Move them outside during the day and back in at night. When all risk of frost is over, plant them out on an overcast day if possible.  
  • Plant up a herb pot and place in a warm spot close to your house. The closer to the kitchen the more you will use the herbs!
  • Pot on growing plants into larger containers if they can not yet be planted into their final position. 
  • As Cordon/Indeterminate tomato plants grow, tie the main stem at regular intervals to a cane for support and pinch out suckers/side shoots. 
  • Thin out crowded plants such as carrots, parsnips and spring onions. 
  • If you’re in a mild area you can start planting out tender plants when all the risk of frost is over – towards the end of the month. 
  • On sunny days check all your plants growing under cloches. Lift it up and water the plants if necessary. Also, make sure to open any greenhouses and cold frames as it can get very hot. Your Harvst Sprout will of course do this for you automatically! 
  • Reduce slug habitats in your garden, especially close to new sowings and seedlings. Tidy up, lift up stones, pieces of wood and keep grass short.
  • Check around the garden for pests. Slug damage on seedlings, aphids on fruit bushes, broad beans and other plants as well as flea beetles on radishes and brassica seedlings are good to keep an eye on. Early intervention is key when it comes to pests and always keep the plants well watered. 
  • Pinch out the growing tip on broad beans as soon as pods start to form lower down to stop aphid infestations. They’re attracted to the tender growing tip and when that is removed they tend not to attack as badly. 
  • Lay straw around your strawberry plants to stop the fruits from rotting and to deter slugs. Also, net them if needed but make sure to pull the net very tight so that birds and hedgehogs do not get stuck. 
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and protect cherry, apricot, peach and nectarine blossoms from frost by covering them with a fleece when frost is forecast. 

Quick jobs 

Sometimes we only have five or ten minutes to spare but it is remarkable how much you can get done in those minutes! Also, imagine you did one of these jobs every day of the year. 365 small jobs creates miracles! 

  • Earth up your potatoes to encourage side shoots and more tubers. Pull up soil around the plants to form ridges and try to do this little and often. 
  • Check your rhubarb plants and pull out any flowering stems. 
  • Check on your sowings and seedlings and do not let them dry out.
  • Feed a hungry rhubarb plant, especially if it does not seem to grow so vigorously as it should. 
  • Check your onions and replant any that have been pulled out by birds. 
  • Weeds will grow fast now. Spend 10 minutes whenever you can to hand weed or hoe them off to stop them taking over. 
  • Go on a slug hunt! Look under things like pots, pieces of wood, clumps of soil and stones. Dispose of them and any eggs you find. One slug can lay 400 eggs so stop the exponential growth early! 
  • Move around your scarecrows so that birds don’t get used to them. 

What should I be sowing this month?

A lot of vegetables can be sown this month! Here comes a very long list; dwarf beans, runner beans, lettuce, onions, salad leaves, peas, carrots, parsnips, swede, radish, spring onions, spinach, turnips, beetroot, chard, parsley, herbs, pumpkins, courgettes, summer and winter squash, florence fennel, salsify, sweetcorn – as well as your winter brassicas such as kale, winter cabbages, Brussel sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli. That should be enough to keep you busy this month!

What should I plant this month?

Know your last average frost date and check the weather forecast before planting out anything frost-tender. Usually, towards the second half of the month courgette, squash, pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and sweetcorn can be planted out if all risk of frost has passed. If you aren’t sure it’s best to wait a little longer. 

Also, plant out any other vegetable seedlings ready to go out such as winter brassicas, leeks, lettuces and perennial herbs.

May is a great month to plant globe artichokes if you fancy growing something a little different. The edible flowers are delicious when cooked but if you can spare one for the pollinators they will be ever so grateful. The plant can grow 1m tall and requires around 1m of space. If you haven’t got any space in your vegetable garden try at the back of a flower border! 

Container grown fruit bushes can also be planted this month. Ensure you keep them well watered so that they can establish well!

What should I harvest this month?

May isn’t the biggest harvest month but your Sprout should provide you with some freshness thanks to the head start it provides. Also, harvest asparagus, rhubarb, gooseberries, sprouting broccoli, spring greens, lettuce, radish, chard and baby carrots from outside. 

Gardening with children 

Gardening with children is wonderful and chaotic! It is the very best place for them to learn about and connect with nature, wildlife, biodiversity, sustainability and growing food. It is important to let them have a go and fail but it is also important to give them an opportunity to succeed! Here are some ideas that you can do with your children this month:

  • Grow giant sunflowers with your children! Now is a good time to sow them and why not create a sunflower competition amongst everyone in the family? Who can grow the tallest, the largest head and the prettiest? Be aware of slugs who love sunflower seedlings. Always sow more than you need! 
  • Grow pumpkins with your children! Now is a great time to sow pumpkins and a fantastic plant for your children to care for all the way till Halloween! They are very hungry plants so ensure to keep them well fed. 

Happy gardening in May!