What to sow & do in a May kitchen garden

What to sow and do May kitchen garden or allotment jobs

There’s so much to do in a May kitchen garden! It’s all go here at Golightly Gardens, what with all the sowing, planting out, watering, weeding and feeding.

Although the weather’s been up and down in the last few days it’s still mostly going in the right direction and the soil’s starting to warm up, but don’t be in too much of a rush to plant out.

Here’s a handy guide to what to sow, grow and do in a kitchen garden, or on your allotment, this month.

My May kitchen garden diary

The indoor windowsills are full to bursting with seedlings, in between bouts of hardening them off, and hopefully soon they’ll be moving outdoors.

It has, however been a long road to get to this point. Germination rates have been erratic, and the seedlings have been emerging later than usual and growing very slowly. I’m putting it down to the recent cold snap, and the lower light levels.

Unfortunately none of the chilli seeds geminated, so I’ll see if I can pick up a seedling somewhere because I love cooking with fresh chillies. They tend to have a long growing season so it’s probably too late to start from seed at this point.

lamb's lettuce corn salad baby leaf May allotment

The salad seeds have started to sprout outdoors, including baby leaf lettuce and radishes, and there will be some ready to pick in a couple of weeks.

Later this month I’ll be setting up a wigwam of canes to grow some climbing French beans on one side, and mangetout peas at the back which is slightly more shaded. The bean seedlings are currently being hardened off, but I’ll just throw the peas straight into the soil and hope for the best.

By the end of this month I’ll have all the main plants growing outdoors: tomatoes, courgettes, beans, cucumbers, salads, strawberries, and maybe a mini pumpkin. Add in a few companion plants such as marigolds, nasturtiums and chives, and we’ll be all set for a tasty growing season.

What to sow in May

There are plenty of seeds that you can sow this month, so take your pick. In fact, it’s not too late to start an edible garden off completely from scratch in May, if you choose things that don’t need an extra-long growing season.

Some of my favourite places to get seeds and small plants include:

runner bean and French bean seeds May sowing

Seeds to sow outdoors in May

You might need to sow some of these under cover for a little extra protection, so check the weather forecast where you are.

  • beetroot
  • broad beans
  • broccoli (calabrese and summer sprouting)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage (winter types)
  • carrot
  • cauliflower
  • chard
  • chicory
  • endive
  • fennel (Florence/vegetable)
  • French and runner beans (beware of frost)
  • leaf beet
  • lettuce and other salad leaves
  • kale
  • kohl rabi
  • oriental leaves
  • parsnip
  • peas
  • potatoes (maincrop and last early types)
  • radish
  • rocket
  • soft herbs
  • spinach
  • spring onions
  • sprouting broccoli (for next spring)
  • swede
  • sweetcorn
  • turnip
sowing pumpkin squash seeds indoors in May

What to sow indoors in May

  • borlotto beans
  • courgettes and summer squash
  • cucumbers
  • winter squash and pumpkins

Remember to check individual seed packets carefully before sowing, since ideal sowing dates can vary widely between specific varieties.

Garden jobs to do in May

Yes, it can be a bit busy this month in a kitchen garden or down on the allotment. Here are some reminders of the most important garden jobs to do over the next few weeks.

hardening off a tomato seedling outside in the daytime

1. Harden off more plants in May

    Get indoor-sown plants ready to be planted outdoors, so they’re used to the temperatures outside. Put them outside during the day and bring them back in at night for 7 to 14 days.

    Tender plants such as tomatoes and chillies often stop growing when the temperature is lower than 10 degrees C, so keep checking the weather forecast and bring them back indoors if necessary. There’s no need to rush.

    2. Planting out in a May kitchen garden

    • Protect hardier seedlings against late frosts using fleece or cloches.
    • Plant maincrop potato tubers (and any remaining early potatoes).
    • Plant out seedlings of Alpine strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celeriac, celery, courgette, outdoor (ridge) cucumbers, Florence fennel, globe artichokes, leeks, pumpkins, summer squash, outdoor tomatoes, winter squash.
    • Plant or pot up sun-loving plants in the greenhouse: aubergines, chillies, greenhouse cucumbers, melons, sweet peppers, greenhouse varieties of tomato.

    Remember most tender seedlings should only be planted out once the risk of frost has completely passed (usually the end of May in most areas of the UK). Keep some horticultural fleece handy to protect plants if the temperature drops sharply.

    3. Care of vegetables in May

    • Pinch out sideshoots on tomato plants that are cordon types (the long/tall vine varieties, also known as ‘indeterminate’ tomatoes). Don’t do this with bushy tomato plants though, or you’ll lose a lot of your crop.
    • Cover vegetables with fleece or net after sowing or planting to keep out insect pests. Especially helpful for carrots and the brassica family.
    • Earth up potatoes as they grow.

    PGs TIP: You can sometimes get tomato sideshoots to sprout roots if you put them in a glass of water on a windowsill indoors – handy if you’d like some extra plants.

    strawberry plant with straw under fruits May kitchen garden

    4. Care of fruit in May

    • Put a mulch of straw, landscape fabric or fibre mats under strawberry plants to keep berries off the soil.
    • Remove some gooseberries from bushes now to get bigger berries in June (the ‘thinnings’ are edible if cooked).
    • Thin out overcrowded canes of summer raspberries, keeping about 6 strong shoots per plant.
    • Protect fruit tree blossom from late frosts using fleece.
    • Tie in healthy sideshoots of trained fruit trees.
    May kitchen garden spring lettuce in coldframe

    5. Other garden jobs to do in May

    • Ventilate your greenhouse, cloches or coldframes on sunny days.
    • Add shade nets or mesh to greenhouses if there is a risk of plants scorching from bright sunlight.

    6. Regular tasks to keep on top of in May

    • Slug protection and other pest control
    • Support plants as they grow
    • Weeding
    • Watering seedlings and new plantings

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    That’s plenty to be getting on with, isn’t it? A little extra work this month often saves you a lot of time in June and July, so that’s something to consider.

    Do you have any plans for growing your own this May?

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