May’s always a busy month in the kitchen garden here at Golightly Gardens. There’s so much to do! It’s all go, what with all the sowing, planting out, watering, weeding and feeding. The indoor windowsills are full to bursting with seedlings, in between bouts of hardening them off, and hopefully soon they’ll be moving outdoors.
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 please be warned: many areas are at risk of overnight frosts and hail and snow has been forecast for several parts of the UK in the next few days. 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.
What to sow in May: Outdoors
You might need to sow some of these under cover for a little extra protection, so check the weather forecast where you are.
- broad beans
- broccoli (calabrese and summer sprouting)
- Brussels sprouts
- cabbage (winter types)
- fennel (Florence/vegetable)
- French and runner beans (beware of frost)
- leaf beet
- lettuce and other salad leaves
- kohl rabi
- oriental leaves
- potatoes (maincrop and last early types)
- soft herbs
- spring onions
- sprouting broccoli (for next spring)
What to sow in May: Indoors
- borlotto beans
- courgettes and summer squash
- winter squash and pumpkins
Planting out in May
- Harden off any indoor plants that are ready to be planted outdoors.
- 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 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.
Care of vegetables in May
- Pinch out sideshoots on tomato plants that are cordon types (long vine varieties, also known as ‘indeterminate’ tomatoes).
- Cover vegetables with fleece or net after sowing or planting to keep out insect pests.
- 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.
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 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.
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.
Garden jobs to keep on top of in May
- Slug protection and other pest control
- Support plants as they grow
- Watering seedlings and new plantings
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?