Grow Your Own | What To Do in May to Ensure a Healthy Crop
Spring is in full swing and everything from fruit, vegetables and salad crops, to lawns, flowers and unfortunately weeds, will be in vigorous growing mode. It isn’t too late to sow some vegetable seeds if you haven’t yet, however, so there is plenty of time to grow your own food! Here’s a roundup of the gardening jobs you can do in May.
Hardening off crops ready for planting Vegetable and herb seeds that were sown undercover in April may now be ready to harden off and plant outdoors. Hardening off means gradually acclimatising the tender plants to the outdoor temperatures and conditions. Do this by placing the plants in a cold frame or sheltered area of the garden during the day, and bringing them back indoors at night. Keeping this routine going for one to two weeks will help the plant to become used to the harsher conditions. After you’ve done this, plant the crops directly into the ground. You may still want to give them some protection, such as a fleece cover, particularly if you live in northern areas, to prevent damage from any late frosts. Mulching If the weather is dry you can add mulch to borders and beds to help the soil retain moisture. Spread a layer around the area, ideally about 5cm deep. This will also go some way to keeping weeds down too.
Sowing and Planting
Sowing outdoors Sow seeds of runner beans and French beans directly into your vegetable garden in mid-May. These climbers will need a support to grow up and a wigwam is a simple and attractive solution. Simply place three to four bamboo canes into the ground and tie together at the top. Roughly sow the seeds around each cane at the base. If you’re limited on space, you can plant up a container or small pots with chilli peppers or sweet pepper plants. They are easy to maintain and are quite happy left in a container or planted directly in the ground if you wish. They will also do well on a sunny windowsill. Sowing indoors Sow seeds of courgette, marrows, squash and pumpkin into seed cells or individual pots. Place them on a light windowsill or in a warm greenhouse. Make sure the compost is kept moist at all times!
Other Key Jobs
Earth up potatoes The leafy shoots from potatoes planted earlier this year will need ‘earthing up’ to increase the number of potatoes produced. This means mounding soil around the shoots, and covering most of the stems, almost to their full height. This increases the length of the stem which is underground, which will then yield more potatoes. Use the soil that is already there to do this, there is no need to add new compost. Leave a few centimetres of the plant’s stem above ground, allowing it to continue growing, then repeat this earthing up process every two to three weeks during May and June to ensure a bumper crop! Weeding It is necessary to be vigilant when it comes to weeds and root them out whenever you spot one. There is a wide range of tools available designed to tackle large, small and hard to reach areas of the garden. Pest control Pests such as slugs and vine weevil may be amongst the most problematic at this time of year. Keep an eye out for other pests, too, including blackfly, carrot root fly, onion fly, codling moth, thrips and aphids. You will find a wide range of fast-acting and organic pest controls, such as nematodes, in our garden centres. Whatever pest control method you choose to use, make sure it is consistent to keep critters at bay and prevent more from taking over.
Thin out seedlings For vegetable crops that were sown directly into the ground in April, it is time to start thinning them out. This means removing young crops from crowded areas in order to allow the remaining plants to get enough space and sunlight to grow. Consult the instructions for each type of seed that you have because it can vary widely from plant to plant. Be sure to water the area well after you have thinned out seedlings. Water wisely As the weather starts to warm up, it is best to water your garden less frequently but more thoroughly. If possible, water your garden in the evenings when it is cooler. Watering plants when the sun is at its hottest can cause them to dry out too quickly and causes leaves and lawns to scorch. If space allows, invest in a water butt (or more than one) to collect rainwater to reuse in the garden… most plants prefer it to tap water anyway!
For a general overview of other gardening tasks that can be done this month, view our Spring Checklist.