May is one of the busiest months on the vegetable plot. The soil is getting warm and the plants growing well. But watch out for a sneaky late frost. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared for frantic last-minute wrapping of fleece to protect tender plants.
Fleece can be purchased from the Shops.
Sowing & Planting in May on the Vegetable Plot
There are two main cultivation jobs you need to keep on top of in May. First, weeds are growing. Hoeing them off as small seedlings will make the job far easier than waiting for them to grow and send their roots down. Hoeing is best done on a dry day so that the weeds do not have a chance to recover.
The other cultivation job outdoors is to thin out. We sow our carrots and parsnips and it seems a shame to remove seedlings we were so happy to see appear, but it needs to be done because we need to give each one space to develop rather than end up with a mass of tiny carrots.
Broccoli and Calabrese
Cabbage and Cauliflowers
Turnips and Swedes
Sowing under cover
These really don’t like starting in the cold and you only grow a relatively few plants so starting off in pots is well worth the investment.
Sweetcorn does not like its roots being disturbed so care is taken at planting time.
If your plants are large enough, you can plant out now:
With leeks a good rule of thumb is to get the seedling about as thick as a pencil. Dib a hole about six inches deep using something like an old spade handle and drop the seedling in. Water well and allow the soil to fall back in naturally.
In the greenhouse
The following are ready for their final home, that may be the border, a growbag or a large pot.
Peppers (Chilli and Sweet)
Earth up potatoes when the shoots are 23cm (9in) high, in order to prevent the new tubers going green. Earthing-up is the drawing up of soil around the stems of the plants, leaving just 5cm (2in) of shoot uncovered so that the plant has enough foliage to continue growing.
Start to remove sideshoots from cordon tomatoes as you see them. The sideshoots develop in the leaf axils (i.e. between the stem and leaf), and if allowed to develop will sap the energy of the plant and reduce the quality of the yield.
Strings stretched along the tops of broad bean plants can support them, and prevent them flopping once pods develop.
Peas need staking with pea sticks, netting, or pruned twigs from the garden.
It’s mainly a matter of ensuring that you get the crops rather than the birds. A fruit cage is a big investment but very effective, otherwise netting to keep the birds away.
Strawberries planted this year will perform better in subsequent years if you remove the flowers so they don’t set fruit in the first year but concentrate instead on building their strength for next.
Water blueberries, cranberries and lingonberries when needed with rainwater, but use tap water when butts are empty.
Pruning and training Fruit
Remove wayward shoots on fan-trained trees and tie in better placed ones.
Thin out crowded raspberry shoots.
Thin gooseberries if you want large fruit.
Tie in leading and sideshoots of kiwifruit.
Problems and Pests
Don’t forget the slugs are about, if you find an entire row of seedlings have vanished overnight you can bet it was slugs.
With your carrots, covering with a fleece and ensuring the edges are buried will stop the carrot root fly from gaining entry to lay eggs by your carrots. The eggs hatch in larvae that burrow into the carrot root, killing the plant or at least spoiling the crop.
Fleece can be purchased from the Shops.
Keep an eye out for asparagus beetles, and pick them off by hand.
Watch for the small holes flea beetles make on brassica seedlings. Water plants well to help them continue growing despite the pest damage.
Protect brassicas and peas from pigeons.
Netting can be purchased from the Shops.
Pick yellowing leaves off brassicas promptly, to prevent spread of grey mould and brassica downy mildew.
Deal with apple sawfly and capsid bug and prevent blossom wilt if it struck last year.
Put up codling moth traps in apple trees.
Look out for spur blight, cane spot and cane blight on raspberries, blackberries and hybrid berries.
Put bird protection in place for all soft fruit.
Netting can be purchased from the Shops
Deal with raspberry leaf and bud mite and raspberry rust from now on.