May is a lovely month in the garden, although it’s a busy time for the gardener! It’s a good sowing month, plants will be growing strongly in the higher temperatures and light levels, and there will be some harvests on offer. You’ll also be able to watch the birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife enjoying your organic plot!
For most of us, May is also the month in which we say goodbye to frosts, although it’s worth keeping some protection (fleece or cloches) to hand for tender plants, and an eye on the weather forecast! With warmer soil, more crops can be sown directly into the soil, rather than in modules, although this does mean you’ll need to be on the lookout for slugs and snails and their nasty nocturnal nibbling raids.
And you might find that most of what’s growing in the garden is weeds! You’ll need to keep on top of them, if they’re not to outstrip your vegetables. But it’s worth learning which of them are edible, as you could get a free and healthy dinner in return for some weeding.
Vegetables to sow now for spring and summer harvests
- Calabrese (heading broccoli)
- Courgettes and summer squash
- French beans (for eating fresh)
- Lettuce and salad/stir-fry greens
- Peas (sow in the second half of the month if you’re troubled by pea moth)
- Runner beans
- Salad onions
- Summer cabbages
Vegetables to sow now for autumn/winter/spring harvests
- Calabrese (heading broccoli) and sprouting broccoli
- Marrows and winter squash
- French beans (for dried beans)
- Winter cabbages
- Brussels sprouts
It’s also a great time to plant herbs, as plants will establish quickly in warm soil. Remember to keep them watered if the weather turns dry, and only start to harvest herbs once they are in active growth. Their flowers are great for beneficial insects, so don’t be too quick to chop them back!
What to harvest in May
If you’re lucky enough to have an established asparagus patch, then May is the main month for harvesting this delicate spring delicacy. We’re also in the middle of rhubarb season, so brush up on your crumble recipes!
Sprouting broccoli is ready to harvest in April and May, depending on whether you have an early or late variety (if you like this fleeting treat, it’s a good idea to sow seeds from more than one variety, to spread the season).
You could also be harvesting early salad crops – radishes, rocket, spinach, spring onions, turnips and the hardier leafy greens if you were able to sow seeds under cover (or on the windowsill) earlier in the year.
On the herb front, you should be seeing perennial herbs such as mint and lemon balm, and chives and sorrel will be ready for picking.
Overwintered crops – leeks and brassicas, spinach and chard and other hardy greens – are coming to the end of their harvest period now. Make the most of them before they flower.