After February and April comes May (we skipped March, sorry, but it’s essentially the same as the other two), and things are getting interesting in the edible garden. Perennials like lovage and echinacea are coming into growth after a winter below ground, and the leaves of the Salix alba and Akebia quinata are back. The seedlings that were sown indoors in the earlier months can now be re-potted and moved outside permanently and the seedlings sown outdoors are now growing vigorously. You’ll probably find that as soon as you re-pot or plant out, the plants have a growth spurt, as their roots have been constricted for the past few weeks. My tomatoes need a cane to lean on now that they are over 30cm tall.
There’s much to do in May as the more tender plants including fennel, green beans and courgettes can be sown now that the danger of frost has definitely passed. These should all be sown indoors and planted out as soon as the seedlings are strong, perhaps with the exception of fennel, which could be sown out now. I’ve also just sown a purple radish, the Hilds Blue, which is slightly more tender than its common red counterpart.
carrot seedlings sown too close together
Thinning out is vital to ensure the growth of crops including radishes, carrots and lettuce. Look at seedlings and pull out any that are growing too close together – imagine the size of a fully grown carrot and remember that each seedling will need that amount of space if it’s going to reach full size. Don’t be tempted to leave in more seedlings than the space can hold, as they just won’t grow and you’ll end up with nothing at all. Runner beans can be sown now – plant in pairs and pull out the weakest plant as soon as they start to grow, and provide support for them from the very beginning. Climbing plants, including runner beans and peas will grow towards the support provided, and without any, will flop and die.
Potatoes should have masses of leaves by now, and will need to be earthed up – simply bury the lowest level of foliage by adding compost to ensure that the tubers aren’t exposed to any light as they break through the soil (this results in green potatoes that you can’t eat).
The first radishes planted back in April should be ready to eat now – keep sowing as you pick them (the same goes for lettuce) to ensure a continuous supply from now right through to the autumn. The radish leaves are edible too, and delicious sautéed in olive oil or added to soup (they are a little too tough to eat raw, although this recipe for radish leaf pesto is a great way of getting around that).
Beneficial flowers like nasturtium and calendula can still be sown this month if you haven’t done so already – I’m finding the nasturtiums particularly helpful at luring black fly away from my broad beans.
And although it sounds obvious, it’s vital to water a lot, particularly if you, like me, are growing in pots. Most plants can survive on just a little water, but need plenty more water to produce the flowers which will eventually produce fruit in the coming months. In this weather, I’m watering at least every other day, and leaving a plate under each pot to minimise the water that drains away.
Keep on top of weeds, again particularly if growing in pots, as plants already have a limited amount of space and nutrients and the weeds only add to that competition.
May is the month to enjoy watching things grow, as it will all happen in quick succession between now and June – I continue to be amazed at how suddenly the flowers have appeared on the broad beans that were nothing more than little shoots only weeks ago, and how quickly the tomatoes develop from skinny seedlings to thick, strong plants.
Finally – because this is what it’s all about, after all – here’s what’s growing in my garden this month, as well as potatoes, chard, beetroot, Anemone coronaria, spinach, calendula, foxglove, rosemary, fennel, runner beans, parsley, chives, sweet pea, radish, Schisandra grandiflora, Akebia quinata, Salix alba, sweet pepper, Verbena bonariensis, basil, jasmine, iris, lavender and Myosotis (forget-me-nots).
broad beans and nasturtiums
Philadelphus, raspberry, tomatoes
strawberry, borage and nasturtium seedlings
tomatoes, sunflower, carrot
Echinacea, Potentilla, lettuce
borage, squash, mint