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Jobs for May

Updated: May 10



May is the ‘It’s now or never!’ month on the allotment, with the foot hard down on the accelerator. It has been another dry spring, and though there have been a few cold days, looking forward, the forecast is for a dry, sunny and hot May. Potatoes will need regular watering to ensure a decent crop, along with any newly planted seeds and seedlings.


PREPARATION

For spring planting the beds need to be ready now. If you are late to start, don’t worry, prepare the beds as you go, rather than trying to do the whole plot.


SOWING & PLANTING

May is the time to plant out seedlings sown indoors earlier in the year. Harden them off first by putting them out in the day, and bringing them indoors at night. Hardening off is a physical process where the cell wall hardens with the impact of the outdoor breeze and varying weather conditions. The seedling becomes more resilient to disease and pests. Make sure you water them in well once planted and keep watering regularly until they’re well established.

Plant out seedlings:

  • Sweetcorn in grids of four plants to aid cross pollination

  • Courgette/pumpkin/cucumber family - they will cope with a shadier spot

  • Runner beans, French climbing beans and other legumes - they will need canes or netting to climb up.

  • Chard, kohlrabi, celeriac are all ready to go outside

  • With so much blight last year proceed with caution with tomatoes. They will fair better in a greenhouse or poly tunnel.

Direct sow outside:

  • Start successional sowing of carrots, radish, spring onions, salad leaves, mange tout, beetroots, and turnips to allow harvesting of young crops through the season.

  • Parsnips and celeriac need a long season to mature, and do well sown directly in drills outside.

  • Legume seeds can be planted outside

  • There’s still time to plant asparagus crowns, and you can always try sowing asparagus seeds.

  • Plant out any remaining seed potatoes, continue to ‘earth up’ any emerging shoots with soil, or composted manure, to encourage a larger crop.

  • Giant pumpkin - the germinated plants can be planted out, they will need plenty if organic matter and regular feeding once the fruit is set. And don’t forget to water them!

  • Sunflowers - once they get to a few feet they will might staking, but don’t do this too soon as swaying in the breeze encourages the sunflower to develop a deep and strong root system.

MANAGE PESTS AND DISEASES

  • Check soft fruit and broad beans for aphids; spray the plant with soapy water (diluted washing up liquid), squish the flies, or wait for the ladybirds! Don’t be tempted to use insecticides as this will kill beneficial insects and bugs as well. Try companion planting with marigolds and nasturtium

  • Protect early strawberries from birds with netting that is wide enough to allow pollinators in.

  • Peas need netting to protect them from birds. There’s not much you can do to stop mice having the odd pod or two. All brassicas need netting, the pigeons will eat these to ground level.

  • Cover soft fruit plants with netting to protect from birds - this can be done after pollination but before any signs of ripening. Summer fruiting raspberries need netting, but autumn fruiting don’t.

  • Watch out for signs of powdery mildew or disease on fruit trees and bushes, and treat with a fungicide.

WILDLIFE

  • We are well into nesting season so watch out for activity in trees and hedges near you and don’t disturb. Baby birds will be fledging soon, any chick on the ground should be left as it is likely the parents are nearby and, if undisturbed, they will continue to feed the baby.

  • Leave water dishes and for the bees and the birds.

  • Continue to sow wild flowers a few in a section on your plot or garden to encourage pollinators. Try planting asters, camomile, marigolds, oregano, sage, sunflowers, thyme, yarrow and zinnias. The entire Compositae or “daisy” family will attract a number of beneficials including ladybirds.

HARVEST

  • Continue to harvest rhubarb

  • The first strawberries will be ripening in May

  • The first radishes and baby carrots will be ready, and continue to sow every couple of weeks through to autumn.

  • Salad crops: salad leaves, pea shoots will be ready

  • Edible Flowers: borage and marigold

  • Leafy greens: chard and spinach

  • 1st broad beans (end of the month)

Other:

Compost all green matter, add foliage, leaves and annual weeds to your compost pile, turn the pile to help activate it, and make sure it doesn’t dry out. Comfrey and nettles not only make a good nutritious ‘tea’ for plants, they also act as compost accelerator.

In the garden:

Plant up your pots and hanging baskets for summer colour.

Rather than ‘no mow May’ try and put sections throughout the garden over to wildlife permanently. Try wildflowers around you shed, stacks of logs at the back of the beds and borders, an area with leaf piles, a pond for newts, toads and frogs, bird boxes and perhaps a bat box.