Like April, May can be a busy time for gardeners and allotmenteers! Frosts are becoming less frequent and by the middle of the month we can be reasonably confident that our more tender veg can be planted out and beans and squash can be sown direct in to the ever-warming soil!
Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!
It is particularly busy time for planting and sowing now that summer is nearly here!
- All your beans can be sown now; runner beans, climbing beans and dwarf beans and peas. Watch out for the dreaded pea moth laying her eggs in June and July on peas which are sown now.
- Squashes and other cucurbits such as courgettes, melons and cucumbers can be sown direct outdoors in May or started off in pots indoors if there is still a chance of frost.
- At the same time, sweetcorn can be sown now both outdoors and indoors. They will be an excellent companion crop to squashes and climbing beans
- Continue to successionally sow root crops for continual harvests including beetroot, carrots and this moth is really the last chance to sow parsnips!
- Brassicas such as winter cabbage, broccoli, late season Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers and kale can be sown now for harvesting in Autumn/winter.
- Don’t forget to sow other brassicas such as radishes, turnips and swede. These root brassicas still require protection from pigeons who loves to strip the leaves!
- Salad leaves and other crops that add pep to your salad including spring onions, swiss chard, spinach and lambs lettuce can be sown now. Where necessary remember to keep sowing successionally so you can enjoy salads all summer long.
- For your herb garden, tender herbs such as basil, parsley and coriander can be sown now too!
- Chilli peppers, sweet peppers, aubergines and greenhouse tomatoes that were started back at the beginning of the year can now be planted out into greenhouse and polytunnel borders.
- If you have ordered sweet potatoes then they will be delivered this month ready for you to plant out. Make sure you plant out after all chances of frost have passed.
- Any courgettes, cucumber and sweetcorn you started in April will be ready for planting out from the middle of the month onwards.
- If you haven’t been able to start brassicas off from seeds then you can plant out brassica plants bought from your local garden centre or any of the online retailers.
- Salad leaves and other salad crops such as radishes, swiss chard and lettuces will be ready to harvest now.
- Early peas and broad beans may be ready to harvest this month
- Rhubarb will continue to crop this month as will asparagus if you are lucky enough to have this delicious crop.
- Towards the end of the month, early strawberries will be starting to ripen. Make sure you get them before the birds or slugs!
- If you planned ahead, last year you may also be harvesting spring cabbages and cauliflowers!
Jobs on the plot
As the weather warms and we start to make the transition into Summer, your crops will be growing strong – as will the weeds. Watch out for any late frosts in the first half of this month depending on where you live.
- Protect young and tender plants from any late frosts. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, if the temperatures are set to plummet over night protect with cloches and fleece and earth up potatoes to protect the shoots.
- New sowings and young plants will be vulnerable to pests especially slugs and snails who are looking for an easy meal. Put down barriers and traps to stop these critters in their tracks! Apply predatory nematodes and predators such as ladybird larvae to keep the pest population under control and fit brassica collars round newly planted brassicas to stop cabbage root fly.
- Sow catch crops such as fast growing radishes and lettuces between slower-growing crops like brassicas to make good use of the space and keep weeds at bay.
- Hoe off annual weeds as they appear but when you see perennial weeds in your patch it might be better to dig these out by hand and remove as much root as possible otherwise they will just come back. Also make sure you get up any volunteer potatoes as they could be a reservoir for blight!
- Harden off your tender plants before planting them out to acclimatize them to outside conditions.
- In the fruit garden, thin out raspberries where necessary so they don’t become overcrowded and prune almond, peach and nectarine trees. Remove strawberry flowers from very young plants or any that appear to be struggling and as the fruit starts to ripen on older healthier plants, protect them from pests.
- In the polytunnel or greenhouse, any tomatoes you have already planted may need staking or tying in as they grow and any side-shoots removed. The temperatures can get quite high under cover so make sure you open vents and doors on particularly hot days remembering to close them again at night when temperatures drop.
- Keep your plot well watered especially if there isn’t much rain or you grow your plants in pots. Rising temperatures can cause the ground to dry out fast. Where possible apply mulches that keep the moisture locked into the ground.
- If you have ordered plug plants, then they will be arriving on your doorstep. Get them potted on or planted out as soon as possible. Suppliers send out these plants at the best time for planting.
Pea and broad bean risotto (from BBC Good food)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 100g cold butter , diced
- 1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
- 175g risotto rice
- 100ml white wine
- 600ml hot vegetable stock
- 50g Parmesan, finely grated
- 200g fresh peas, podded (about 1kg/2lb 4oz unpodded weight)
- 200g broad beans, podded (about 1kg/2lb 4oz unpodded weight)
- Heat oil and 25g of the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4-5 mins. Stir in the rice and cook for a further 2 mins. Turn up the heat and add the wine, let it bubble to evaporate the alcohol.
- Once the wine has reduced, begin adding the hot stock a ladle at a time over a medium heat, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next and stirring continuously. The rice should always be moist, but not swimming in liquid. The process of adding and stirring should take about 16-20 mins, depending on what kind of risotto rice you use.
- Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and blanch the peas and beans for 2-3 mins. Drain and set aside. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, Parmesan, peas and beans with some seasoning before serving.