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May garden jobs including seeds to sow, crops to harvest, garden tasks, and DIY projects. Use these tips to have your garden flourishing with homegrown produce and flowers
May is a landmark month in the gardening calendar as the soil and weather warms. The garden is just beginning to fill in, climb supports, and produce flowers and early harvests. Aside from taking in the beauty of late spring, there are plenty of May garden jobs to keep us busy. Ideas and projects to get the best out of our gardens now, and for the rest of the year. There are also many seeds that can be sown now but caution still needs to be heeded with some plants; we can still be surprised with cold snaps.
Following on from last month’s jobs, this piece covers what crops can be harvested in May and seeds you can sow. Discover seasonal projects that will have your garden teeming with wildlife as well as edible crops. Take cuttings, build a bean teepee and make your own watering system for the garden. Let’s get started!
May Garden Jobs Checklist
- Sow courgettes, cucumber, carrots, herbs, salad, squash, pumpkins, purple sprouting broccoli, beetroot, kale, runner beans, and last chance to sow sweet corn to ensure a crop this year.
- Sow wildflowers for pollinators. Try borage, nigella, calendula, cornflowers, sunflowers, poppies, and nasturtiums.
- Harvest rhubarb, asparagus, peas, radish, spring onions, broccoli, and beetroot.
- Earth up potatoes.
- Harden off tender plants before planting them out
- Propagate shrubby herbs to increase your stocks with free plants.
- Make a garden herb spiral with recycled bricks.
- Water and feed plants to keep containers from drying out
- Make an olla DIY watering system using terracotta pots.
Seeds to Sow in May
It is immensely tempting to go wild at this time of year and sow EVERYTHING. If you are new to gardening or short of time, you will have a greater success rate by opting for low-maintenance vegetables, which could potentially provide a high yield for minimal effort. Pumpkins, radish, potatoes, lettuce, garlic, peas, zucchini (courgette), rhubarb, welsh onions, and runner beans. All of these are easy to grow vegetables for beginners and will keep you in crops for the coming months.
Some seeds will still need to be grown undercover in May to protect against cold nights, These include zucchini (courgette), pumpkin, French and runner beans, sweetcorn, squash, and cucumber. It’s best to start them off in a greenhouse or in pots or modules on a windowsill. When they’re big enough, you’ll then harden them off and plant them outside. Salad leaves, herbs, and microgreens also need to be sown indoors. However, there are plenty of hardy vegetables that can be direct sown outdoors now. That includes peas, beetroot, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, chives, radish, spring onions, and swede.
Purple sprouting broccoli is coming to the end of its harvesting time now. Next year’s crops can also be started now though too. Start seeds off either in a seedbed or undercover in modules and plant out into final positions in July.
Garden Projects for May
I love having big, clear labels for crops but they can get expensive to buy so try this brilliant DIY gardening project and make your own reusable waterproof blackboard garden markers using chalkboard paint and a chalk marker. You won’t need to buy labels again; you will have your own bespoke personal plant labels, which make great presents too!
Create a bean teepee for the kids; it’s a great way to get them involved in the garden. Make a secret den out of bamboo sticks, willow, or dogwood stems and plant climbers to grow up them, like runner beans or peas. Encourage a love of plants and nature and make happy childhood memories.
Take softwood cuttings of shrubby herbs and Increase your plant stocks. Save money by growing free plants. Rosemary is perfect to propagate, as is lavender. Using a knife, cut roughly four 6-inch lengths of fresh new growth. Plant directly around the edge of a terracotta pot of gritty soil, rooting hormone optional. Roots will form in the next four to eight weeks.
Herbs are an integral part of many recipes so it is good to have plenty on hand in the garden for an abundant supply. Why not grow your own outdoor herb garden in a DIY Herb Spiral. It is easy to make and could be an excellent way to recycle old bricks as well as becoming an edible garden feature. You’ll never need to purchase herbs from a supermarket again.
Start Wildflower Seeds
There are so many projects we can get stuck into this spring. What you choose to do will be based on your garden, garden needs, and what tickles your fancy. If I were to suggest some ideas, why not sow a wildflower patch? Wildflowers are easy to grow and a great way to encourage pollinators into your garden offering nectar-rich plants packed with pollen. If you have an allotment, section off an area you can sow; once the flowers bloom, even your neighbors will benefit.
97% of wildflower meadows have disappeared since the Second World War so this is a way we can all help turn this around and help wildflowers and pollinators thrive. Our gardens are important resources. Borage, nigella, calendula, corn cockle, cornflowers, sunflowers, scabious, poppies, phacelia, yarrow, and nasturtiums are all big hits with pollinators and the list goes on… Let your imagination run wild and get sowing.
May Garden Jobs
May is a busy time in the garden. Weeds seem to appear the second your back is turned so try to catch them before they go to seed. Sweet peas and leafy beans grown in modules can be planted out now and tied to their supports. Plant tomatoes in pots inside the greenhouse and begin hardening off squash and tomatoes for planting outdoors in June.
- Ventilate the greenhouse on warm days so young seedlings don’t expire
- Feed container plants bi-weekly with an organic fertilizer such as homemade nettle or comfrey tea.
- Earth up potatoes by drawing up the soil to cover the foliage.
- Pinch out the growing tips of broad beans to encourage fruit to set and remove tempting habitats for aphids.
- Tuck straw underneath ripening strawberries, this keeps them clean, suppresses weeds, helps to stop rot, and keeps berries safer from slugs and snails.
- Ensure carrots, berries, and cabbages are all properly netted with the right netting to suit the pest you are trying to deter – Enviromesh for carrot root fly or larger holed netting is suitable for birds.
- Try successional sowing. This is where you sow a small number of seeds more frequently to ensure there is always a crop coming to harvest.
- As crops grow it is exceedingly frustrating to lose precious plants to birds but there are lots of organic, non-harmful ways we can deter birds from our vegetable gardens. Try these 12 Effective ways to keep birds out of the vegetable garden.
Watering and Saving Water
Other timely May garden jobs include cleaning your pond by hand to slow down the build-up of pondweed and debris. Leave the waste on the side of the pond so that wildlife has the chance to crawl back into the water. Keep on top of watering since it is surprising how quickly containers and the ground dry out at this time of year.
As our summers get increasingly drier we are all realizing we have to save water whenever and however we can. Being an organic gardener it is good to capture as much rainwater as possible from gutters to water butts, hand water to plant’s roots, install an irrigation system or seep holes to direct precious water to where it is most needed so there is minimal waste and most importantly mulch. 10 Water Saving Tips for the Vegetable Garden will help you gather every last drop of available moisture and channel it to the right place – your garden!
Make DIY ollas. As soon as we have a period of drought we all realize how essential water is to maintain our plant’s health. It can be tricky to always get water to where our plants need it most – their roots. An olla is an easy way to slowly release water into the soil, directly at the plant’s roots and it avoids wastage from evaporation. You can make your own ollas from a terracotta pot. As terracotta is porous the water gradually seeps through the pot into the soil and waters your plants.
What to Harvest in May
May brings many marvelous harvestable crops. Continue pulling rhubarb, it will be coming thick and fast by now. If you have been forcing rhubarb, those pale sweet stems can now be put to good use. As well as crumbles you could make pink rhubarb gin, rhubarb wine, or for something less boozy how about some red ruby rhubarb jam.
Asparagus spears will be shooting up through the ground for around six weeks. Grab this opportunity to cut them young and eat the beautiful tender asparagus. Keep it simple, steam, and serve with a drizzle of butter and lemon. Harvesting tip: pick asparagus spears as they mature and put them in a glass of water on the counter. This way, you can save up enough spears for a meal over the course of a week.
Radish is a quick crop and good infill or ‘catch crop’ to temporarily vacant spaces in the veg garden; an excellent addition to salads as are spring onions, which can also be harvested now. And earthy beetroot can be pulled. The last of the winter broccoli can be gathered and enjoyed. Broccoli is an investment of time but certainly worth the wait.
Crops can sometimes come in gluts so brush up on easy ways to preserve fresh produce without canning. They’ll help with ideas on how to store your harvest for longer.
Garden Jobs for June
As May draws to a close our attention focuses on summer and with it planting outside. As the risk of frost finally fades we can confidently sow and grow, finally freeing up all that valuable space in the greenhouse and cold frames. I hope you have saved lots of space for pumpkins, zucchini, squashes, and tomatoes.
Keep an eye on your cuttings and pot on when rooted. Sweet peas should be shooting up so tie them into their supports and get ready for vases full of exquisitely scented blooms. Keep cutting and deadheading to keep the flowers coming. There’s a lot more that you could be doing right now, too, including these May jobs for the vegetable garden:
- Simple tips for How to Make a Raised Garden Bed
- Build an Easy Wooden Compost Bin using Pallets
- Make Homemade Gardener’s Hand Soap