Spring into Action: May’s Must-Do Tasks in the Kitchen Garden

May is probably THE month in the kitchen garden when things really start to take off. May brings us warmer temperatures which are very much needed after the cold, wet and windy start we have had this year. Your seedlings will really start to put on growth this month and the incoming warmer weather will mean we can free up some space in the greenhouse too!

If you are eager to plant out your seedlings you should still proceed with caution. Depending on where you are in the country you may still get a last-minute frost. Here in Cheshire, there is nearly always a frost mid-May. Last year there was even a frost in late May! It is heart-breaking if you haven’t prepared for it. Even just a couple of hours frost can undo all of the hard work over the last month or two.

If you are new to growing your own vegetable or just not sure where to start with the mountain of jobs read on. We have you covered!

Harden off seedlings

If you are getting ready to plant your seedlings outside then make sure you harden them off first. Hardening off is the process of exposing our seedlings to the fluctuating temperatures outside and even the wind! Ideally you will place them outside each morning and bring them in at night as the temperatures drop. If you do this for a couple of weeks, your seedlings not only be less shocked when you come to plant them out permanently but they will also be much stronger for it.

Hoe the weeds as they emerge

The weeds will start emerging fast now. Try and keep on top of them by hoeing their tops as they appear. You can leave them on the soil surface to break down as long as they have not flowered and gone to seed.

Support Broad Beans & Pinch out

Depending when you sowed your broad beans, they are likely to need support soon. A couple of canes and some string should do the trick to help keep them upright. Once you can see pods developing then you can pinch out the tops. This helps stop the stems from collapsing from the weight of the pods and also helps to prevent black fly.

Net Strawberries & Soft Fruits

If you are growing strawberries and other soft fruits you will need to start netting them soon to protect the fruit from the birds. They won’t think twice about stealing your harvest before you get chance to enjoy it!

Cover Your Carrots

Cover your carrot beds with some protective mesh or fleece. The carrot fly will be active this month and you want to prevent them laying their eggs.

Weed around soft fruit bushes

Keep your fruit bushes free of weeds as the weeds will compete for nutrients. It is worthwhile considering planting a long-term green manure such as white clover around your fruit bushes to act as a living mulch. The benefits are that this will help the soil to retain moisture and also to help deliver more nutrients to your fruit.

Earth up Potatoes

Earthing up potatoes protects the foliage from being damaged by the frosts and also helps to keep the developing potatoes from the light. If the growing potatoes suffer exposure to the light they will turn green and you won’t be able to eat them. Earthing up is traditionally done by pulling the soil up over the foliage to form a mound. Some people will also use compost or even straw!

Pot on Seedlings

Continue to pot on seedlings that are not ready to be planted out. This allows their root systems to keep growing and absorbing nutrients which will mean your plants grow much stronger!

Sow more seeds!

It is time to sow squashes, courgettes, cucumbers, beans and sweetcorn – check out our May sowing guide here!