May Growers Calendar Happy May GIYers, THOUGH MAY IS OFFICIALLY speaking late spring, May Day, which takes place on the first day of the month is traditionally a celebration of the beginning of summer. It has been celebrated as a time of growth, renewal and fertility across Europe since pre-Christian times and is one of the two great celebrations in the Celtic year (the other one is Halloween which marks the onset of winter). Ancient May Day customs include May Bushes, maypole and sword dancing, lighting bonfires, and comely maidens bathing in the dew of a May morning to retain their beauty. So, you get the picture – basically it’s a time of the year for growth, fertility and getting your kit off. There’s plenty to celebrate. After the long lean winter in the veggie patch, things are growing at a dizzying pace. Trying to keep on top of things in the veggie patch can be challenging at this time of the year. May is one of the busiest seed sowing months, and there are lots of other things to do too – weeding and watering, plants to be hardened off and staked/supported/netted, and (whisper it) even some gentle harvesting.
Preparation Finish preparing remaining beds for early summer sowing. May is the time to get those outdoor beds ready for early summer transplanting. Fork over and rake. Don’t tread!
To Do List Earth up potatoes as the plants develop – covering stem with soil encourages potato growth. Put protective barrier around your carrots to thwart the dastardly carrot root fly. Regularly hoe weeds and mulch. Water outdoors if required and also continue your watering and ventilation routine in the polytunnel or greenhouse. Support tomato plants as they grow and remove the side shoots as they appear (in the angle between the stem and the trusses). As plants start to flower, tap the flowers to spread pollen and improve fruiting. Be vigilant for pests and diseases (e.g. carrot root fly, aphids, caterpillars, rabbits, slugs and snails). Support your pea and bean plants – twiggy sticks, pea netting, timber supports with chicken wire, or existing fence or hedge. Pinch out the growing tips of broad beans plants to help prevent Blackfly.
Sowing Seeds & Planting Out May is the last chance to catch up on seed sowing. It’s a good month for sowing, especially if you get the seeds in before the middle of the month and many of the crops you sow in May will catch up with seeds sown in earlier months. Indoors for planting on later: basil, dill, coriander, courgette, cucumber, sweet corn, melon, pumpkins, marrow, summer savory (great companion herb for growing and cooking with Broad Beans). Outdoors: winter cauliflower, cabbage, kale, spinach, sprouting broccoli, leeks, beans (French, Runner, Climbing French), beetroot, parsnip, turnip, swedes, radish, lettuce, peas, broccoli, rocket, carrots. You could also try an extra harvest of early spuds by planting an additional row wherever you can accommodate them. Harden off and begin to plant out seedlings you have lovingly raised indoors – e.g. tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, chilli-pepper, celery, celeriac, brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli, cabbages, sweet corn, leeks. Sweet potatoes – not related to the humble spud (and therefore not susceptible to blight!) they prefer a sandy soil and do not like a rich soil. They must be harvested before the first frosts in winter and like pumpkins, left to dry for about ten days in the sun before storage.
Harvesting What’s In Season? May is another tricky “gap” month as stores continue to dwindle. You may however start getting some new spuds, particularly if you sowed an early crop in the polytunnel back in February. Continue picking asparagus, radish, rhubarb, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and chard. May is likely to see the first real bumper salad leaves like lettuce and rocket – as well as the first garlic, beetroot and globe artichokes. The end of this month sees the first of the real (i.e. out-doored reared, grass fed) spring lambs.
Go Foraging May marks an important month for foraging as many plants are coming into season. Find out what you can gather in woodlands, along the coast, in the countryside or even in your own garden. Seaweed – To some, it’s just a slimy mess but seaweed is an invaluable way to return nutrients to the soil each year(or be added to a meal to pack in some important nutrients). Seaweed can be foraged between March – October. Keep in mind that you should never pull seaweed off the rocks. The best time to forage when the tide is going out Elderflower – Elder is a great starter for novice foragers because it’s so easy to identify. The biggest clue is that the flowers are cream, not white. They also have an unmistakably earthy, almost musty, aroma. The season for elderflower is short – about six weeks so definitely keep an eye out as they will only be around from May – July. Wild Garlic – Wild garlic is another great plant to start with for new foragers as it is easy to identify and is also very prolific and delicious. It is also a great alternative to other herbs when they are out of season. For some more inspiration, you can watch the amazing story of the Wild Irish Foragers featured in this season of Grow Cook Eat.