‘In May there can be unpredictable factors. High day temperatures followed by sharp night frosts first induce new growths, then damage those which are tender. Strong winds, storms and even snow are possibilities.‘ (Frances Perry)
Whatever the unpredictability of the May weather, provided that you keep all the emergent seedlings and young plants in raised vegetable beds covered with horticultural fleece, you should not have any of the usual problems associated with frost, heavy rains, strong winds or storms.
One of the main problems that traditional gardeners have in May is erratic watering: the alternation of soaked soil that follows heavy rainfall with the parched soil that follows a hot dry sunny spell. With the use of horticultural fleece, this problem is largely overcome, because rain water, however heavy, will soak through the fleece on to the plants without damaging them, and will then remain available to plants, being prevented by the fleece from evaporating during spells of hot sunshine.
Most traditional gardening calendars warn against blackfly, carrot fly, onion fly, cabbage root fly and flea beetles this month. The organic gardener can easily avoid attacks of all such insect pests by simply covering vegetable plants with horticultural fleece. Snails and slugs are unable to get access to seedlings provided you keep the bed protected by fleece at all times. They are also deterred from climbing up the sides of raised beds and pots by copper wire or copper bands.
Keep an eye on young seedlings of parsnips, carrots, turnips, and beetroot and monitor their progress under fleece. When thinning the rows, be sure to uncover the plants for the least time possible, as carrot fly are attracted by the scent of the carrot thinnings. Replace the fleece immediately to prevent the flies gaining access to the tops of young carrots and laying their eggs on them. The leaves of emergent beetroot seedlings are often eaten by small black slugs in the soil, so it is important to keep the rows of seedlings regularly thinned and clear of weeds, and protected by lines of non-toxic slug pellets along the sides and ends of the rows. Keep young potato plants earthed up, and covered with fleece to prevent infection by the wind-borne spores of potato blight.
Peas, runner beans, and dwarf and climbing French beans can be sown direct in the ground under fleece during this month, and will usually be stronger and hardier than those started off in pots.. Climbing beans can be planted at the base of a wigwam of canes at the end of the month, and even earlier if you wind fleece around the wigwam.
Kales, winter cabbage, sprouting broccoli, winter cauliflower and Brussels sprouts can all be sown in a seed bed this month for later transplanting in July. Be sure to cover the seed beds with fleece to warm up the soil and protect emerging seedlings from pests.
Salads and curcubits
Successive sowings of radish, lettuce and rocket can be made, with potted sweet corn, marrows, courgettes, pumpkins and outdoor cucumber plants being set out on raised beds under fleece at the end of the month.
Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055 Leaflet No: CAL5