Jobs to be done in May

Here’s another very old article I’ve decided to resurrect, some of the links go to the old website and may look a little dated now!

The garden in May can be a busy time for the organic grower. A word of warning do think before you plant out those tender vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers; there is still the threat that it will get cold especially in Northern regions. If you do happen to get caught out, water you plants with ice cold water at first light. This might just save them!


Seed that was sown indoors can now be planted out in southern regions, I would wait until the last week in May or even June in northern regions. These include- tomato plants, courgette, squashes and pumpkins , sweetcorn, cucumber, pepper and chili peppers. Your local garden centre will sell seedlings if you have forgotten to sow something by now. Some of the bigger farmers markets will also be selling seedlings at the moment. Make sure you ask where they have been growing as they may need hardening off.

Winter greens grown from seedlings in March can also be planted out now. (brussel sprouts, cauliflower etc).

Plant outside – Successional crops of lettuces, peas (main crop and second early) , this will give you peas well into the autumn; beetroot, beet spinach, radishes, maincrop turnips, main crop carrots.

You can also just about get away with another sowing of parsnips a good tip is to plant them with radishes a few centimeters apart. This way you will see where they are and remember to water them as they can take up to six weeks to germinate.

If you have a patch of cooch that you would like to get rid of then now is the time to tightly plant a load of turnip seeds. This will kill the roots and thus rid you of the nasty stuff. I have used two packets in an area 3 foot (about 1m) squared.

Other plants to plant out include celeriac, florence fennel, runner beans, french beans, chervil, marojoram, parsley, leeks and dill.

Other jobs

The slugs will still be doing some damage at them moment, in fact my courgette plants have been devastated. I put egg shells around them and this kept a nice family of slugs in rather than out, doh! Also use beer traps and nightly picks with a torch is supposed to really help. See our 101 ways to get rid of slugs for more ideas on combating the evil slugs.

Keep earthing up your spuds. When the leaves on top reach about 20cm (8ins) drag the surrounding soil up around them. Leaving about 10 cm or 4 inches of growth above the earth.

Put straw around your strawberry plants, this will act as a mulch, deter slugs and prevent rain splash. According to Caroline Foley Barley straw is the best for this job.

Pick alternate berries on gooseberry bushes to encourage bigger berries later on.

Try and keep on top of your weeds with regular hoeing. Weeds such as bindweed, cooch and dandelions will need to be pulled out and burnt. The root of the dandelion could be used as a drink, I have not tried it as I prefer to watch my weeds burn (After a few comments I should note that this was written by Andy in 2004 and was meant to be a bit of a joke! – He certainly makes drinks from Dandelion roots now!!)

If there are any areas uncultivated try planting Alfalfa as a green manure.

Hardening Off

Many organic gardeners will talk about hardening off, but what does it actually mean?

To harden off plants means introducing them to progressively cooler temperatures until they get used to the outside. I tend to stick all my plants on garden chairs and carry out the chairs every morning and take them in at night. I do this every day for 10 days to a fortnight. If you have seedlings bought up in a green house you can start leaving the windows open, in a cold frame you could leave the lid open on the milder nights. Finally, cut up pop bottles over new seedlings will help harden them off.