May is here and what a big month for vegetable gardeners. Here’s 10 things to do in the garden during this busy month.
1. Now is the time to HARVEST your spring greens before they flower in the heat and become bitter. Did I say harvest? Yes, but don’t worry if you haven’t planted any greens, there is still time. Chard, summer varieties of lettuce and New Zealand Spinach are still available to us to plant NOW and will do well in the summer. Got a shady place to garden? That’s perfect for greens in the summer or supply your own shade to help extend your harvest time in the heat of the summer.
2. AMEND your whole vegetable bed with compost or aged manure if you haven’t already done so before you plant.
3. Still plant carrots, onions, beets, shallots in the first part of the May.
4. Plant seeds of cucumbers, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, corn, and most other vegetables DIRECTLY IN THE GROUND AFTER MAY 15. I put row cover on all seeds planted to keep the birds from eating the seedlings when they pop up. Works great. Then once they are about 3-4 inches tall, I take it off-the birds aren’t interested anymore.
5. Also after May 15th you should plant your tomato starters in the ground. If you pick them out of a nursery, look at the tag to see how many DAYS TILL YOU CAN HARVEST that big juicy tomato. If you pick one that is 100 days, chances are you’re going to have to pick it green and finish ripening it inside because of our short growing season. I usually get EARLY AND MIDRANGE tomatoes. Early tomatoes can be ready to harvest between 52-65 days and midrange tomatoes between 70-80 days.
6. PLANT TOMATOES IN WALL OF WATERS which act like cloches and give them extra protection and heat while they adjust to the soil. You can get wall of waters at some of our nurseries or online. They are an invaluable tool for me for my tomatoes against the occasional cold snap in May. PLANT AS DEEP AS POSSIBLE-roots will grow on the planted stem.
7. After May 15th you should put your eggplant and pepper starts in the ground also. Peppers, eggplants and tomatoes don’t like it cold so if we get a cold night you’ll have to protect them. PROTECT THEM WITH ROW COVER if they are not in wall of waters.
8. When planting vegetable starts, I like to heavily amend each hole I will put the plant in. I will add things like yum-yum mix, compost, mushroom compost, or aged manure and mix it up in the bottom of the hole before putting the plant in. Then I water with seaweed and Thrive for a couple of days until they adjust. After a week or so, I will fertilize with fish emulsion, not earlier-I don’t want the starts to burn or go into shock with too much nitrogen.
9. For all veggies, I make a well for the water to collect so it doesn’t run off. Be sure to make a big enough well so as the plant gets bigger it can hold more. I use a drip system so I put my drip line tightly around the plants and spread it out as the plants grows. AFTER THE SOIL WARMS UP IN JUNE, I will put straw on top of the drip line and in the well and water it down so it doesn’t blow away the first time the wind hits it. Use straw-NOT hay which has lots of seeds in it. Straw has a few seeds but not many which are easily picked out as they germinate. This mulch also acts as a barrier against soil-borne diseases that splash up on tomatoes and peppers. It will help keep the soil evenly moist when we get into the heat of summer.
10. Be sure you stake and tie up any vegetables (especially tomatoes) as they grow so our heavy spring wind doesn’t break them in May. Also if you use wall of waters and live in a windy area, I put some small bamboo stakes on the inside to help support them against the wind blowing them over.
Time to get busy in the veggie garden!