It's not been an easy spring for growing vegetables. Most of April was dry and cold and we were desperate for a bit of rain and then it started raining a couple of weeks ago and hasn't stopped since.
Gardening in May
As well as the weather, other important considerations of gardening and growing are:
- your soil
With the particularly wet conditions we've had recently it is good to keep off your vegetable beds as walking on them can compact your ground and make it harder for your plants to grow their roots.
Adding ripe compost to your patch is worth its weight in gold and can improve soil structure, build up nutrients, keep your pH in balance and regulate the moisture holding capacity.
Grow fast-growing green manures such as phacelia, buckwheat, etc. to cover empty spaces that are going to be filled later in the year. Sow other green manures such as alfalfa, clover etc. to give your patch a rest for a longer period of time as well.
May is a good month for sowing a second crop of salad crops, carrots etc. Many winter brassicas such as purple sprouting broccoli and Red Russian kale are best sown in May as well as your French and Runner beans. If you have sown some sweetcorn in modules, then now might be good time to do a second wave directly in the soil.
As well as your vegetables, the weeds in your beds will be flourishing this month. Keep weeding and make it a regular practice to stay on top of them!
- pest and disease
Pest and disease prevention can be an issue at this time of year. Good growing conditions and soil health can protect plants from many pests and diseases. Use organic methods and leave ‘wild’ spaces in your garden that will make homes for predatory and beneficial insects to ensure a balanced ecosystem in your garden.
There is a lot to say about pest and disease control. Here is a list of common issues and what you can do:
- Carrot root fly is a common pest of the carrot family. Avoid thinning your carrots by sowing them with the final spacing in mind. Cover them with fleece or make fly barriers to stop the female flies from laying their eggs near your crop.
- Aphids are sap-sucking insects that can cause damage to a large range of different crops. Use your fingers to squash them or pinch off affected stems and growing tips where they congregate. Encourage natural predators in your garden such as ladybirds. If all of that fails, spray them with (horticultural) soapy water as an organic pesticide.
- We recommend covering your brassicas with mesh to stop cabbage whitefly from laying their eggs on your plants and to prevent pigeons from nibbling on them too.
- Slugs and snails can be a major concern for many gardeners. There are a number of ways of dealing with them. You can collect them by hand at night time (when they are most active), make beer traps, use copper tape around vulnerable plants or create other barriers. Keep an eye on especially young seedlings after planting out!
- Powdery mildew is a common fungus that affects a range of crops especially in hot and dry conditions. Keep your plants well watered and no need to worry if it appears at the end of the season when growth is declining anyway.
- Tomato blight is a common disease on tomatoes. Infection happens in humid, warm conditions with limited air flow and once infected, there is not much you can do. Prevention is key! Grow your tomatoes under cover where possible and keep the leaves dry. Stake your plants and keep removing the lower leaves to help with ventilation.
P.S. It's been a tricky spring for insects and pollinators too. Sow some of our bee mixture to supply them with nectar and pollen.