May 2019 spring garden beware late frosts, potting on, small spaces, perennial veg
At last it’s May, a wonderful month. Just go steady though with plantings of any frost sensitive plants, be aware of your last frost date.
For example it is almost freezing as I write this, and we are forecast a ground frost on 5th May. I need to cover the early potatoes on the evening before. April was warmer and you can see the lushness of spring in this video.
Seedlings which need warmth
Many fast-growing summer vegetables need steady warmth. I had most of mine on the greenhouse hotbed until 29th April, then we potted them on and now they take up nearby space as well. The manure pile has been and is emitting enough heat upwards, through the module trays, for germination and early growth to be steady.
I was pleased that 25/25 cucumbers germinated. The next new sowing here is French and climbing beans on 10th May. I have some soybeans almost ready to plant and they will be under fleece for about three weeks.
Why bother with this?
- modules are smaller, so precious warmth is available to hundreds of seedlings in modules, compared to tens of seedlings in pots
- seedlings grow better in small amounts of compost where there is less waterlogging and more air – be careful not to overwater cucumber, melon and basil especially – roots need air too
- seedlings are closer to their friends.
Then you need to pot on before they become crowded and with elongating stems.
Potatoes and no dig
There is still time to plant potatoes. See how my Charlotte are barely showing any leaves, which I am happy about because of late frost. I am trialling two different composts there.
With more additions because of spring growth, your heaps should be filling and warming up. Any lack of heat may be from too many air pockets, due to long stems: best cut everything to 4-6in/10-15cm.
I put bindweed roots and seeds of annual weeds on my heaps. The latter decompose without heat (they are not invincible!!) but seeds need about 55C/129F or higher to be killed.
Spreading new compost under cover
After clearing the last winter vegetable/salad plants under cover, I rake level then spread compost, mostly home made, horse manure and mushroom compost this year.
It’s the only application of compost all year, for two crops.
Even under cover there is a slight risk of frost here until mid May, so I use fleece before cold nights.
By about May 10th we are in the hungry gap, with leeks finished and overwintered broccoli giving less, while stored vegetables lose quality.
New harvests are mostly green and leafy! Perhaps by late May there can be beetroot and broad beans.
These perennials come into their own in the spring, when annuals are mostly growing but not ready to give harvests.
The photos give an idea of my plantings. One small bed is more challenging than the 25sqm of what I call the small garden, though I know it would be large for many. I crop it in twelve blocks.
Both the bed and the small garden are featured with cropping examples and plans, through a whole year, in my online course about no dig gardening.
A reader reminded me to warn about pigeons – he took his fleece off some lovely brassicas and suddenly now they are shredded by birds who found them. Uv treated bird netting is handy to have ready, see Pest Prevention video.
We have had lovely groups here, and on the weekend course we harvested salad and planted beetroot on the last morning. It was a special pleasure to welcome Olaf and Arnie from Iceland, and Mia plus Emma from Stockholm.
These are just two of the many ways to support peas!