Growing your own Vegetables and Fruit
Enjoy growing and eating fresh veg and fruit when you want it.
Here, help is at hand month by month so you can see what you should be doing on your plot when growing your own vegetables and your own fruit. The weather and where you live make a huge difference to what grows, or not, but doing anything is better than nothing. Use the links above if you want specific information on a fruit or veg, or to see what you should have done last month.
In May you could probably spend all your time in the veg patch, and there’d still be more to do.
This is the month when you can sow most seeds outside, and start to put out plants you’ve had in the greenhouse, and hopefully plant out any bedding plants. Of course you should keep a check on weather forecasts for any last minute frosts, and if frost is likely, cover your plot with fleece, or newspaper (but it does fly away), or straw, or anything to just keep the killer frost off your new plants. The frosts we had mid May 2010 turned Pieris foliage black, potato leaves black, and beans and peas just flopped. To harden off veg that you’ve potted up, put them out in the sun during the day, but make sure that you take them back in at night, or protect them somehow. Night winds and low temperatures will check the growth of plants that have been used to nice warm indoor conditions.
April 2008 was cold and grey (but dry), April 2009, 2010 and 2011 were warm, sunny, and April 2012 started dry and went very wet! So, all the waterbutts are full, and ready. So, as a result you may find you've got greenhouses, growhouses and coldframes chock full, but you don't feel comfortable planting out as it’s cold at night. But if you try planting a few out using cloches, or fleece or plastic to protect the plants they should be OK.
Veg that you want to plant out straight away, like sweetcorn, courgettes, brassicas will do well if covered with a plastic bottle, or cloche for a few weeks. It should stop slug damage, and the plants will get big and strong so when you remove the bottle they can survive on their own. But don’t get carried away and sow too many courgettes, unless you have space you want to fill. Just two plants can give you 50 courgettes in a summer, and believe me, that’s enough!
If your time available in the plot is limited, you’ll have to manage it effectively! Getting rid of weeds now will save you time later. If you’ve put down permealay or some form of soil cover you’ll be thanking yourself for doing so, as that area will be weed free and you can get on with other things. But in areas where this is not an option, just a few minutes hand weeding or hoeing now will stop things getting much worse later on, and give your young plants a chance to establish so that weeds do not bother them.
Annual flowers, and maybe a small wildflower area can be sown now. There’s no reason why the veg patch can’t look colourful and well as bountiful. Nasturtium, Calendula and other marigolds look good, and poppies. Any type of herb nearby will attract all sorts of insects.
Check fruit blossom for any maggots, or moths and remove by hand if you can. If the plants are new, make sure they get plenty of water if there’s been little rain.
Grass mowings should go on the potatoes, around the courgettes, and raspberries, and anywhere that likes the soil to stay moist. And put the rest in the compost bin, which you’ll need to keep turning to speed things up. However, if you treat your grass you’ll have to compost it elsewhere before it’s safe to go on the garden.
If the parsnip you sowed earlier has not come up, try another sowing now. It may still work, but the roots you harvest will be smaller.
Christmas may seem a long way off, but start sowing now for the veg you’d like to be eating on the big day. Cabbages and other brassica that you’d like to eat over Christmas and the winter should be sown now. Red cabbage on Christmas Day, picked from your own garden would be lovely to eat. And of course you’ll have loads left to last till spring. And everyone has the odd Brussels sprout at Christmas don’t they?
Established asparagus plants will produce spears this month, ready to be harvested and eaten. Cut off the spears just below the surface. Plants less than two years old should be left alone so that the spears can grow and produce a strong plant for future years. (Oh, go on, one spear won’t matter!)
When you sow seed outside and they all come up, you need to thin them out. First just take a few out so that every seedling has a bit of space, and then in time, take more out so that the crop has the correct spacings (usually given on the packet). This way you should not have any gaps in your rows, and should have strong healthy plants. Some young leaves can be used in your salad, some can be replanted elsewhere, maybe in a new row, or to fill a gap, and the rest can go on the compost heap.
If you can grow some crops in pots, it gives you flexibility. It means you’ve got some plants that can go out early if the weather allows, or you can keep them under cover a little longer if it’s cold. These plants will withstand slug attack, and be ready to crop earlier that seed sown crops which you can do next to them.
And make sure you do a last minute slug hunt with a torch before you go to bed. You’ll get to know where to look for them! But, little pots filled with beer around the place, and some coffee granules, and some copper tape will all help to keep slugs and snails away until the plant can fend for itself. Do not give up!
Plant this month:
In 2007 I was eating: lettuce, rocket, chive, radish, spring cabbage. At the plot we harvested curly kale and parsley. In 2008, it was mainly salad items at the veg patch and kale at the plot. 2009 was a bit odd, April was dry and sunny, May was wet, and a bit cold. As a result everything up here was under cover and getting going, so the potatoes loved it! So we could eat lettuce (covered), chives, rocket, and a few asparagus spears. 2010 was bone dry, every week passed sunny and dry, and there were even harsh frosts mid-May that killed off blossom, Hydrangea leaves , Astilbes, and potatoes. The plot still had Kale and purple sprouting broccoli, with salad leaves (under cover), rhubarb and rocket. The red clover green manure looked wonderful with big red furry flowers all in one bed. At home it was rocket and chives, and some Asparagus. In 2011 a late May frost turned all the potato leaves brown, and crispy, but happily they have recovered. Little germinated when sown due to the dry conditions, except the parsnips. The rhubarb has grown huge, there are flowers on all the strawberry plants, and the onion sets have turned green and seem to be growing. At home the courgette plants are big, and the rocket, chives, radish, asparagus and lettuce are being eaten everyday. May 2012 was a sad place in the veg patch. It was cold and wet and nothing would germinate. But, the potatoes popped through, the comfrey appeared and the chard kept going. Strawberry plants are flowering promising fruit soon, and the rhubarb, chives and perennial rocket are edible. And, finally, some Asparagus! May 2013 saw me picking a few asparagus spears early one and then the cold snap came, and they disappeared. The perennial rocket is back, and the protected lettuces sown last month are now edible. There are lots of flowers on the blueberry, gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes, and the apple blossom came out very late. The potatoes have shoots, but very small, so harvesting them, even the earlies will be late. Spring 2013 was the coldest for 34 years, and also quite dry. 2014 was nice and sunny, some rain then dry, and all sorts of veg germinated happily in the glass house and was planted out. But then the heavy rain came and nothing much more happened! Potatoes from last year sprouted everywhere, and the lettuce and rocket is nice to eat. The courgettes didn’t germinate but pumpkins did, so I will sow again. The tomato plants look happy in the glasshouse, but they would wouldn’t they! 2015 has been sunny but cold. The tomato plants are small, but growing, and the courgette plants have been planted out to fend for themselves. Pumpkin seeds have now germinated, and the lettuce seedlings that got eaten have been replaced, but I’m keeping them in the green house. This year I’ve tried sowing carrots and beetroot and planting them out, as they get eaten otherwise. Onions and garlic look fine, and the sweetcorn seedlings protected by mesh are OK. The spinach seedlings haven’t done much, but peas and sweet peas and sunflowers are holding their own in the wind.