May is a favourite month when we have the excuse to dance with gay abandon round the Maypole. The weather is finally on the side of most plants and crops really get growing and fill the garden with leaf.
In the recent mild weather we have risked sowing courgettes, beans and basil in the greenhouse a fortnight early. This means transplanting outdoors early so we will be taking a gamble on continuing warm weather. If cool when transplanted outside, some fleece will help strong establishment and early cropping.
Wet weather or watering every other day helps soil sown seed germinate. Slow starters like carrots and parsnips definitely come up if they get enough warmth and moisture, although slugs often get the blame for failure. Every year we buy new parsnip and sweetcorn seed, and usualy carrot, as they definitely do not store well.
But how much watering on the seedbed? This depends on your soil, humus and digging. If you have dug or rotovated your soil just before sowing, much water will disappear forever down new fissures in the soil. If you have clay soil, and lots of humus in it like my soil, then a gallon per 25 feet every other day should do the trick. If it is both hot and windy then more water is needed.
When carrots and parsnip have come up, we keep watering for the first two weeks to speed establishment. After this we try and leave them to look after themselves. If you want decent yields you are best to water moderately if the weather is hot and dry. If you use a sprinkler system, it is tempting to leave it on too long, but this is both wasteful and damaging: no plant likes waterlogging, and some crops such as carrots, tomatoes and potatoes split.
The risk of frost is almost past now, but it still pays to have a roll of fleece to hand: a 6 x1.5 metre roll cost me £2.69 at my local DIY. Our courgettes will stay under fleece until much warmer weather. Surprisingly the flowers set seed even under fleece.
French and Runner beans rarely want to grow in the soil until serious warmth arrives, most often in June. Like many people, I have got carried away with the mild weather and sown mine in the greenhouse in early April, not wanting to be behind everyone else! This vicious circle also extends to nurseries, who end up selling them early to satisfy demand.
Hoeing weeds out on a dry day while young and easy to de-root will see the back of them and stop them setting seed. And why does the mushroom get asked to all the parties? Because he is a fungi.