May is one of the busiest months in the garden, April is a pretty busy one too (partly why I didn’t have time to write anything for last month’s issue, along with having to completely rethink our business of selling salad and vegetables to restaurants…!). We have now set up a vegetable box scheme delivering door to door to people in and around Lyme, Axminster and Seaton.
Anyway, it is the time of the year when everything is happening—sowing, planting, weeding and hoeing and the first of the harvests from overwintered crops and early spring crops too. It is a question of prioritising jobs generally, rather than trying to get it all done—you will only get stressed out if you think you can get it all done! We have a sowing calendar and we always try and stick pretty closely to these dates. With some crops, it doesn’t matter too much, but we end up doing a lot of successions of a lot of crops to try and keep continuity of harvest of things like beetroot, chard, kale, spring onions, salad leaves, annual herbs, radish, carrots and many more. Other crops sowing time is critical, and if they are sown at the wrong time of the year they will just go to seed really quickly (for example brassica salads like rocket), they may not bulk up in time before the winter (for example chicory – we don’t sow any later than the first week of July, but if you sow them too early they may bolt!), or they may coincide with certain pests—like flea beetle for brassicas from Spring—late Summer, or carrot root fly which can sometimes be missed if the carrots are sown early June and harvested before autumn.
We aim to have all of our tender summer polytunnel crops planted by the beginning of May, this includes climbing french beans, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. This year we were lucky to get a week of wet weather at the end of April which meant that we could focus on the tunnel changeover, from overwintered salads and herbs to the summer fruiting crops. Meanwhile, outside throughout April there were plantings of beets, chard, lettuce and other salad leaves, spring onions, shallots, early brassicas—kale, spring cabbage, kohl rabi, mangetout, broad beans, peashoots, turnips and radish and carrot sowings. The courgettes will be going in at the very beginning of May, as could squash and corn, but fleece will be needed to keep the wind off and keep any late frosts off (should be safe by mid-end of May).
It is a great time of year to be a vegetable grower—and with the rains at the end of a very dry April (after a very wet winter!) everything is looking very lush and growing well. The main pest that we have had to deal with this year is the leatherjacket—the larvae of the daddy long leg or crane fly. The adults lay their eggs from August to October, and wet conditions at that time of year leads to a high success rate of the eggs hatching (which is what happened last autumn). The larvae eat the roots of many plants, and even snip off plants at their base. They are difficult to control organically, though nematodes can be used (but are more effective when applied in the autumn. Otherwise, it is a case of checking under new plantings and picking them out, which is pretty laborious but has to be done if you want to save your veg!
So, the big priorities for May are making sure you have all of your seed sowing in order and getting done—including successions of things like salads, then making sure everything is getting planted, and finally making sure all of your new plantings are being hoed and weeded…not too much!
WHAT TO SOW THIS MONTH: kale, forced chicory, carrots, beetroot, chard, successions of lettuce and other salad leaves (not mustards and rocket—these will bolt too quickly now and get flea beetle), autumn cabbage, successions of basil, dill and coriander, early chicory—palla rossa and treviso types, cucumbers (for second succession), french and runner beans, courgettes, squash and sweetcorn if not already sown.
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH:
OUTSIDE: salads, spring onions, beetroot, chard, shallots and onions from seed, courgettes, squash, corn, kale, last direct-sown radish early in the month, french and runner beans
INSIDE: If not already done—tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers, chillies, indoor french beans, basil
OTHER IMPORTANT TASKS THIS MONTH: Keep on top of the seed sowing, but don’t sow too much of anything—think about sowing successionally. Keep on top of hoeing and weeding—ideally hoe when the weeds are just starting to come up on a dry, sunny, breezy day.
For more information about our veg bag delivery scheme go to trillfarmgarden.co.uk/boxscheme.html
We have a few veg plants available for sale at the moment – so if anyone needs any chard, beetroot, salads, beans, courgettes, squash and much more contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org”