May Hints & Tips

Days are longer, temperatures are higher and we begin to see the summer emerge. There are a hundred and one things to do on your plot, too many to mention in this small piece but here are a few hints and tips to be getting on with.

Thankfully after a gradual start growing your seeds in the green house or your windowsill, we can start to think about planting our plants outdoors in earnest. Before transplanting your young plants gradually acclimatize tender plants raised indoors to conditions outside. If you have a cold frame, put your plants in the cold frame, open the cold frame up during the day and close it at night. If you don’t have access to a cold frame then put the plants outside during the day and bring them in at night. Transplant your tender seedlings only when the last chance of frost has gone.

May can sometimes be deceptive because according to the UK frost chart, frosts can still arrive in our area without warning up until early to Mid-May, so keep your eye on the weather, if you can plant out under cloches, or tunnels, fleece up tender plants if they are grown outside, in a green house or a polytunnel.

Even in a mild spring seed that are sown in the ground may not germinate because the soil is too wet and cold and of course we have the voracious night-time attack from slugs and snails on those seedlings that pop their heads up through the soil. And then there are the weeds, Birds, aphids, flea beetles, butterflies, moths and innumerable other forms of wildlife, yet we still, against all the odds are likely to be harvesting our crops which we all enjoy so much.

In our eagerness to get started it is better to bear in mind that staggering the whole seed planting process is the best option. “Succession Sowing” a small batch of seeds every two or three weeks will maximise your chances of success and spread out your harvest rewards.

So lets talk about where to grow your plants and seedlings in terms of crop rotation. Most of our Tenants have large enough plots to carry out a long-term crop rotation plan which means that it will be five years before any one crop grows in the same place again. The idea is that crops of the same families tend to attract the same diseases and use the same soil nutrients. Insects that attack a certain variety of crops will be thrown off when you move your crops. Pests will lay their eggs in the soil and stick around as long as their food source, or a similar one, remains. If you can prevent these pests from feeding, you can manage their population.

Crop rotation can also deal with soil diseases. If you have crops in the same area year after year, soil diseases can build up and when you place the same type of crops in the same soil year after year, your soil richness gradually worsens as these plants repeatedly deplete the nutrients. Besides balancing out the nutrients in your soil, alternating between crops can also improve soil aeration, especially as you switch between long- and short-rooted plants. Varying root depths can help your soil from getting too compact, which can impact your plant as it tries and fails to uptake nutrients and water.

Rotating your crops can be beneficial for the environment because you’ll spend fewer resources in the long run to manage plants that fall prey to pests and diseases. You won’t have to use as many pesticides to keep diseases in check. Plus, you won’t need to increase fertilizer usage to enrich your soil, which can emit greenhouse gases and lead to excess nutrients in waterways that damage aquatic life.

So, if you can rotate your crops to the scheme below you should be able to benefit greatly from your plan

Year 1 grow brassicas Year 2 peas and beans Year 3 potatoes and fruiting vegetables Year 4 onion family Year 5 root and stem vegetables.

It is not critical to rotate vegetables such as courgettes, squashes or leaves such as lettuce spinach or other salads that can for example be slotted in as part of a crop rotation plan.

Further tasks for May include:-

Water the seed sown regularly and generously as May can be a surprisingly dry month.

Keep on top of the weeds as they will be in competition with your plants for water and nutrients. Bear in mind that weeds grow just as vigorously as your seed. Using a hoe is the least backbreaking way to weeding and best carried out in the dry, warm days. The Sun will dry out and kill the up ended weeds.

Ruthlessly thin out seedlings and prune out less vigorous raspberry shoots to allow in light and air.

It is also time to earth up potato plants and support broad beans to prevent heavy laden plants from falling over.

Put in supports for your peas and start to put in canes for your climbing beans.

May is a great month for seeing all your previous efforts come to fruition so keep up your enthusiasm and hard work in the upkeep of your plot.