With spring in full flow and summer just around the corner, May can feel like a hectic month in the garden. Trying to stay on top of seedlings, weeds and watering, I always feel like there are lots of plates to keep spinning. It’s all good fun though!
If you’re keen to sow, grow and plant things this month, here are some ideas for what to plant in May.
Flowers to plant in May
There are lots of great reasons to grow *Nasturtiums. They’re super-easy to grow from seed, they love poor soil, they will climb or trail, and as well as looking wonderful the flowers are edible. They’re also a great option for introducing children to gardening.
Summer bedding plants
If you haven’t managed to grow bedding plants from seed this year, now’s the time to buy them as plants and give your garden a shot of colour. Summer flowering bedding plants are brilliant for containers and hanging flower baskets, but consider also using them to fill any gaps in your borders. If you’re planting in containers and baskets, try to use good quality compost, and remember to feed your plants with suitable outdoor plant food, because they will quickly exhaust the nutrients in their soil.
Flowers for pollinators
If you’re adding flowering plants to your garden this month, try to include some varieties that provide a good source of nectar or pollen – or ideally both – for pollinating insects. Look out for the RHS ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ badge when buying seeds and plants. For lots of plant suggestions take a look at the RHS website.
Biennials for next year
If you’re feeling very organised in the garden, you could have a go at sowing some flowers seeds for next year’s plants. Biennial plants produce leaves in their first year, and flower in their second year. Foxgloves, wallflowers, pansies and hollyhocks are all popular biennials.
Vegetables to plant in May
*Courgettes are really easy to grow, and one plant will supply you with plenty of crop all season – in fact you’ll probably end up looking for creative recipes involving courgettes! If this happens, start to harvest them when they are tiny; baby courgettes are so tasty in pasta and stir fries. And make sure you get the kids to make magic courgettes – lightly scratch their name onto a small one and it will grow pretty quickly into a giant name. Leave it long enough and they’ll have a huge marrow with their name on. Brilliant fun!
You need a bit of space to grow squash because they do ramble around the ground, but one plant will produce a lot of squash, and they store well over autumn and winter. If this is a vegetable you eat regularly, growing it will save you loads of money. *Butternut squash is the most well-known variety, but there are some weird and wonderful ones to choose from if you feel like experimenting.
Peppers & Tomatoes
Peppers and tomatoes need a warm environment to grow well and ripen, so they’re best suited to a greenhouse. The seeds need heat to germinate too, so put them on a sunny windowsill or in a heated propagator. If you’d like to bypass the seed stage you can buy small plants and pot them on, this will also give you a harvest sooner. I usually plant my peppers and tomatoes in growbags, but they’ll be happy in a container too.
You can sow *beetroot seeds direct into the soil this month. Beetroot is much tastier if harvested when young and small, so it’s well-suited to a container if you’re tight on space.
Radishes can really perk up a salad, and quick-maturing varieties can be ready in around four weeks. Sow radish seeds directly into the soil, about 1cm deep and in rows 15cm apart. Thin out the seedlings while they are small, leaving 2-4cm between plants. Radishes are a good candidate for sowing little and often to provide a continuous crop.
Homegrown sweetcorn tastes incredible, and it’s an easy plant to grow. Sow the seeds into pots now and plant them out when they’re around 15cm tall. You need to plant sweetcorn in a grid formation – see the picture above – to make sure the plants cross-pollinate and produce a crop. They will grow quite tall, but shouldn’t need any support.
May is a great month to plant more tender varieties of herb which won’t survive our winters, but are perfectly happy in our gardens in the summer. *Basil is a must-have; unless you have a very sheltered, warm garden it needs to grow on a sunny windowsill indoors, but it’s very easy to grow and you can get the kids involved with smashing it up into homemade pesto. *Oregano is another good choice – again, kids can get involved with the cooking and add it to homemade pasta and pizza sauces. I’ve always bought a small oregano plant and potted it on, but you can grow it from seed if you prefer. *Coriander is a bit hardier and fine growing outdoors, it’s a key ingredient in oriental cooking and lovely in salads too. Make sure you plant this one little and often, as it will flower and go to seed quickly.
It’s not too late to plant potatoes, although you need to go for a ‘second early’ or ‘maincrop’ variety. These varieties tend to produce larger potatoes which are good for roasting, baking or mashing. You don’t need loads of room either; you can easily grow potatoes in bags, which is a great way to get started if you’ve never grown them before.
Runner beans picked when young and tender are a real treat – so much better than refrigerated shop-bought ones! They’re climbing plants, so they will need some support (garden canes made into a wigwam shape is perfect), but this means they don’t take up much space. You can even tuck them in amongst a garden border. The *seeds are big so they’re perfect for kids to plant, you can start them off in pots or plant them straight into their growing site. Pinch out the end of the growing shoot when they reach the top of their supports, and harvest the pods when they are still young and tender.
Bulbs to plant in May
Summer flowering bulbs
Summer flowering bulbs should be planted in spring, when the soil has started to warm up. Agapanthus, Dahlias, Alliums and Gladioli are all good options. Gardener’s World has a helpful guide to planting summer flowering bulbs here.
You might also find my posts on quick and easy vegetables to grow and drought tolerant plants useful this month. And if you’re a bit behind with your planting, head over to my posts on what to plant in April, what to plant in March and spring flowers for pots for more inspiration. My spring quotes are worth a look too if you need some seasonal inspiration.
Will you be planting any of these crops this month? Or have you gone for something completely different? Let me know what you’re up to!