May is when garden tasks begin to multiply and a checklist and planner is so helpful for a scatterbrain like myself. By mid May warm temperatures are here and it is safe to start panting frost sensitive plants like summer squash. And at the same time, May is also time to begin harvesting and preserving cool weather crops.
Here is my checklist of tasks for my May garden here in our Mid Atlantic region:
1. Weeding: Especially around finicky plants
Weeding is one garden task that you’ll want to stay on top of in May – especially around plants such as carrots and asparagus that really do not like the competition. It is fussy work, but your carrots will reward you with much healthier plants and a better harvest if you keep them thinned and weed free.
2. Hill beets and potatoes
I like to merge the homestead tasks of cleaning out winter’s deep bedding from our poultry houses with potato hilling. I shovel out wheelbarrow loads of partially composted poultry bedding and wheel it right over to be placed alongside my potato plants. The bedding’s state of only partial decomposition is not detrimental to the potatoes. It still provides a nourishing medium under which to grow, holds moisture, and prevents spuds being exposed to the sun.
3. Harden off and transplant summer vegetables
Keeping a close eye on the weather is essential for hardening off and transplanting summer veggies. I carry trays of transplants out on sunny mornings and back into my entryway on evenings when frost is a possibility. By mid-May it is usually safe to transplant tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers into their permanent locations. Summer squash would once always have been direct seeded because of their sensitivity to transplanting. However, they have become trickier to grow because of squash bugs, squash borers, and cucumber beetles, along with the diseases that they transmit like mosaic virus. I like to plant my squash seeds around May 1st and then transplant them under netting in mid May. This gives them a chance to get well established before the squash bugs start to appear in June (they are in the “June Beetle” family).
4. Harvest cool season vegetables, strawberries, and rhubarb
Strawberry rhubarb pie is one of my favorite desserts. May is a wonderful time to harvest those earliest fruits and begin preserving them as jam and pie fillings. Fresh greens, lettuces, radishes, and cabbages are also all a welcome treat after eating mostly winter storage vegetables. Many cool season veggies like radishes, broccoli, and asparagus are growing quickly in a race to flower and produce seeds. It is as important to keep on top of harvesting and take advantage of their bounty while they are at their prime flavor and nutritional value.