Monday, 7 May 2018

May Garden Ramblings

Well, here we are, it is finally the month of May... the busiest planting month of the year. This is when everything happens!

We will all be planting like mad people ... the warm season veggies go into the ground, and we also begin to harvest the cool season veggies we planted back in March and April.

Remember that many of your cool season crops will bolt (go to seed) when the hot, dry summer weather hits, so eat and enjoy now, when stuff is ready, do not leave them to get bigger or better. Things like broccoli will not actually grow and produce all summer long.

Yard and Garden Chores...
Weeding... still weeding. So much weeding to do. The lawn is 'flowering', as are the pathways and perennial beds, too. We have been so diligent about weeding for the past three years that I figured we would get less and less each year, but nope, that just never seems to happen.

Mowing.. spring is the only time of year that the grass needs regular mowing here on the island, it will soon be golden brown as the rains stop for the summer. Yippee!

Planting... doing up all the containers, pots, planters and baskets, plus the veggies, of course. The fun stuff! Yay!

The weather has been pretty fine the past few days, so is time to start thinking about putting out the tomatoes. Tomatoes are heat lovers, they like warm soil, warm air, and lots of sunshine.

I always wait until the night time temps have been +10°C consistently for several nights in a row before I even consider (selling) putting out my tomato plants. This means that the soil temperature in the beds is warm enough for the tomatoes to thrive instead of struggle. There are years when I do not get around to planting out my tomatoes until early June, and then they take right off as they love that warmth.

If you plant out your tomatoes in the garden beds too early, they may go dormant from the cold. Should your leaves start to purple and the plant go into dormancy, it can take a great many weeks for it to recover. You will have lost production time rather than gaining. It is worth your while to wait.

Plants in pots or planters are fine to go out a bit earlier, if you want to push the timing, as the soil in the pots stays warmer than in gardens. Raised beds warm up a bit faster than in ground beds, as well.

Harden off your plants before putting them out. Plants are prone to sunburn if they go straight from the greenhouse to the beds. The leaves will turn white and they do not ever go green again. You just have to wait for them to drop off and the plant to make new foliage. Small plants may not ever recover, while larger ones will just be ugly for a while.  

To harden off your plants, place in a shady spot where they receive dappled light for 2 or 3 hours the first day. Each day, introduce your plant to a couple more hours of sunshine and plant out on the 4th day. I do not bring mine in at night as I do not harden them off until the night temps are +10°C. You can cover them with a frost cover for the night, if you are leery.

When planting... Plant your tomatoes nice and deep. Remove a few of the bottom leaves along the stem, new roots will grow from these spots, loosen your root ball, and bury the plant deep into the garden bed. Some will lie them on their sides to plant the stem under ground, but I prefer to go deep rather than wide so that I do not jab it with the tomato cage or try to plant companion plants on top of it ; )
Do not plant anything else in this manner, only tomatoes grow new roots along the buried stem.

Veggies you can grow from seed this month...

When planting from seed, you need to keep the soil moist until you see germination. If you were to let the seeds go dry as they are beginning to sprout, the seeds will die, no amount of watering will revive them.

Beans.. plant from seed straight into warm soil, anytime this month or next. Plant 5 seeds per pole for pole beans and thin out to 3 seeds if they all germinate. For bush beans, plant them about 3 inches apart in rows.

Carrots... Carrot seeds can take up to 3 weeks to germinate so you need to keep them moist for a really long time. Letting them dry out even one day may cause you to lose the entire crop. I cover mine with burlap sacks to help keep the seeds moist till they germinate.
Just water thoroughly through the bag. If you do not have burlap sacks, buy the burlap in a roll but double it up when you lay it on the beds as it is pretty thin. After 7 days, begin to lift the bag to check for germination, leave on until you see the little green tops coming up.

Corn... loves warm soil, so wait till the long weekend to plant. Corn started from seeds usually does better than from starter plants, as they do not like to have their roots disturbed.

Lettuce, spinach and other greens... Can be planted from both seed and starter plant. I do a bit of both as I know that I will only be able to harvest till about mid-June till the heat does them all in. In this pic you see both spinach starters starting to grow and the seeded spinach coming up nicely on the side. Extends my growing season just a bit before they all bolt in the heat.

If you have a less sunny yard than I do, or are able to provide them with shade, you can sow fresh lettuce seeds every two weeks all summer long for a continuous supply of lovely tasting greens. One package of seeds costs around $3 and will provide you with months and months of lettuce/greens. Totally worth your while instead of buying a head of lettuce for $3 to $5 at the grocers every week.

Potatoes ... pop in your seed potatoes some time this month, too. I like to grow mine the traditional way in my raised beds, so these spuds that have just begun to sprout will be hilled twice yet before I leave them to grow for the summer. The soil that you see beside the spuds will slowly be pushed on top of the potato greens as they get taller, until the hilled part is where the potatoes are.

Peas... you can still keep planting more peas till the end of the month so that you have a fresh batch coming up for a good part of the summer. If you only plant the once, when they are done, they are done.

What else to plant from seed this month?

Beets, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, parsnips (mmm, love parsnips!), radishes, turnips, all squash (zukes, pattypans, etc..) gourds and pumpkins.  

What to plant from starters?

Tomatoes, of course, but also peppers and eggplants, too. Grow them in pots for the best success.

You also still have time to grow broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, kale, lettuces, greens, onions, and more from starters.

What else to do?
- Check for bugs as tis the season for aphids! Wash off with a strong jet of water or with a soap spray.
- Mulch your roses and perennial beds for happier and healthier plants this year and to retain more moisture.
- Harvest asparagus. Leave at least one stalk per crown to get tall and ferny so that your plant gets bigger and better each year.

Water slow but deep for the best results and to conserve water. Weeping hoses are terrific for watering your veggies after they have germinated. Till they germinate though, you need to hand water daily. After that, the deep soak of a weeper hose helps them to make deep roots for the hardiest veggies.

Don't forget to plant lots of different annuals to draw in the pollinators, ladybugs, birds, hummingbirds, and other beneficial insects that eat your bad bugs. In the above picture you see two types of marigolds and both are fantastic for the veggie garden.. Orange Gem Tagetes and French marigolds (plus zinnias in the background).

Happy gardening and growing!  

Moving Thyme

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