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The fruit and vegetable garden

May 2011


basket of vegMay is the month of longer and warmer days, when virtually all salad and vegetable crops can be sown with confidence, although beware of the occasional frosts until late May, and be prepared to cover tender seedlings with horticultural fleece or newspaper if frost is forecast.

We tend to try and sow our crops little and often, to ensure a succession of produce throughout the summer. As the seedlings show through in the seed beds we find it best to gradually thin the rows to give the strongest plants room to grow and develop, and many of the thinnings we then use for the table on salads or in stews. Sometimes we find that some of our earliest sowings fail for one reason or another, but this isn’t a problem as there is always the pleasure of a

Previously in The Fruit & Vegetable Garden...

April 2011

trip to the garden centre to replace lost seedlings if it is too late to grow more from seed.

We planted our first early potatoes last month and they are now pushing through the surface of the soil. They will need earthing up as they grow to protect the new tubers from daylight (which makes the tubers green and poisonous) and from late frosts. We are trying “Charlotte” this year, which we will just harvest as needed. We will allow the plants to continue to grow, and they will then also form our maincrop as the season progresses.

Runner beans should now have been sown indoors ready for planting out in late May. It is important, with runner beans particularly, to prepare the soil well so that it retains moisture. Dig a trench six to nine inches deep and place a three inch layer of well rotted manure or compost in the trench and water well before backfilling. With all beans and peas, we sow further seed adjacent to the growing seedlings at two to three week intervals to extend the harvesting season, and we support all peas and beans with sticks or canes to keep them off the ground.

We have sown sweetcorn in the greenhouse, the plants are growing strongly and will be planted out at the end of the month, along with our outdoor tomatoes (Tumbling Tom), which we will plant in tubs.

Remember that all things are coming back to life after the winter, including the pests, so try to be vigilant and maintain your defences where possible!


A lot of our soft fruit bushes are flowering madly at the moment and the gooseberries have already set fruit. Thankfully with the warm sunshine of late there should be enough insects around to pollinate everything. Our blackberry and loganberry plants are also flowering on last year’s growth and new growth will be tied in to the trellis for fruiting next year.

Strawberries have started to flower and the raspberries are showing signs of life. Plum and apple trees were very early to blossom in our garden this year, but if you have any that are still in blossom then they should still be protected against frost if practicable.

rhubarbOur rhubarb seems to be growing strongly after a late winter transplant. In early spring we forced the plant to grow under an upturned container which gave us some superb red stems, but as we had then to move the root to accommodate other things, we are now hoping that it will continue to crop this season. We won’t harvest heavily, however, which should give it the chance to recover it’s strength.


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