Gardening, Planting, Plants, Stuart

What to plant in May

April’s been a good month for planting, but May’s where it’s at for summer planting preparation. We’ve already gone through May’s gardening jobs, but here we’re going to go into a bit more detail about what you need to get into the ground this month.

Flowers

A selection of summer flowers - zinnia, candytuft and nigella
Zinnia, Candytuft and Nigella

Almost all of these May-planting plants are available as annuals or perennials, so you can take your pick on a repeated colour theme or mix it up year after year. As there’s quite a few, we’ve split them out into warming hues through to cooler shades.

Discover our selection of summer bedding plants

Summer heat

Three summer flowers - nasturtium, snapdragon and poppiesNasturtiums, snapdragons and Californian poppies

Reds, yellows, oranges – like the rising or setting sun, these flowers will warm up any pot, planter or bed.

Zinnias are great for pollinators and are characterised with an explosion of colour, while antirrhinum (snapdragons) feature beautiful colour blends. Nasturtiums are the hottest of the lot with their bright shades, and Californian poppies have the occasional purple in there to mix it up.

Cooler days

Three summer flowers - verbeneas annual and perennial, and cosmos
Annual and Perennial Verbenas, and Cosmos

Heading towards pinks, purples and whites, these plants are a mix of evergreens, annuals and perennials.

Candytuft will stick around all year, though the pink and white flowers will only be about for the summer. Cosmos are annual and super easy to grow, bringing a daisy-like charm to your garden, while verbenas come in both perennial and annual varieties – the former leans purple and the latter runs from red through pinks and purples to white.

Summertime blues

Three summer flowers - scabiosa, nigella and cornflowers
Scabiosa, Nigella and Cornflowers

Ending on cool blues, purples and whites, these guys might suggest summer shade or a wander about the countryside.

Scabiosas can be reminiscent of thistles as they grow, bursting into lavender-like blooms through to September. Cornflowers are the origin of the well-known blue and a cottage garden favourite, and their hardy nature makes them nice and easy to grow. To finish, nigellas or ‘Love in a Mist’ are guaranteed to add character to your garden with their unique and striking flowers.

Shop our full range of flower seeds

Vegetables

peas, carrots and cabbage
Peas, colourful carrots and cabbage

There’s plenty of vegetable and herbs to get stuck into in May, handily grouped to make them easier to remember. It also means there’s a lot of similar pests to watch out for as they grow, so you may want to invest in a cover or netting for your precious plants.

Brassicas

brussels, cauliflower and broccoli
Broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts

May’s prime time to plant some bold-as brassicas, healthy cruciferous vegetables to fill up your plate later in the summer. All of the following brassicas are planted 40cm apart or further, and are harvestable when you like the look of them.

Did you know these were all originally the same plant (wild cabbage), cultivated over hundreds of years to have wildly different characteristics? For broccoli and cauliflower they focused on the flower buds at the top, brussel sprouts were little bumpy bits halfway up the stem (leaf buds), and cabbages are an extreme version of those.

That’s why they taste similar, and have similar growing conditions. And also why some people don’t like the taste of any of them. Fun!

Browse all brassicas

Root vegetables

beetroot, carrot, turnip
Beetroot, carrots and turnips

It’s a mixture of strong colours and whites in May root vegetables, leaning towards the sweeter side of things. Think ‘roastable’ and ‘salads’.

Beetroots are a great source of fiber and finger-staining colour, preferring a bit of shade as they grow before harvesting June to December. Carrots are either good for your eyes or part of an urban myth relating to radar, but either way you plant them in full sun and harvest all the way up to October.

For parsnips, keep them in the sun but earth up the crown if it appears above the soil, and for turnips put them in the sun and harvest after a month. For swedes, do pretty much exactly the same as turnips, but don’t confuse the two or your scottish friends will never forgive you.

#NeepsAreSwedes

Rummage through all root vegetables

Herbs

dill, coriander and chives
Chives, coriander and dill

Prep your herb garden in May to pack your summer with flavour. To remember which ones to plant, here’s a rhyme:

It’s time for chives to thrive,
Get ready for a coriander wonder.
Prepare a parsley party

Dill‘s here too

Dill likes to grow further apart that other herbs (30cm or so), while the others can go in a pot in sun or partial shade. Rule of thumb for harvesting is pretty much the same as the brassicas – when you like how they look, have at it. And just eat the leaves, not any flowers – dill can get a bit floral.

Have a look at herbs

Other

radish, chard, spring onion
Radish, rainbow chard and spring onion

It’s still spring, so spring onions are appropriately named for when to plant them – drill them 1.5cm deep and 5cm apart when they’ve sprouted a bit. Peas and beans go well in the sun, 10cm apart and sheltered from the wind, and remember to give them sticks to grow up.

Radishes are great for summer spiciness, so plant them now in a similar way to spring onions, ready to harvest after a couple of months. Rainbow chard rounds off the list, harvestable from June to December if planted now (15-30cm apart).

Shop our full range of vegetable seeds

Composting, Conservation, Planting, Stuart, Wildlife

Earth Day – 22nd April 2021

Marking the birth of the modern environmental movement, Earth Day is an excellent annual reminder of the importance of Mother Earth. We can all do our bit to help the planet, but everyone needs to join in to give Earth its best chance.

Here are a few ideas to give a go this Earth Day, from composting to planting trees and a few things in between.

From household binning to composting

Green Johanna Compost Bin

If you’ve got a garden – don’t throw your food waste into a regular waste bin. Make the most of a compost bin (if you have one) and start making your own plant food. If not, you can either get one or make your own with pallets, old bins or buckets.

With any luck your local council authority will provide food/garden waste bins to use if composting isn’t an option, but if they don’t you can contact your local councillors to convince them to move with the times.

Check here to read a beginner’s guide to composting.

Local clean up

OCG group cleaning up a beach

Grab a bin bag, throw on some marigolds and get out there, grabbing any plastic, crisp packets and discarded rubbish you can see. Fill a bag, fill two bags – whatever you can clean up out of nature will save some wildlife down the road.

Most plastics, metal and glass won’t break down in the wild, proving a threat to all sorts creatures (including humans) for hundreds of years unless cleaned up and processed.

Switch to the Ecosia search engine

Ecosia Logo

This one’s the easiest of them all, and one simple change can start planting loads of trees. If the average person searches 3-4 times a day, within 10 days they can have helped plant a tree through Ecosia.

It’s just as good as Google at your everyday searches, so add it to your chrome or change your bookmarks to get Ecosia-ing and start planting trees every day.

There’s even a nifty little counter that shows how many trees you’ve helped plant:

Ecosia Tree Counter

It might not seem like a lot, but that’s 9 trees that wouldn’t have been planted if this writer had stuck with Google or any other search engine.

Take care of garden visitors

Supporting the ecosystem keeps the world turning, and there are lots of steps you can take to look out for whatever wanders through your garden.

Digging a pond, putting down a hedgehog home, hanging bird feeders and installing pollinator-friendly habitats will all help  your garden visitors thrive, which in turn will help our planet stay in balance for as long as possible.

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now”

Flamingo Willow

It might be a slight paraphrase, but this Chinese proverb has never been more apt. Every little bit of greenery you can get in the ground will push back against deforestation, whether man-made or through devastating blights and pests.

Get a tree, dig a little hole, add a bit of compost, put in the tree then fill the hole back in. Water well and then you’re on your way to a brand new tree and a bit of Earth-saving.

Earth photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash
Clean-up photo by OCG Saving The Ocean on Unsplash  

Allotment, Container Gardening, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Planting, Watering, Weeding

Eating vegetables you’ve grown yourself can be really satisfying. Not only is it healthier and cheaper, but it can taste better, and it’s more eco friendly. The hardest part of learning to grow your own is knowing how to start your first plot. In this guide, we will take you through everything you need to start your vegetable patch successfully.  

Pick the right location.

The location of your vegetable patch is key to growing good fruit.  The best place  will have: 

    • 6 hours of sun –  your vegetable plot will need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. You should also avoid setting up under a tree or in the shadow of your home. 
    • Moist, well-drained soil –  water pools in badly drained soil and this can end up killing your plants. Consider using a raised bed or raking your soil to get better drainage. 
    • Calm spot  –  avoid places that receive strong winds that could knock over your plants or keep pollinators away. Try to avoid areas with high footfall and places that are known to flood. 
    • Have a nearby water source –  your vegetables will need a lot of water before they are ready to harvest. You should place your plot near an outdoor tap or water source if you don’t want to carry it all. Consider setting up a water butt closeby is possible.

Choose a plot size

How big should your first vegetable patch be? For a beginner, we would suggest starting small and manageable. You need around 200 sq. ft (about the size of a one-car garage) to feed one person for most of the year. If you can start with this size, great, but a veg trug or small raised bed can also get great results. For more control or if you are only looking to dip your hand into home growing, why not consider starting by growing your veg in a container. 

Set up your Plot 

© Copyright David Robinson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Before you start planting your first veggies, you should take a few steps to make sure you are planting them in the best conditions possible. 

  • Remove any weeds
  • Dig over the soil to about one spade deep
  • Break up the soil to aerate – remove any stones or weed stems
  • If using a raised bed fill will good quality well-draining soil

Now your soil is ready, divide your bed into sections (you can mark these out with string if you want). Try to keep one crop in each section and stagger them between sowing, growing, harvesting and being empty to get a constant yield. 

Choose your crops 

Knowing what to grow in your first vegetable patch can be difficult as there are lots of choices. 

Good vegetables for beginners to grow

TomatoesGreen beansChard
CourgettesLettuceSpinach
PeppersBeetrootKale
CabbageCarrotsRadish


But ultimately the decision is up to you. No matter what you want to plant always consider a few things before making your choice. 

  • Choose what you (and your family) like to eat –  If no one likes brussels sprouts, don’t bother planting them. But if your love green beans, put more effort towards growing a big crop of beans and nothing goes to waste.
  • Be realistic about how many vegetables your family will eat –  Be careful not to overplant, as you will find yourself with too many plants on your hands. 
  • Consider whats in the shops – Your favourite veg not in your local shop? Why not grow them instead of carrots and tomatoes. Also, homegrown herbs are far less expensive than those you buy in-store.
  • Growing times –  Planning a summer holiday? Some veg like tomatoes and courgette grow strongest in the middle of summer. If you’re gone, you will need someone to look after them, or they will suffer. You can also grow cool-season crops such as lettuce, kale, peas, and root veg during the cooler months of late spring and early fall.

Where and when to plant

The success of your vegetable patch will depend a lot on when and where you plant your vegetables. 

  1. Plant for the season – There are “cool-season” vegetables that grow in spring (e.g., lettuce, spinach, root veg) and “warm-season” vegetables that aren’t planted until the soil warms up (e.g., tomatoes & peppers). Plant cool-season crops after spring frost and warm-season crops in the same area later in the season.
  2. Plant tall vegetables on the north side of the garden –  So they don’t shade shorter plants. If you do get shade in a part of your garden, save that area for small, cool-season plants. 
  3. Annual or Perennial – Most vegetables are annual (planted each year). Asparagus, rhubarb, and some herbs are perennial. If you’re planning on growing, these make sure you provide permanent locations or beds.
  4. Maturation time – Some crops mature quickly and have a very short harvest period (radishes, beans). Other plants, such as tomatoes, take longer to produce but will do so for longer. These times are usually listed on the packet, and you should aim for a combination of both. 
  5. Stagger plantings – If you want a constant supply of vegetables, you don’t want to plant all your seeds simultaneously, or they will need to be harvested at around the same time!. Stagger plantings by a few weeks to keep a constant supply. 

Planting your vegetables

You have a couple of choices regarding getting new plants to grow in your garden; you can buy nursery plants ready to go or grow from seed. Each has its own advantages. 

Starting From Seed Nursery Plants 
Cheaper Less work 
Can control how your plant is grown from the start Easier to grow
More Varieties to choose fromTakes up less space 

Nursery Plants: 

Planting a nursery plant is simple. Follow the instructions on the plant label, and you’re ready to go, be careful to give each plant enough space to grow in the future. 

Growing Vegetables from seed: 

Growing from seed can take more time, but you have much more control over how your plants end up. Starting your plants indoors gives them a higher survival rate than those grown indoors.  

Top tips

  1. Make sure your containers have drainage holes – You can use recycled pots, egg boxes or yoghurt pots. Seed trays and flats are good choices and can be reused year after year. Biodegradable pots are great too. 
  2. Plant seeds at the proper depth – Check the seed packet for planting depth. Be careful not to plant any deeper than the directions – a good rule is to plant the two-to-three times as deep as the seed is wide.
  3. After sowing, put your container somewhere warm – On top of a fridge or near a radiator are good spots. Check your pots every day for signs of growth. 
  4. Keep seed-starting mix moist – Seedling roots need both air and water. Keep the mix moist but not wet.
  5. As soon as seedlings emerge, place pots in a bright location at room temperature – A sunny window will do
  6. Once seedlings have two sets of leaves thin out – You want one seedling per pot. Choose the healthiest, strongest-looking seedling to keep.
  7. Plant outside when you have three of four full-sized leaves.

Vegetable Care Tips 

Fertilize 

 Use a diluted all-purpose fertilizer before planting and once in the middle of the growing season.

Mulching 

Apply mulch in the spring after the soil has warmed

Watering

Getting your watering right is a key skill in getting your vegetables to grow as well as they can. A moisture meter is a handy way to help yourself out. It also helps to know the signs of under or overwatering. 

You’ve underwatered if: You’ve overwatered if: 
Dry soil around the stems There is soaked soil around plant stems.
Stunted Growth Mould or moss is growing on the soil.
WiltingWilting
Dead Leaves Yellowing of leaves
Brown Leaves Dead leaf margins

Common pests and how to treat them 

 

AphidSmall sap-sucking insects that can be found on the leaves of your plant. Spray with a steady stream of water or plant safe soap. You can also release predatory insects such as ladybugs or prune off the most heavily infected leaves.
Cabbage WormBest Picked off by hand and use a floating row cover to keep the adults from laying eggs on crops. 
Corn EarwormTilling in the spring and autumn will expose pupae to predators, weather and wind. Pesticides will also work.
Cucumber BeetleHandpick beetles frequently. Adults can be sprayed with a botanical insecticide. After harvest, remove garden debris to reduce sites for overwintering.
CutwormUse toilet roll tubes to make collars and place around the stems of seedlings ( half above and half below the soil). Beneficial nematodes can be added to the soil and hand remove caterpillars after dark.
Flea BeetleTo avoid peak populations of flea beetles, avoid planting your crops until later in the season. Add beneficial nematodes to the soil and use floating row covers to keep pests off plants.
Slug & SnailEdge garden beds with copper tape to deter slugs and snails. Shallow pans of beer placed in the garden will trap them, then collect and destroy daily.
Squash BugCheck the undersides of leaves, and hand remove squash bugs. Keep plants off the ground with trellises. If the infestation gets too bad, use floating row covers and a botanical insecticide.
Tomato HornwormCheck the leaves for large green caterpillars) and hand remove. Till gardens in the fall to destroy pupae in the soil.

Diseases

Wet weather, inadequate air and low and poor drainage are all causes of plant disease. You can prevent disease on your vegetables by

  • Choosing disease-resistant plants 
  • Water and fertilize plants properly.
  • Rotate crops
  • Keep your growing area clean.

Some common diseases include: 

Bacterial Leaf Spot: Mostly affecting cabbage-family crops, peppers and tomatoes. Infected foliage has small, dark brown or black water-soaked spots. These spots will dry up and crack, leaving holes and leaves may drop prematurely. Apply copper-based fungicides every 7-days when symptoms first appear to prevent from spreading. Control can be difficult in wet weather.

Clubroot: Caused by a soil-inhabiting fungus and infecting cabbage-family plants (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage). Infected plants have swollen, misshapen roots and wilt in the heat. Older leaves turn yellow or drop off. Plant disease-resistant varieties and rotate vegetable crops.

Common Rust: Reddish-brown powdery spots that rub off when touched appear on leaves. Prune plants and remove weeds to provide good air circulation. Hand-pick infected leaves and remove and destroy seriously affected plants. Apply sulfur fungicides to plants early to prevent infection or to keep light problems from spreading.

Late Blight: Mostly affecting tomato and potato plants, this disease appears late in the growing season. Look for water-soaked, grey-green spots on leaves. As the disease matures a white fungal growth may form on the undersides. Select resistant varieties when available and dispose of all infected plant parts. Water in the morning to give plants time to dry out during the day. Copper sprays can suppress some outbreaks.

Mosaic Virus: This disease appears as mottled green or yellowish coloured plant tissue. Plant growth is often stunted, and leaves may curl. There is no cure for the mosaic virus so remove infected plants immediately. Plant disease-resistant crops and reduce the number of disease-carrying insects (aphids, leafhoppers) can spread the virus. 

Wilts: Affecting many vegetable plants, causes wilting and yellow blotches on the lower leaves. Choose resistant varieties when available and control garden insects, such as cucumber beetles, who are known to spread the disease.

It can be a steep learning curve when first learning how to plant your own vegetables, but as soon as you harvest and cook with your first crop, you will realise how satisfying it can be and be hooked. Find everything you need for a successful home garden here. We’d love to see what you’re doing with your home garden so let us know how your homegrown vegetables are doing on Facebook or send us a picture on Instagram with the hashtag#MyPrimroseGarden for a chance to be featured.

Allotment, Composting, Gardening, Gardening Year, Gardens, Grow Your Own, Planting

Autumn is a season of transition. As the warm bright days of summer begin to shorten and grow colder, your crops near their end and it’s time to start preparing for winter and planting for spring. There is a lot to do at this time of the year, but with our list of jobs to do this season, you will find yourself well prepared. 

General Maintainance 

raking leaves

  • Collect fallen leaves– keep your garden looking tidy and reduce the chances of pests and diseases in your garden
  • Create a compost heap –  fallen leaves and dead plant material can make great compost that will be good for plants in spring. Think about creating your heap in a quiet corner of your garden or in a compost bin
  • Repair or replace fencing – now that your plants are dormant and the ground is still warm enough to dig in it’s a great time to replace damaged or old fencing
  • Insulate outdoor taps – frozen taps can become damaged. Wrap in kitchen foil of fleece to protect it from the coldest weather
  • Prepare the lawn for winter – continue to mow the lawn if the frost is not too heavy, but raise the height of the mower blades; spike with a garden fork to improve drainage
  • Organise your shed-  take the time to clear out your garden shed, check security, and organise and clean your tools ready for spring. 
  • Prune the garden– prune fruit trees, dormant shrubs and hedges, roses, and Japanese maples in order to ensure a good start to spring
  • Cluster container plants together– as their roots are more exposed to the elements, move shrubs and bedding plants growing in containers to sheltered spots and cluster together for protection from the colder weather
  • Check tree ties– check any tree ties to make sure trees are protected from strong winds and the tree stems will not be damaged by ties that are too tight; 
  • Make Leaf Mould – bag up fallen leaves in a good quality bin bag. Poke holes in the bag and leave out of sight for two years. Leaf mould  can be used as seed-sowing compost or used to enrich the soil
  • Clear the remains of summer crops – to avoid them rotting and attracting pests and diseases
  • Clean Your Tools – taking good care of your tools now will prevent them from rusting over winter and needing to be replaced in the summer
  • Prune fruit bushes –  prune out any dead, dying or diseased wood whilst your fruit trees are dormant to encourage new and good growth in the spring
  • Net brassicas – to protect them from overwintering birds. Use a fine mesh or a frame that it lifts clear of the plant to stop birds pecking through. You could also consider a polytunnel or cold frame
  • Begin Digging Over – dig small sections of your garden over the month to get manure, air and compost into the soil. 

Plants 

 

  • Protect plants from the frost– standard terracotta planters often break in cold weather, so consider our frost-resistant fibrecotta. For plants in flower beds, a cold frame or cloche fleece provides instant protection
  • Raise plant containers– raise pots off the ground for the winter using bricks or pot feet to prevent them from becoming waterlogged
  • Prune rose bushes- prevent wind rock (swaying in the wind and the roots becoming loose) by pruning roses by one third to half their height
  • Cut back herbaceous perennials– cut back the yellowing foliage of any flowering plants, then life and divide any overcrowded clumps
  • Plant tulip bulbstulip bulbs to bloom in spring next year are best planted in late autumn to prevent the tulip fire disease
  • Move dormant plants– if you need to relocate any plants or fruit trees, now is the time to do so while they are dormant
  • Plant spring bulbs– plant bulbs such as daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, and fritillaries before the first frost to fill your garden with colour in th spring
  • Take hardwood cuttings– cut healthy shoots from suitable trees, shrubs, and climbers, including honeysuckle and blackcurrant shrubs. plant in the ground or in a pot to propagate new plants
  • Lift and store dahlia tubers– these tender perennials need protection from the colder weather, so lift the dormant roots and stems to store indoors and plant back outside next spring

Greenhouse 

 

  • Stock up on greenhouse accessories– now you’ll be spending more time in your greenhouse, make sure to stock up on accessories, including a heater to maintain the temperature and staging to hold your plants
  • Sow winter herbs– sow Mediterranean herbs such as thyme, sage, and parsley for a fresh supply during the winter
  • Clean your greenhouse– if you haven’t already done so, make sure to clean your greenhouse thoroughly; wash and disinfect capillary matting before storing away
  • Water plants sparingly– make sure plants are hydrated but keep the greenhouse as dry as possible to reduce the risk of disease
  • Combat pests– check overwintering plants for pests such as aphids and red spider mite, treat if necessary using a general insecticide
  • Maintain plants– pick faded leaves and dead flowers from plants that are being stored in the greenhouse over the winter
  • Check that all heaters are working properly –  You will need them in the coming months, so check them now so you don’t have to rush and buy new ones when they are needed. If any are broken replace them now
  • Remove snow– make sure to brush any snow off the top of greenhouses and cold frames to make sure the glass does not get damaged