The modern vegetable garden can be a great way to use awkward outdoor spaces and make your yard more pollinator-friendly. But it can also be a real challenge to grow healthy vegetables.
Organic farmers practice crop rotation, which reduces disease spread and soil depletion. Limbing trees to remove some of the lower canopy can also open up dappled sunlight for part-shade vegetables like lettuce and cabbage.
Finally, here we are: the May days, When most everything can be sown in situ if you keep a close eye. The early summer month of long weekends and longer evenings. Frost is fading. Time to propagate plants or raid the garden centre.
We’ll soon sow painted mountain corn for its astonishing beauty. Ours is sourced from Ukraine (organicseeds.top) but UK suppliers include Beans and Herbs and Organic Seed Specialists. Climbing beans and peas went in early even for us (we’ll top up any gaps).
For flowers, we’re sowing last year’s surprise Cosmos sulphureus for its height and brilliant orange blooms. Loved by bees as much as us. These to complement our contant tagetes and calendula (with, this year, a return to a “flashback” variety). Nasturtiums will splurge over the edges as always. Sunflowers are starting to show.
Salad leaves, lettuce, rocket can all be sown now. Note: it may be your last chance for spinach before it’ll bolt (you can sow again in late summer and early autumn). We’ll be growing chards plus a few rows of green herbs (dill, parsley, coriander). Last year’s late Bear Necessities kale and purple mustards have taken on a spring wind.
Our root crops are limited to radishes (French Breakfast) and a Franchi beetroot. Both a first for a while. We’ll stick to repeat sowing of short rows to avoid being quickly overwhelmed.
If, like me, you’ve over-ordered, maybe swap seed (or seedlings) with other growers. You won’t be the only one. Remember to keep up with regular watering and feeding. Keep an eye on any ponds that might need topping up. Update: many of our tadpoles seem to have survived the heron raid.
May is maybe my favourite gardening month. Full of fresh green and garden promise. The return of early-morning and evening visits, before or after work. With nothing much to do as such. Except to remember to soak it in.
Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com