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Top May Allotment Tips

Top May Allotment Tips – Let’s talk about all things sowing seeds, tips for greenhouses, asparagus crowns & beginner veg!

According to the Met Office, this April has been the frostiest for 60 years in many parts of the UK. Nighttime temperatures as low as -5C were not uncommon. It has been a struggle to keep tender plants protected at night in the cold greenhouse. I’m pleased to say that two layers of fleece did just enough to keep most of my young plants alive. I did lose a handful of sweet corn plants and a small number of climbing beans. In the case of the beans, there was time to sow again.

sowing seeds in May

This year has been a good reminder of why we should always sow more seeds than we think we’ll need. Having spares is good due to the vagaries of the weather and the risk of pest attack. Any surplus plants at planting out time can be given to friends.

Asparagus Crops

I’ve been weeding my permanent asparagus beds just as they’ve begun cropping. Parts of the beds are under attack from encroaching couch grass. I rather think this won’t be the last time this happens! The crowns are twelve years old but are still cropping well. They should last a few more years. Last month I added some well-rotted manure to the beds, a yearly spring ritual. In the absence of any manure, a balanced fertiliser is a good alternative.

asparagus tips in May

With an eye on the longer term, I sowed some Asparagus ‘F1 Ariane’ seed in a heated propagator in February.

The plan is to start a brand new bed to supplement and ultimately replace my existing beds.

At this time of year, a key focus is to begin hardening off our plants that have been grown under glass. I usually allocate around two weeks, gradually and slowly acclimatising the plants to the shock of outdoor life. Frost remains a threat until the end of May in many parts of the UK so leaving them uncovered overnight at this stage is very risky indeed.

Allotment Soil

growing lettuce

On the allotment, the soil has been very dry in April, but this has kept slug and snail activity to a minimum.

I transplanted some lettuce into their final positions without slug protection. This hasn’t been necessary so far due to the lack of rain.

Another positive of the dry soil has been a slow down of weed growth. This will doubtless change when the rains finally come.

Dandelions with their long tap root can cope better than many weeds with dry soil. They are having a good year as normal! I’ve been removing the flower heads off them as they grow to minimise the risk of the flowers setting seeds. I prefer to dig the plants up where possible. However, when time is short, deadheading is a useful stop gap.

Leeks, Cucumbers & Sowing Turnips!

growing leeks in May

Leeks need a pretty long growing season. I’ll be transplanting my plants from their pots inside a cold frame into their final growing positions during May. Some growers cut the length of the stem by half as they transplant their young charges deeply into the planting hole. Instead, I plant them deeply in the normal way and I have always had good results. However, experimentation is fun and this is how we learn what works for us on our individual plots. One thing is certain, leeks need plenty of water after transplanting for several weeks afterward.

growing cucumbers in may on the allotment

My outdoor Ridge Cucumber F1 ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ plants will need cloche protection when I’ve planted them out if the weather is cold.

Cold weather causes a significant check to growth. They do also like plenty of water once established.

There is an exciting array of seeds that can be sown outdoors on the plot between now and July. Turnip is a really easy crop, ideal for beginners. It is perfect for filling up a corner or small space just about anywhere on your plot. Beetroot is another generally trouble-free and rewarding crop, also ideal for beginners.

Before You Go, Spare A Thought for Potatoes!

Finally, please do remember that potatoes are vulnerable to frost. All new growth should be protected with fleece, cloches or earthed up (covering the shoots) as required.

growing potatoes in May on the allotment

We hope you have enjoyed our Top May Allotment Tips and stay tuned for more in June.

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About Lee Senior

Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and horticultural consultant. He has also had an allotment for over 25 years. After initially spurning horticulture as a career option, to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a train driver, Lee soon realised he couldn't resist getting his hands dirty to make a living. Horticultural College training led, to getting an allotment at the tender age of 18 (in the days when you could actually get a plot quickly). My gardening hero, is Geoff Hamilton" says Lee. "It was Geoff who convinced me that you didn't have to spray everything that moved in the garden. Watching him on Gardeners’ World in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a revelation. I was lucky enough to meet Geoff and I’ve also more recently had the pleasure of meeting Joe Swift. Now over two decades of practical experience has taught me to work with mother nature, not to fight against her and don't try to tame her, as so many gardeners seem to be on a mission to do. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can't wait for my two daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 5 to hopefully pick up the baton in the future. Nothing beats the flavour and satisfaction of growing your own food. You simply cannot buy the same quality and freshness. Everyone can have a go at growing something says Lee, no matter where they live. Lee has also written his two books; 'Pennine Way, The Highs and Lows' which is a humorous, personal account of walking this momentous iconic walk. His second book 'Walking in the Aire', features 14 short walks in Yorkshire.

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