What to pick, plant and sow in the garden during May

Consider this your wintery planting guide! Here’s what to harvest, plant and sow in the garden during the month of May

A black, corrugated-steel fence shelters and separates the beautifully maintained vegetable beds from the rest of the garden.

What to harvest in the garden in May

– Some macadamia nut varieties will be ready to harvest now. Pick them up every second day if possible to avoid fungal disease, then dehusk and dry immediately. Watch out for rats – they love macadamias.

– Guavas ripen in late autumn, feeding humans and wood pigeon with their tasty, vitamin C-rich berries. Use fruit for jams, crumble or as an ice-cream topping if you’re not fond of eating them fresh.

– Taste your grapes before picking, as they won’t ripen off the vine. Wash bunches and dry them well so they don’t go mouldy then eat within a couple of days.

– Make sure late potatoes are harvested before the first frost arrives in colder areas.

– Leeks can be harvested when small and used like spring onions for stir-fries and salads. This leaves space for the remaining plants to fatten up nicely.

– Jerusalem artichokes can be harvested as the tops die down, but can also be left in the ground to be dug up when required. Make sure you grab all the tubers as even the tiniest will enthusiastically re-sprout next spring and you’ll have artichokes for Africa. Cut down stems to about 30cm. Tubers can be grated raw into salads or roasted, boiled and made into soups.

What to sow in the garden in May

– Keep your iron levels up this winter by growing spinach to make salads, soups, lasagne and other dishes. Choose a variety suited to your climate and sow seed in punnets first or directly into the garden, ideally with good drainage. Make sure soil has plenty of fertiliser and organic matter (eg well-rotted compost, manure, seaweed, leaf mould) added beforehand. Keep sowing small crops every 3-4 weeks for a continual supply.

– A little stronger-tasting than spinach, silverbeet is a stalwart of the Kiwi vege garden and deservedly so. It will grow almost all year round in many areas and is very easy to cultivate from seed sown directly into the garden or in punnets. As always with leafy greens, make sure soil has plenty of nutrients added before planting out seedlings.

– Also sow seed this month for other hardy greens such as bok choy, cabbage and watercress.

– Sow onion seed in trays or punnets for planting out in spring.

– Sow broad beans now to give them a good start before winter.

– If you don’t live in a frosty area, you can sow broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, leeks and onions this month. If you do live in a frost-prone area, wait a few months and keep seed trays and punnets in sheltered spots.

– For a tasty, healthy snack for school lunches why not grow snow peas? They’re easy to grow from seed and the perfect crop for little ones who want to try their hand at gardening.

What to plant in the garden in May

– Keep planting lettuce in warmer areas. Southern gardeners could try frost-hardy leafy greens such as mizuna, orach or miner’s lettuce.

– Mustard greens are a tasty salad and stir-fry option for winter. Plant seedlings 20cm apart in fertile soil and pick young leaves and flowers.

– No cafe would be without kale on the menu these days but growing your own is a whole lot cheaper. To reduce the risk of disease make sure you don’t plant seedlings in the same place you’ve previously grown broccoli or any other brassica. Seedlings take 6-10 weeks to mature.

– Dig up established clumps of rhubarb, divide and replant if the temperatures are not too cool in your area.

– Leeks planted in autumn have the best taste so get your seedlings in the ground now.

– Cut globe artichokes to around 30cm above the ground. If plants are more than three years old divide them up and replant pieces that have roots attached.

Words by: Carol Bucknell.