Just as there was in April, there’s a lot of seeds that you can sow in May. Once again I’ll start by reminding you that you’ll need to adjust your sowing times according to where you live so the further north and the further high up in altitude that you live the more you’ll want to push these sowing times towards the back of the month but if you live in the South or in a very mild climate you can sow these seeds towards the beginning of May.
Let’s look at what seeds you can plant in May by groups. Links within this article for USA seeds. To purchase seeds in the UK, links can be found for all of the vegetable varieties towards the end of this page.
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Kohlrabi, Swedes which are Rutabaga in other areas. Kale, I use this for a salad, this is a Red Russian Kale and I just pick very young leaves and they are absolutely great in salads but you can let them grow on and have them as a green like a cabbage or a collard. Sow Cauliflowers, like this lovely green one called Romanesco. There’s a purple one called Violetta and of course the standard white ball cauliflowers that can be sown now too.
If you didn’t sow them earlier in the year you can get in a sprouting broccoli now. There’s an early purple one called Purple Sprouting Broccoli. We’ve only just finished harvesting from the seeds sown last year. You can sow beet leaves and I sow these about once every month to every six weeks throughout the spring and summer to give me a fresh supply of very young leaves because I like them in salads as well as in stir fry’s and there’s a selection of Chinese leaves like Chinese Kale or Chinese cabbage.
And also something like a very rapid broccoli, Broccoli Raab 60 days, so it’s in and it’s out again within 60 to 70 days, it’s a really nice quick turnaround and to give you something different in your cooking. And it’s certainly not too late to sow cabbages now. I’m not sowing anymore until the end of the month when I will sow a few more red cabbages so that we have a second harvest of them later into the autumn.
Root vegetables to sow in May
There’s a whole selection of root vegetables that you can sow now, like carrots, turnips, radishes, beetroot and there’s parsnips. For full instructions, see my article of how to grow great parsnips. I’m also growing some Mooli, which is a Japanese radish and is larger than a standard radish and it’s also more fiery and I don’t like this just to eat in a salad or anything, but I tried it grated mixed with a little bit of yoghurt and it made a really nice alternative to horseradish sauce.
And there’s also Salsify which is worth growing for it’s beautiful flowers alone although, I have to say, ours has seeded itself all over our garden so we have Salsify where I wasn’t necessarily expecting it but it’s actually very pretty so I’m going to leave it there and then I can harvest the roots at the end of the summer.
And you can also sow Root Parsley like Hamburg Parsley, we’re growing one called Atika Root Parsley,. Those are absolutely great because you can use the leaves all summer and then in the autumn and winter you can then harvest the roots as well. They’ve got a very mild parsley taste and we’ve come to really like them in a tray of mixed root vegetables.
In May, you can sow seeds of perennial vegetables, so I’m going to be starting off some more Artichokes, but you can also try some Cardoons or Asparagus or any other perennial vegetables and I’m really keen on perennial veg you can see which perennial veg we are growing here.
Herbs and salads
I’ve got Basil and Cilantro or Coriander, and I’ll be sowing those on a regular basis throughout the year to keep a continuous supply of the young leaves.
And then things like lettuces, spring onions and don’t forget things like cress and mustard cress, which you can just grow on your windowsill, in a small tray or a saucer on some cotton wool or damp tissue paper and you’ll have the very young plants in about 10-12 days. You just cut it off and use in things like egg mayonnaise sandwiches. I’m going to be sowing some more spinach and I’ll be sowing that in a bed that isn’t in full sun, spinach wilts and then bolts and goes to seed if it gets too hot, so I try to keep it in a shadier bed to keep the temperature down on it a little bit and then hopefully I can eke out the season of the spinach just a little bit longer.
May is the month to plant your Sweetcorn. I’ve heard of a couple of different methods of sowing sweetcorn. I know Erica over at Erica’s Little Welsh Garden soaks her sweetcorn for 24 hours in water before she sows it, I don’t, I put mine straight into compost and I give it a good water, make sure it doesn’t dry out. It is important that sweetcorn has some warmth to germinate. And once it’s germinated then it can be in a cooler temperature. I will sow into trays of compost and taking them into the house, keep them in the house just until they germinate and then I’ll take them out into the unheated polytunnel.
Beans and peas
And it’s also time to start sowing beans.I will sow a few runner beans now. I grow my runner beans as perennials because we’re in a very mild area. In the autumn I just cut them off, I leave about 4-6 inches of the stem intact and leave the roots in the ground and the next year hopefully most of them will grow back but I do sow a few extras just in case there are any that didn’t make it through the winter and then I can get those straight into the ground to replace any that don’t grow.
Both dwarf and climbing French beans can be sown now. There’s a lovely yellow variety called Sonesta. But I also grow a climbing French bean called Neckergold. I have just sown these in the last couple of days so hopefully by the end of the month I will be able to get those outside.
Peas can be sown direct into the ground, you can sow them into compost into guttering if you want to but at this time of year they should be absolutely fine to go straight into the ground. There are lots of other seeds that you can sow at this time of year.
Most seed packets have a guide on the back of them that will give you some sort of vague guidance of when they can go into the ground.
You can see this information as a video here.
Cucurbits to sow in May
And the last group of seeds, but absolutely by no means the least (in fact they’re probably the biggest of the plants that we grow) are the cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins. Now is a really good time to start those off. We are growing several different varieties this year including Butternut squash Walton and Hunter, my very favourite Jumbo Pink Banana squashes which produce these absolutely enormous fruits which we really like. There’s Spaghetti squash, Uchiki Kuri squash and I’m trying several others, I’m trying one new to us this year called Honey Boat, which is supposed to be even sweeter than a butternut squash.
And May is also the time to plant courgettes, we’re growing at least 3 different varieties, the ones that I can remember is a Gold Rush which is a yellow variety Genovese which is a paler green but it is green and a Di Nero one which is a very dark one, no doubt by the end of May I would have also sown some Patty Pan which look like little flying saucers, they come in white and I think there’s a yellow variety as well and in the same family you can also start melons now. All of this group of seeds will start with a large rounded seed leaf and then after that they will produce their true leaves.
And one last thing to sow this month, don’t forget to sow some flowers. I’m growing a really pretty pink nasturtium, I’ve never seen a pink nasturtium before, I’m really excited about seeing it and I grow things like Nasturtiums and Marigolds so that I can add the petals to salads, makes them look really pretty, they’re completely edible. If you’re sowing flowers for eating, be sure to do your research and just check that what you’re about to eat is safe to do so.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the weather forecast and if frosts are predicted make sure that you protect your plants, but May is also the time to start hardening off some of the plants that you have grown earlier in the year.
Hardening off is the process where you get plants used to being outside and its slightly cooler temperature and more wind being around them. So you take them out of wherever you started them off whether that’s a polytunnel or greenhouse, cold frame, your kitchen windowsill, wherever it is you take them out and put them outside during the day and then you take them back in at night so they don’t get too cold overnight. Do that for a few days to maybe a week and then they should be hardened off enough to put outside. Make sure you don’t plant them out too early for the area that you live in while there’s still a risk of frost.
Vegetables to sow in May, links for UK growers
Below are links for seeds that I mention for vegetable gardeners and growers in the UK.
Runner beans – White Lady
Climbing French beans – Neckergold
Peas – Onward
I hope you found this quick guide to what to sow in May useful and if you have please leave a comment.