Action for May Fruit and veg
Mulch strawberry plants
If you haven’t already done so, mulch strawberry plants to keep the fruits off the ground, retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Protect fruit from pests
You should also now protect your fruit from birds and squirrels by covering your plants with netting. (download our factsheets on bird problems and squirrels).
Check they're tied to their supports and retie any stragglers that have come free.
Once early, forced stems have been pulled, remove light-excluding covers. If flower spikes develop, they should be cut off close to ground level otherwise they can weaken the clump.
Look out for young melon plants
Keep an eye out for these in the garden centre – the variety you’re most likely to find is ‘Sweetheart’. Plant directly into the greenhouse border, in 15-litre pots filled with multi-purpose compost or growing bags. Alternatively, plant in a coldframe or in a sunny spot once the risk.
Sow beetroot, winter cabbages, kale, carrots, peas, French, broad and runner beans, lettuce, spring onions, turnips and radishes.
- Dig over the soil, removing weeds as you go and then rake the surface to break down large clumps of earth. The resulting bed should have a fine, crumbly texture.
- Make a furrow in the soil with a trowel and sow your seeds finely in the bottom. Cover the seeds with soil and water well. Don’t forget to label each row of veg.
- Protect sowings from cats and birds with fleece or fine mesh stretched over wire tunnels. Stagger sowings so you don’t end up with a glut.
Earth up potatoes
This protects them from frost, encourages more tubers and prevents them from going green.
If you started peas in a length of guttering last month, you can now slide the row of seedlings into a prepared trench.
Once all risk of frost has passed, you can plant out squash and courgettes sown indoors last month.
Garden centres should have plenty of these in now. Plant up a selection for use on the barbecue. Thyme, rosemary, oregano, mint, dill, basil and chives are ideal for marinades and sauces. Rosemary stems can be used as skewers for kebabs.
Many herbs originate from hot, dry climates with free-draining soil, so mix sharp grit into the soil for drainage and put in a sunny spot.
Pests and diseases
- Check peaches and nectarines for signs of peach leaf curl. Pick off badly affected leaves as soon as you see them and before they develop a bloom of spores. Bin or burn them to prevent the infection spreading. Our factsheet on peach leaf curl has more details.
- Check gooseberries, red- and whitecurrants for gooseberry sawfly larvae (download our factsheet on gooseberry mildew and sawfly). Pick off and squash any you find.
- Hang codling moth traps in apple and pear trees (see our codling moth factsheet).
- Check for blackfly on broad beans (download our blackfly factsheet). Squash them or spray with bifenthrin.
- Keep brassicas such as cabbages and kale covered with a fine mesh to protect them from cabbage root fly and other pests such as pigeons and cabbage white butterflies (download our factsheets on cabbage root fly and cabbage caterpillars).
- Cover carrot sowings with fine mesh, or plant alongside onions to deter carrot fly (see our carrot fly factsheet).