May is one of the busiest months in the garden, April is a pretty busy one too... We have now setup a vegetable box scheme delivering door to door to people in and around Lyme, Axminster and Seaton.
Anyway, it is the time of the year when everything is happening - sowing, planting, weeding and hoeing and the first of the harvests from overwintered crops and early spring crops too. It is a question of prioritising jobs generally, rather than trying to get it all done - you will only get stressed out if you think you can get it all done! We have a sowing calendar and we always try and stick pretty closely to these dates. With some crops it doesn’t matter too much, but we end up doing a lot of successions of a lot of crops to try and keep continuity of harvest of things like beetroot, chard, kale, spring onions, salad leaves, annual herbs, radish, carrots and many more. Other crops sowing time is critical, and if they are sown at the wrong time of the year they will just go to seed really quickly (for example brassica salads like rocket), they may not bulk up in time before the winter (for example chicory - we don’t sow any later than the first week of July, but if you sow them too early they may bolt!), or they may coincide with certain pests - like flea beetle for brassicas from Spring - late Summer, or carrot root fly which can sometimes be missed if the carrots are sown early June and harvested before autumn.
We aim to have all of our tender summer polytunnel crops planted by the beginning of May, this includes climbing french beans, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. This year we were lucky to get a week of wet weather at the end of April which meant that we could focus on the tunnel changeover, from overwintered salads and herbs to the summer fruiting crops. Meanwhile outside throughout April there were plantings of beets, chard, lettuce and other salad leaves, spring onions, shallots, early brassicas - kale, spring cabbage, kohl rabi, mangetout, broad beans, peashoots, turnips and radish and carrot sowings. The courgettes will be going in at the very beginning of May, as could squash and corn, but fleece will be needed to keep the wind off and keep any late frosts off (should be safe by mid-end of May).
It is a great time of year to be a vegetable grower - and with the rains at the end of a very dry April (after a very wet winter!) everything is looking very lush and growing well. The main pest that we have had to deal with this year is the leatherjacket - the larvae of the daddy long leg or crane fly. The adults lay their eggs from August to October, and wet conditions at that time of year leads to a high success rate of the eggs hatching (which is what happened last autumn). The larvae eat the roots of many plants, and even snip off plants at their base. They are difficult to control organically, though nematodes can be used (but are more effective when applied in the autumn. Otherwise it is a case of checking under new plantings and picking them out, which is pretty laborious but has to be done if you want to save your veg!
So, the big priorities for May are making sure we have all of our seed sowing in order and being done - including successions of things like salads, then making sure everything is getting planted, and finally making sure all of our new plantings are being hoed and weeded...not too much!
For more information about our veg bag delivery scheme go to trillfarmgarden.co.uk/boxscheme.html
Ashley has been running Trill Farm Garden since 2010 with his partner Kate. Ellen is the Senior Grower and Seed Coordinator at Trill Farm Garden.