First things first. Make sure your beds are well-prepped.
Thoroughly weed your garden bed to avoid competition with seedlings. Shape the bed and tidy up edging. Establish where you will be walking and accessing your crops by adding pavers, stones, or planks to indicate the path. Roots need oxygen, so gently aerate the soil with a garden fork or broad fork. No need to flip the soil; flipping or stirring the soil will destroy soil structure. Add compost
and/or leaf mold to help build nutrient content and soil tilth ahead of plantings. Level the bed with a hard rake or bed rake and gently pack the surface ahead of sowings/transplants. Read more about prepping beds here
As soon as frost is no longer a threat, the planting possibilities are endless. Think beans
, carrots, chard, corn, cucumbers, fennel, kale and collards, kohlrabi, lettuce, melons and watermelons, potatoes, radishes, scallions, spinach, summer squash, turnips and rutabagas, and winter squash. And don't forget your tender herbs like basil
and your summer flowers
! See this post
on supporting the pollinators through the entire growing season. Direct-sown seeds have different needs for spacing and depth of planting depending on the variety, but all of them like good drainage and a steady supply of moisture. For more tips on direct sowing, read this post
Hardening off plants is an oft-overlooked planting step that's helps to reduce transplant shock and acclimatizes plants to outdoor conditions. Bring seedlings outside, for a few hours at a time at first, working up to a full day. Eventually they will be sturdy enough to withstand nighttime temperatures as well, at which point they can be transplanted. For most plants, hardening off for around one week is sufficient.
Making sure a late frost isn't going to sneak up on you is crucial here. Hoops and row cover can help protect them from unseasonable cold. Pick a mild, cloudy afternoon to give your seedlings a smooth transition. Use a Hand Trowel
or Hori Hori
to dig a spot for them, remove them carefully from their containers, and place them at soil level. Gently pat down the ground around them to ensure proper contact between soil and roots. (Tomatoes
can actually be planted deeper than other seedlings. To read up on tomato transplanting specifically, click here
.) Our Transplanting and Troubleshooting Guide
can tell you more.
Because their roots systems are not yet established, transplants require frequent, but shallow watering at first. Don’t expect spring rains to do all the work. As plants mature, the inverse will be true: less frequent, but deeper watering is best. For more about watering, read this post
To mulch or not to mulch? For many gardeners, adding a layer of straw or other organic mulch right after direct sowing and transplanting is routine. If you are planting potatoes, mulch can be a great option right now. But for other crops, mulching early means blocking sunlight, which prevents the soil from warming up; add spring rains and this creates an ideal habitat for slugs. In midsummer, after the soil has had a chance to warm and the seedlings to grow, mulch helps regulate moisture and suppresses weeds. Mulch is best for larger, vinier plants like tomatoes, eggplants, and squashes. This month, however, consider staying away from mulches like straw, or, if you do decide to use it now, create clear lines alongside your seedlings and furrows, not on top of them. If you're looking for a good alternative to protect your veggies from the elements, consider hoops and row cover
More May Tips
- Succession sow radishes, carrots, beets, and greens this month.
- After hardening off tomatoes, add cages or other supports.
- Promote a bushier habit for flowering plants by pinching back early.
- Plant dahlia bulbs this month and give them a low nitrogen fertilizer once they emerge.
- Add peony cages before it’s too late.
- Add mulch around trees and shrubs.
- Feed your roses.
- Divide summer- and fall-flowering perennials.
- Harvest rhubarb stalks and make a pie.