What to plant in May

May Veg Patch
Photo: Justin Russell

In cool temperate zones the days of pushing summer to its limits are over. It’s time to turn attention fully to winter plants that can cope with extremes of cold, windy weather. Look to things like spinach, turnips, radishes, and mustards. Broad beans are excellent planted now. Aquadulce is the standard variety, but others worth trying include Coles Dwarf (which is less prone to blowing over in the wind) and the stunningly beautiful Crimson Flowered. 

In warm temperate (and subtropical) zones it’s time to start sowing onions. Go for “short day” or “intermediate” varieties such as Gladalan Brown, Barletta, Lockyer Early, and Creamgold. Unlike “long day” varieties, which form bulbs when daylight hours are long, short day or early varieties form bulbs when day length is short. If your soil is acidic add lime prior to planting. Seed can take a while to germinate so cover with hessian and keep the soil evenly moist. You can also plant any of the varieties listed above for cool temperate climates. 

In arid/semi arid zones frost is a possibility this month. Replace tender summer crops with hardy winter vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard, Asian greens, snow peas, silverbeet, beetroot, radish, turnip, spring onions, coriander, celery, leeks and broad beans. 

In the frost free subtropics it’s an excellent time to plant evergreen trees such as citrus, loquat, olive and feijoa. Prepare soil in advance by adding well rotted compost or manure, and after planting, water once every couple of weeks with seaweed extract to help newly planted trees develop a thriving root system. Avoid fertilising until spring. You can also plant any of the winter veg listed above, as well as potatoes, Florence fennel, carrots, and parsnips. strawberries are traditionally planted now as well. 

In the tropics it’s party time. As soon as the wet season eases, go for your life planting summer vegies and reasonably low chill winter veg. Avoid things such as spinach that like genuinely cold temperates - they’ll tend to bolt to seed even in a tropical winter.


By: Justin Russell

First published: May 2017

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