It’s May and I couldn’t be happier. Gone are the long hot days of summer. There’s a snap to the air that I find completely invigorating and no-one will deny me the sheer pleasure of working in my vegie patch with the sun on my back.
May is made for gardening. For all intents and purposes it's winter down in Tassie and the colder parts of Victoria and New South Wales, which means you need to be a bit particular about what you plant this month.
Go for plants that germinate reliably in cooling soil, and can handle strong winds and squally showers. Spinach is ideal. Mustards, kales and Asian greens go well. Alliums such as onions and leeks take a while to germinate, but can go in now. Ditto for root veg such as parsnips and carrots (fresh, viable seed will speed the germination process up a bit). And don’t overlook uncommon cold season vegies such as mache (corn salad) and miner's lettuce, each of which scoffs at wintery weather.
In warm temperate areas you can plant all of the above, plus add in some things like broad beans and peas, beetroot, rocket, lettuce, chicory, radish, kohlrabi and Florence fennel. There’s still time to plant cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, and it’s a good month to split perennials such as globe artichoke, rhubarb and arrowroot.
Subtropical and tropical gardeners: If you haven’t got your tomatoes in yet, hop to it! If you leave it too late you’ll have toms ripening at the start of fruit-fly season, negating a major advantage of growing during winter. It’s a perfect month to plant peas in the subtropics and tropical legumes up north, and the easing temperatures make for great conditions to grow salad greens. Yes, I know salad equals summer in the kitchen. But in warm climates, it pays to become acquainted with winter salads. Try rocket, mizuna, leaf and hearting lettuce, mustard, chicory and endive.
In arid and semi-arid climates think brassicas. It’s the ideal time to plant cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radish, turnip, rocket, mustard, and in colder areas, spinach. May is also a great month to plant onions. Try a range of varieties such as Lockyer Brown, Gladalan, Tropea Long Red and Red Brunswick. Few home growers plant enough onions!
By: Justin Russell
First published: May 2018