Delicious in salads and sandwiches, the crisp, sweet crunch of a cucumber is one of the joys of summer.
Gardening in May
May can be a mixed bag as far as the weather goes, with warm sunny days followed by rainy days and even the occasional late frost. It’s a busy month in the garden, with everything starting to grow, and it’s also a great chance to get lawns in shape for summer. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared to protect young plants with fleece or cloches if the temperature drops suddenly.
What to plant and do in May?
There’s plenty to do in the garden in May, with seeds to sow and young seedlings to plant out. Whatever your big May garden project – whether you’re growing your own fruit and veg, or planting flowers for a spectacular summer display – choose a category below and read our essential growing and planting tips for May.
Onions (Allium cepa) are an essential ingredient in every cook’s store cupboard.
Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) are among the easiest and most rewarding vegetables to grow.
Sweetcorn, or maize, is sweet, tender and delicious – especially when cooked as soon as it is picked. Plenty of sun and...
Spring onions are a delicious addition to a whole range of dishes, from summer salads to stir-fries.
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are tubers that grow and form at the plant’s roots.
Nothing beats the taste of your own home-grown tomatoes, freshly-picked and warm from the summer sun.
Garlic is the base of so many delicious dishes, and growing garlic at home is now very popular.
Delicious in pies, soups and stews, and full of vitamins and minerals, pumpkins are a tasty autumn and winter treat.
Lupins are a traditional addition to any garden, providing colourful flowers from late spring through to mid-summer.
French beans are a versatile vegetable, producing attractive, long, thin pods, and creamy haricot beans.
‘Cavolo Nero’ is a variety of kale, closely related to broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
Salad rocket, like its name, is a fast-growing salad leaf, perfect for adding a peppery spiciness to your salads.
Chard, or Swiss Chard, is a delicious and beautiful plant which will bring harvests to the kitchen and colour to the...
Sorrel is a great substitute for spinach, with a similar texture but a sharper citrus flavour.
If you’re a strawberry fan, the many varieties of ‘Fragaria × ananassa’ are easy to grow at home.
What could be better than a bowl of sweet, freshly-picked raspberries in summer?
Eaten fresh, baked in muffins or as the star attraction in jams or desserts, blueberries are always delicious.
Avocados are a favourite fruit used in kitchens around the world - why not try planting the stone to grow your own?
With their exotic and enormous foliage, banana plants add a taste of the tropics to the garden.
Butternut squash are a late season favourite, with attractive fruits which will keep well throughout the autumn and...
What better way to round off a summer meal than with a luscious peach? Even better, a peach you’ve grown yourself!
Everyone loves mangoes, but did you know that you can grow a mango tree from a seed?
Alliums belong to the same family as onions, garlic and leeks, as you can tell from the scent when you crush the foliage...
Sweet peas are an incredibly popular summer climbing plant. They produce masses of flowers all summer long.
These stunning plants provide a captivating elegance to a border. Large colourful flowers flourish in late spring and...
There are over 900 distinct species of Salvia, providing a huge range of smells and vivacious colours.
Pretty and delicate, Geums provide colour throughout the summer. They are frost tolerant, happy in a range of soil types...
Most Honeysuckles have a sweet heady summer fragrance and are very beneficial to garden wildlife.
Bearing bold flowers in orange, red and yellow, Heleniums are a bright and cheerful addition to the garden border.
Perfect for autumn colour, the brightly coloured Nerine is a great addition to a sun-soaked border. They can also be...
The Viola is an adaptable low growing bedding plant coming in both classic and trailing varieties.
Coming in a range of colours and sizes, Snapdragons bloom from June through to October on tall spire stems.
Anemones are a cheerful and vibrant group of plants, providing interest from early spring onwards.
A well planted tree will live for decades, providing endless benefits to the environment and wildlife.
Plants in the Sedum genus are easy to grow, produce lots of nectar for pollinators, and provide lovely autumn colour.
Calathea do have a reputation of being tricky to grow, but these challenges are well worth mastering
Geraniums are versatile plants which can add a multitude of colours and scents to the garden.
With beautiful flowers and a beautiful scent, it’s easy to see why lilac is such a well-loved plant.
Crocosmia bring flashes of bright colour and vibrance to a garden, with their graceful, delicately arching flower stalks...
Ceanothus is a beautiful and eye-catching perennial shrub. The vivid and prolific blooms are usually blue, but white and...
Hailing from a diverse range of habitats/regions, there’s a Euphorbia to suit you – whether you’re looking for a...
Commonly known as the butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii is a hardy, summer flowering shrub which is very easy to grow.
A slow-growing and easy-to-care-for plant, the bay tree is extremely popular. The aromatic leaves are widely used in all...
The Ornamental Quince is a small, pretty shrub with lots to offer to any garden.
You may have heard of Carnations, Sweet Williams, and Pinks - these are all types of Dianthus, the collective name for...
The many different species of Verbena are great for bringing useful pollinators to the garden.
Gypsophila has earned its nickname from the sweet-sour milk smell of its flowers, which resemble that of baby’s breath.
The vibrant blue flowers of Forget-Me-Nots make them a pretty choice for brightening a spring garden.
Cultivated in herb gardens for centuries, Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow from seed and it makes a delicious...
Coriander is a must in salads and as a fragrant green addition to Indian, Thai and Chinese curries.
It seems that most people now have at a few chilli pepper plants at home.
Peppermint is super easy to grow. The flowers attract beneficial wildlife to the garden, and peppermint plants are...
What vegetables to plant in May
May is a busy time for seed sowing, especially in the vegetable garden. Although the weather is much warmer, there’s still a chance of cold snaps in early May, so some seeds are still better sown in pots or modules indoors and placed in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill to germinate and grow on until June. For seeds sown directly outdoors, prepare the ground first by digging it over, clearing weeds and stones, and raking it smooth.
To harden off tender seedlings before planting them out, place them outdoors during the day and move them back inside at night. Do this for between 7-10 days before planting out.
- Runner and French beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
- Tomatoes in greenhouses
What vegetables to harvest in May
May is a great time in your vegetable garden. You’ll really start to see all the hard work paying off, with the following vegetables ready to harvest in May.
- Salad leaves
- Spring cabbage
Vegetable plant maintenance in May
- Transplant Brussels sprouts plants to their final cropping positions.
- As the weather warms up, weeds start growing and garden pests like slugs and snails become more active. Watch out for early signs of pests and disease and tackle them before they get out of hand.
- Remember that insects such as ladybirds help to tackle garden pests, so use pesticides with caution to avoid harming beneficial wildlife.
- Potatoes - earth up potatoes, drawing soil up around the lower part of the plant to exclude light from the developing tubers, which become green and poisonous if exposed to light.
- Tomatoes - start hardening off tomato seedlings for planting outdoors in June.
- Broad beans - pinch out the tips of broad bean plants once beans start to appear, to reduce the risk of blackfly.
- Weed beds regularly.
- Put up supports for climbing beans and pea plants.
What fruit to plant in May
Plant soft fruit in May including:
What fruit to harvest in May
- You can pick rhubarb throughout May and into June. At the end of June you should stop to give plants time to build up their strength for next year.
Fruit plant maintenance in May
- Soft fruit bushes like blackcurrants, gooseberries and summer-fruiting raspberries are flowering and starting to develop fruits this month. Keep an eye on progress – while the plants are in flower.
- It’s important that pollinators are able to get to the flowers, but once fruit starts to develop you may need to cover it with nets to stop birds stealing it before you can enjoy it!
- Soft fruit bushes can still be planted in May but remember to water them regularly during the first year after planting while they are getting established.
- Strawberries should be protected with netting against birds.
- When harvesting rhubarb, leave at least half the stems on each plant.
- Check gooseberry bushes for sawfly and squash any caterpillars you see.
- Hang pheromone traps in plum and apple trees to control pests like plum moth and codling moth.
- Thin out excess and overcrowded raspberry canes.
What roses to Plant in May
May is a great month for roses, with so many of them just starting to come into bloom.
- All container-grown roses can be planted in May but remember to water them regularly for the first year after planting, while they are getting established.
Rose maintenance in May
While you’re enjoying the colours and fragrances of your favourite flowers, keep an eye out for pests like aphids and rose sawfly, as well as any signs of disease, and tackle problems early before they have a chance to build up. Avoid spraying pesticides once the roses are in flower, as this can harm bees and other pollinators.
- Tie the new shoots of climbing and rambling roses in to a support framework as they grow.
- Check rose leaves for signs of black spot and spray with a fungicide if needed.
- Wipe off early signs of aphid infestations from buds and shoots.
- Check for signs of rose sawfly larvae attack (tiny green caterpillars, often along the leaf edges, leaves eaten right back to the veins), and squash any caterpillars you see.
What flowers and bulbs to plant in May
May is when many of our favourite garden plants burst into flower. Spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips are almost finished, but it’s not long until the summer bulbs like lilies take over. All hardy perennials can be planted in May. Wait until the end of the month to plant tender plants like summer bedding and climbing annuals, to avoid any last frosts.
- Hardy perennials
- Summer bedding including petunias, begonias, geraniums and Impatiens (busy lizzies)
- Climbing annuals including Ipomoea lobata (Spanish flag) and Cobea scandens (cup-and-saucer plant)
What flowers to prune in May
- Deadhead daffodils and tulips but leave the foliage to die back before cutting it down.
- Prune penstemons now, cutting back to new growth or strong buds lower down the stems.
- Clematis - prune spring-flowering clematis after flowering is finished, removing overcrowded stems.
Flower maintenance in May
- Spring bulbs - lift and divide overgrown clumps of spring bulbs like daffodils and snowdrops.
- Summer bulbs - harden off dahlias and cannas by leaving them outside during the day and moving them in at night. Do this for 7-10 days before planting out.
- Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials.
- Sweet peas - tie in sweet peas to supports as they grow.
- Feed container plants with a liquid feed every fortnight.
- The weeds are busy growing in May, so keep on top of them now and you’ll have less to do in summer.
- Water plants regularly in dry spells, watering in the morning or evening to avoid water loss through evaporation.
Plants and shrubs
What trees and shrubs to plant in May
Trees and shrubs are growing strongly in May, so any new trees or shrubs planted will need extra care to ensure they get the water and nutrients they need.
- Aim to plant trees and shrubs early in the month rather than later, and water regularly after planting, giving at least a bucket’s worth of water per tree twice a week, and more if the tree looks as though it is struggling. If the soil is very dry, apply the water slowly to give it a chance to soak in.
- All container-grown trees and shrubs can be planted in May, but it is essential to water them regularly during their first year after planting, while they are getting established, especially in hot dry summers.
What plants and shrubs to prune in May
Prune early spring-flowering shrubs, including:
- Viburnum x bodnantense
Plants and shrub maintenance in May
- Take stem cuttings of half-hardy perennials and patio plants, such as fuchsias and pelargoniums.
- Trim evergreen hedges, but always check first for nests and never disturb nesting birds.
- Water newly-planted trees and shrubs regularly, especially during dry periods. Try to use rain, grey or recycled water where possible.
- Keep the area around tree and shrub roots clear of weeds and grass that would compete for water and nutrients.
- Look out for damage on deciduous trees, including bacterial canker.
- Check for signs of blight on box and holly trees.
Herbs and spices
What herbs and spices to plant in May
As the weather warms up in May, it’s time to start thinking about sowing tender herbs like basil and coriander.
All hardy herbs and spices can be planted in May, including:
- Mint (in pots)
- Lemon balm
What herbs and spices to harvest in May
Hardy herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage can be harvested all year round, and regular harvesting from spring to autumn will encourage them to produce fresh new growth, ideal for cooking.
Herbs and spices plant maintenance in May
- Mint can be invasive, spreading vigorously by underground runners, so it’s best grown in pots.
- It is also essential to water herbs regularly during dry periods – if you experience any in May.
- The likes of coriander, dill, basil and wild rocket can be quick to bolt when overcrowded or in poor and dry soil. Keep your soil well fed and thin out where required.