May is a busy time in a UK garden. And sometimes, all the work this month can seem overwhelming – especially for those who are growing their own for the first time. Managing your time is key, and if you remain organised, it is a lot easier to stay on top of things. In this article, I will talk about some of the jobs you might be undertaking this month, and share some strategies to help you keep up, and make sure that you are in the right place as we enter the summer months that lie ahead.
Key Jobs in a Busy May Garden
Sowing in a May Garden
Sowing, both directly and indoors, is a key job this month. Past the last frost date in your area, there are plenty of crops which can be direct sown. Summer crops like sweetcorn etc. can also be sown indoors this month for transplantation into your garden next month. I find it helpful to make sure I have a list of all the seeds I plan to sow, so that I can tick each off the list as soon as they have been dealt with.
Remaining organised also means marking your sowings in the garden with markers or plant labels. It can also be helpful to sow quick-to-germinate crops like radishes in with lower to germinate crops like carrots. Since the radishes will germinate and show where the crop is planted. And they can be harvested before the carrots need the space.
Hardening Off and Planting Out Indoors Grown Seedlings
Of course, this is also the month when you can begin to plant out many of the summer crops which you may have sown inside earlier in the year. There are a number of factors which will determine when exactly you should plant out indoors grown crops. And how long they will require for the hardening off process can also vary.
Getting into the habit of checking the weather forecast regularly can help you to stay organised and manage your time. In a busy May garden, the weather in a particular year can have a bearing on exactly when you will undertake each of your tasks. So, while you cannot rely on them entirely, weather forecasts can be a useful tool.
Water Systems and Watering
As the weather begins to warm, especially if you are growing your crops in a polytunnel or other undercover growing area, water systems and watering become ever more important. Some springs, it can seem very, very dry, while other springs it seems like there is a near-constant deluge. Again, the weather is key. Anticipating drier and warmer periods over the spring and summer can help you plan ahead. And develop the best strategies to make best use of your time.
If you are watering by hand, this can become rather time consuming over the coming months. So this month one thing to consider is setting up automated irrigation systems – ideally connected to a well designed rainwater harvesting system. Automated irrigation, especially in undercover areas, really can save you a lot of time.
Managing Your Time When Weeding (and Using Weeds in a May Garden)
When many gardeners think about tending their gardens, weeding may seem like the biggest chore. And weeds are something that can really get on top of a gardener as the seasons progress. Staying on top of weeds this month, as the garden explodes into lusher growth means that the job should be a lot easier over the months to come.
But it is also important to remember that you can be more relaxed about weeds than you might think. Many weeds can simply be hoed, and left on the ground to return their nutrients to the soil. Other weeds can simply be pulled up little and often. Get into the habit of pulling a few every time you pass and it should not seem like quite so much of a chore. Remember, too, that weeds can be very useful additions to your garden, and can, in some cases and in some places, to left in place. And some weeds are edible – and when weeding is actually harvesting, it can be a lot more satisfying and ‘kill two birds with one stone’.
Organic Fertility in a May Garden
Weeds can also come in handy as ingredients in a DIY liquid organic plant feed for your garden. Making a weed feed, a comfrey tea, or compost tea, for example, can all be great ways to maintain fertility in your garden over the summer months. A little time spent this month to make your own fertilizers can boost yield, and save time down the line.
When it comes to fertility and to saving time, mulching can also be key. Organic mulches can reduce the amount of watering and weeding required, and will also add slow release fertility to keep your crops growing strong.
Tending Growing Plants in a May Garden
Vigilance is key when it comes to carefully managing your time in a busy May garden. With all the other jobs, it can be difficult to overlook the plants already growing in your garden. But it is important to make sure you observe all your plants regularly, checking them over for early signs of pests or deficiencies or disease.
Do not overlook the importance of simply spending time in your garden. Even when you are simply relaxing and enjoying some leisure time in your garden, you can still keep your wits about you and be looking around. Even if you do not do anything, you can be looking out for potential problems, and will be able to nip them in the bud.
Managing Your Time When Harvesting in a May Garden
Of course, if you started growing earlier, especially if you are growing under cover, you may have plenty to harvest already too. Get into the habit of harvesting what you need little and often – a small investment in time. This little and often approach can make it a lot more manageable to harvest crops and eat well from your garden this month, and in the months to come.
Tips for Managing Your Time in a Busy May Garden
To conclude, here are some key tips for managing time in your May garden:
Managing Your Time By Setting Up Systems for Efficiency
A good composting system and rainwater collection/ water management system in particular can save a lot of time. Make sure your layout is sensible, and that it will not take too long to travel between garden elements which you visit most frequently.
Ensure That Access is as Easy as Possible
Make sure you are not wasting time due to awkward access. Make sure you maintain your pathways, and that these are easy to navigate throughout the year.
Attract and Embrace Wildlife to Help in Your May Garden
Remember that as an organic gardener, you are not alone. The more beneficial wildlife you can attract to your garden, the more work they can do for you. And the less work you will have to do yourself.
Make To-Do Lists and Check Off Chores
If you are not a naturally organised person, making lists and checking off chores might not come naturally to you. But it really can help you stay on top of things and manage your time in a busy May garden.
Managing Your Time By Planning Ahead
Finally, do not think too short term. Planning ahead is important in a garden. By planning ahead, you can make sure you have a handle on the different jobs that you will need to do each month. And you can make sure that you are ready for different eventualities.
Do you have some tips to share on managing your time in a busy garden? Please share any of your own suggestions below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.