With bulbs fading, swallows arriving and borders growing in leaps and bounds, it is now apparent that summer is fast approaching…May is a glorious month, greener than any other!
Gardening in May
May is a fantastic month to get started with growing your own fruits and vegetables. Whether you are new to polytunnel gardening, or a seasoned expert, May can be a busy time for polytunnel gardeners. But it is a wonderful time too – as plenty of plants burst into life as the weather begins to really warm up. Spend plenty of time in your polytunnel this month as you learn, experiment and grow as a gardener along with your plants.
Watch the Weather
May is the month when the weather can go from one extreme to the other and we can get caught out by mini-droughts and heat waves. The sun can get pretty hot in May and especially under a polythene cover so make sure you keep the Polytunnel well ventilated on warm days. On the other hand, there could well be frost until the end of May in some areas of Northern Britain but the majority of us can be pretty sure we’ve had our last frost by the middle of the month. Just to be on the safe side of a sneaky late frost, keep horticultural fleece or newspaper (as a method of insulation) on hand in the Polytunnel to put over tender new shoots if/when a cold night is forecast. If you take good care of your crops now, they will reward you with a bounty of delicious sun-ripened fruit.
Get Rid of Weeds
It’s not just the crops that thrive in Polytunnels at this time of year – weeds will be emerging too, so keep a hoe to hand, chase after those pesky weeds and watch out for pests whilst you’re doing it. Keeping your Polytunnel neat and tidy by clearing weeds and other debris will get rid of those sneaky places where slugs and snails tend to hide. If you find an entire row of seedlings have vanished overnight you can put your bottom dollar on slugs, so time spent clearing the little blighters now, will be time very, very well spent later.
Sowing, Growing and Harvesting
Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, salads and herbs grown in a Polytunnel will ripen at Mediterranean speed. Imagine munching your own delicious homegrown new potatoes and early strawberries at a time when all these crops are premium priced in the supermarkets. If there is room in the polytunnel, try growing some exotic fruit under covers like figs or apricots.
These will crop in September and October
Remember, you should always water your polytunnel with rainwater rather than tap water wherever possible. As the weather warms, and watering needs increase, now could be a great time to think about installing a rainwater harvesting system if you do not already have one. You can harvest rainwater from the roof of your home, from another garden building, and even from your polytunnel itself. Simply connect a piece of timber along the outside sides of your polytunnel and affix guttering, and collect the water in a butt or another water container.
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK