May in the Borders Garden
What a wonderful start to the gardening year, and the temptation is now to go mad in the garden!
Seed potatoes and onion sets should all be planted by now. Don't forget to "earth up" your emerging potato plants by drawing up the soil around the plants with a hoe. This protects the foliage against frosts and prevents the potato tubers turning green and inedible.
Leeks can also be "earthed up" in this way a bit later in the year to blanch the stems and so giving a good length of tender white growth.
Most vegetable seeds can be sown outside this month with the exception of tender crops such as runner beans and courgettes which should be sown indoors and grown on until the risk of frost has passed.
Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers all perform best in a greenhouse in this area.
It's a good time to sow cut-and-come-again salad crops now. These are leafy salads and vegetables that can be cropped as seedlings and will continue to grow and form leaves for another harvest. Try growing basil, beetroot, chicory, chard, kohl rabi, mizuna, sorrel and spinach as well as many lettuce varieties for harvesting as young or baby leaves. There are several advantages in growing salad crops in this way. Firstly it's much cheaper than buying a bag of mixed salad leaves from the supermarket, and it's fresher as you can just pick what you need for one meal. Also little space is needed for growing in this way - you don't even need a garden as you can grow them in containers, hanging baskets and window boxes.
The best way to grow them however is in a raised bed where the soil is warm and workable, although the vegetable garden is just fine too. In fact many of the leaves are quite attractive so why not try growing in amongst the flowers? It's a good idea to sow seeds in batches every two or three weeks to ensure a nice even supply rather than a glut all at once. Simply sow seeds thinly into prepared soil either in drills or in patches depending on where you are sowing. Gently use a rake to cover them over, and water in to settle the soil. The leaves can usually be harvested about six weeks after sowing, and leaves are best picked in the mornings when they are fresh and crisp.
Try mixing a lovely herby salad with tender varieties of herbs that you can grow on your window sill - coriander, basil and dill are ideal for windowsill growing. Don't pull the whole plants out when harvesting your cut-and-come-again crops - leave a stump of about 3cm to allow it to re-sprout. The plants can then be left to grow again, either to maturity when you can then harvest them as a vegetable (beetroot and kohl rabi) or to pick the leaves again.
Some protection against slugs and snails is recommended as these sweet leafy crops are a popular dining choice for these unwelcome visitors. Try using Slug Gone, which is made from sheep's fleece. These organic pellets protect the crop rather than killing the slugs and snails and are completely safe to use around all edibles and are harmless to children, pets and wildlife.
It's also the start of the summer bedding plant season this month, with a massive array of colourful annuals becoming available.
Keep a close eye on the weather forecast, and always have some frost protection fleece handy in case an overnight frost is forecast.
Bedding plants can be planted out in containers, baskets and in beds and borders this month, and, if watered, fed with a good liquid fertiliser, and dead-headed throughout the rest of the Spring and right through the summer, they should give a wonderful display of colour up until the first frosts of the autumn.