Planting NO VEGGIES In May

With the gardening season in full swing, in May you have lots to do in your veggie garden: the first crops are ready, some need fertilizing, then you have seeds to plant… Stop there! Are you sure you want to sow during this month? I wouldn’t, I was you – and in fact I don’t!

“But why?” you may ask, “The weather’s fine, water is still plenty and I still have space in my garden to fill up.” Ok, I can see your point, but you will be surprised to know that you may be wasting your time. And I am going to tell you why. But also what else to do, and the very few crops you can sow in May…

Why Is May Such a Bad Time for Planting Seeds?

Why I'm Planting NO VEGGIES In May Right Now. Neither Should You! 1

It sounds counterintuitive, because May has fine weather, but the problem with sowing now is that your plants won’t have enough time to grow and get strong before the hot and often dry days of summer come…

Then, if your small plants or seedlings are not strong enough, they may suffer, become weak, and even die.

Similarly, it is far too early to sow fall crops, because, again, you want the hottest days of summer to be over before you start them off in your garden.

This is, of course, about planting seeds, while you can still transplant some seedlings, which, instead, already have roots and that they are strong enough to face the heat of summer, or they will be in about a month at least.

Can I Still Sow Seeds in May in Colder Climates?

And the answer is… yes, you can! I wouldn’t plant seeds during May in USDA zones 7 and above, which is the case for most of us… But in cold climates, the season is behind, and summers are never too hot.

So, if you live in USDA zones 6 and below, you can still use the month of May to sow your seeds…

But now, on to some little exceptions… Because there are some vegetable varieties you can still sow in May…

A Few Veggies You Can Still Plant in May

There are a few vegetables you can still sow in the month of May, especially squash, pumpkin and zucchini.

Veggies You Can Still Plant in May

But if you have a small back garden, squash and pumpkin are usually out of the question, because they grow massive plants and take up lots of space. Zucchini is still fairly large, but still more manageable in a modest-sized yard…

You could also sow sweetcorn and sunflower, but again, the first is not really popular with home growers, and the second – well, it’s usually for the birds, and we usually just grow one or a few, more for fun than for food…

While on planting calendars you will read that you can sow root vegetables, like beetroot and carrots, I would do it earlier, when they have time to establish themselves in your vegetable garden before the hot season comes, especially in warmer climates.

Why I'm Planting NO VEGGIES In May Right Now. Neither Should You! 2

Finally, you can still plant sweet potato slips, but it’s actually more transplanting than sowing, as you will use the young vines that grow from the tubers. But even here, make sure that they have grown to small adults, at least one foot tall (30 cm), if you want to put them in your garden in the month of May, and that the roots are well developed. They will need them strong and healthy for the hot days of summer to come, or they might not get enough water.

Vegetables You Should Still Sow in May

Why I'm Planting NO VEGGIES In May Right Now. Neither Should You! 3

On the other hand, there are still vegetables that you should sow in May, and one of them is lettuce. You need summer varieties though at this stage, heat resistant ones, like little gem, cos, buttercrunch, butterhead, black seeded Simpson, Romaine, great lakes, green forest, bibb, green ice, deer tongue or red Lollo…

Cold varieties like lamb’s ears and Tom thumb will not manage the heat, and they will bolt as well…

But remember that we can grow lettuce all year round in mild, even continental climates, but not in very cold regions.

And there’s another exception…

You Can Seed Vegetables That You Succession Plant

Why I'm Planting NO VEGGIES In May Right Now. Neither Should You! 4

Vegetables that you grow in waves, so that you succession plant, can be sown in May too. These are short lived varieties, that give you a big bumper harvest, but brief and intense. So, for example cucumbers, Swiss chard, radishes, and even peas and beans.

However, even if you want fall tomatoes, you should wait till the end of June to plant them; they will need lots of water and they don’t like temperatures above 80°F (or 27°C), which are quite common in the midst of summer, so, a prolonged period over this range will stress them out and it may even kill them.

They will manage a month though, in July, if you keep them fresh and well ventilated and, above all, well-watered!

So, What Should You Be Doing in May in Your Garden Instead of Planting Seeds?

You can still transplant some seedlings in May, as we said, but make sure they are strong and that they have healthy roots. But this is the month when you must make sure that your vegetables are doing well; it is a time of nurturing, rather than sowing…

And your main tasks in may are:

  • Fertilizing your plants, as they will need lots of energy to give you bumper crops.
  • Watering your garden; temperatures are rising, and your veggies get thirsty!
  • Weeding, or keeping your mulch in good shape, because weeds grow quite fast and strong in May.
  • Checking your vegetables and other plants for pests and fungi, as the warming up of the season encourages them, and it’s still quite humid in most regions, so, the perfect breeding ground for your worst nightmares.

So, even if May is not the best time for sowing vegetables, there are still a few you will have to plant, and you can fill gaps in your garden, while you can fill your time with other activities, and you will have a summer of plenty and generous crops!

Amber Noyes

Written By

Amber Noyes

Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.