May Day is when the old timers say is the best time to plant your summer garden in the Midwest. Prior to May 1, there is still a good chance of poor weather, chilly temps, and frost in our Zone 6/7 gardens. This can be catastrophic for tomatoes, eggplants, basil and other heat lovers.
Today, we have the added advantage of the 15 day forecast! Check out your 15 day forecast to know if it looks safe to plant those tender summer veggies as it is possible to have chilly temps even into May. If direct planting seeds, chilly and rainy conditions can cause the seeds to rot. Warm, moist conditions are the best for seed success!
May is the time to sow summer lover's seed and plant warm season crops. The cold crops are at their peak at the beginning of the month with many bolting and going to seed by month's end like spinach, cilantro, lettuce, chard, kale, sprouting broccoli, and onions.
So, what are we planting this year? Of course, we planted the number one veggie in the USA-tomatoes! I grew all of them from seed indoors. This year, we are planting a variety of heirloom, chocolate types, storage tomatoes, paste tomatoes, small and large tomatoes and a couple of new varieties. Choosing which tomatoes to grow Loving the purple tomatoes with all their fantastic antioxidants! I am trying a new orange and purple variety, too. Different colors in tomatoes give different nutrition
I am growing several varieties: 1) Two yellow storage tomatoes, a small and medium size, 2) Two red cherry tomato, Patio Princess for the pot and 3) Rosella, 5) Principe Borghese a small red tomato good for sauces and 6) An heirloom large paste tomato Italian Red Pear that did great in our garden last year. Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes
The purple tomatoes I am growing this year are Chocolate Pear, Black Vernissage, and Lucid Gem a slicer with orange interior with black skin. The Power of Purple
If you have limited space, look for the dwarf/bush types like Bush Early Girl (only 54 days till ripe tomatoes), Patio, Husky Red, Lizzano and Tumbling Tom. Typically, you can expect to have your first ripe tomatoes around the 4th of July. The earliest tomato bearing variety I have grown is Yellow Tumbling Tom that gave me tomatoes in June. They grow great in the garden or pots. Compact tomato plants for small spaces
Green beans were planted two weeks ago and are sprouted. I like the vining type. They produce all season and they grow up so using a trellis maximizes the garden space. We like the flavor from the flat Italian type of green beans. The green bean types I am growing are Purple Podded, Romano II, Blauhilde which is a purple green bean, and Scarlett and Golden Sunshine Runner. All three did very well in the garden last year. Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer I planted 3 kinds of storage beans, King of the Garden lima, Fort Portal Jade and Good Mother Stollard beans.
|Pepper plant in August garden last year|
I planted several types of peppers. I am growing mainly sweet peppers as well as Anaheim and Poblano for chili powder. I have enough frozen Cayenne and Jalapeño peppers from last season to last another year. Sweet peppers planted are
All my pepper plants are in. I am trying a new sweet peppers this year Pizza, Feher Ozon Paprika, and Healthy that are supposed to be prolific. I also planted from saved seed Yellow Sweet Banana, and a Sicilian red pepper Bocca Rossa. This year I am going to plant them all in pots. It just seems that my peppers do better in a pot than in the ground. I had two peppers that I overwintered in the garage Ancient Red Pepper and Chipetin. I just added compost and fertilized them well. They are doing great! Peppers are for every taste and garden
I am growing two eggplants Turkish Orange and Kazakhstan. I tried getting Casper to sprout, but it has yet to. I bought the seed on line from an individual. Looks like I will have to get different seed. My husband really likes this white skinned one. It stays sweet. I love the Turkish Orange; the taste is smoky and rich. The Kazakhstan is a new one I am trying this year. It is a new variety to the US from Alma Ata, Kazakhstan. It is very similar in size and color as Black Beauty. It is to be an early fruiting and abundant. Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden
I planted 2 kinds of summer squash-Cocozelle and Early Prolific Straight Neck. They are susceptible to being killed by the squash vine borer if planted before June 1. You can protect the vine to keep the insect from boring into the vine by wrapping the vine or just replant if they do get infected. Zucchini grows fast! Growing zucchini and summer squash This may seem like overkill on the zucchini as one plant produces as much as a typical family needs during the summer. I didn't have the greatest luck with zucchini last year. Too much rain caused disease and insect pressure. I also found some great ways to use and preserve zucchini that any extra will be stored for many new ways of using. What to do with all that zucchini?! I really liked shredding the zucchini and using in place of spaghetti. I'll shred and put into freezer bags so I have a low carb, nutritious option anytime.
I also planted a winter squash-Spaghetti squash. It is a low carb substitute for spaghetti, too.
|Baby zucchini in summer garden|
I am planting cucumbers, sprouting broccoli, lettuce, kale, and parsley this year to make green smoothies. Grow your own juice garden All are already planted in the garden. I planted interesting varieties of cucumber-Homemade Pickles, Mini White and Jaune Dickfleischige, a large cucumber that keeps for months. The white is a small fruit. It will be nice to have smaller ones so I can pick one for a single salad. Cucumber info and tips for growing
Other veggies I planted were red veined sorrel, carrots, turnips, beets, Red Burgundy okra, Utah celery, salad burnet, typhoon, Radish Rat's Tail, Red Italian dandelion, chard, cilantro, dill, Dwarf Moringa, Roselle Red hibiscus, Red Giant mustard, Regina Alpine strawberries, Red Rubin brussels sprouts and New Zealand spinach.
For herbs, I added several to the garden this year. I planted Tuscan Blue and ARP rosemary. I overwintered our bay plants in the unheated garage. Both are doing great and have many new leaves. I started chervil from seed. I love adding dried chervil leaves and lavender to add fragrance to body oil. Make your own fragrant herbal body oil I added another oregano-Wild Zaatar Oregano from the Jordan/Israel area that just sounded fun. I also started Blue Monday and Salvia Sirius Blue Sage for its fragrance and its pretty blue flowers. Other herbs were English thyme, Hopley's Purple oregano, borage, and many creeping thymes. For more on herbs, see Start a kitchen herb garden!
I am definitely planting basil: Lettuce Leaf, Sweet Basil and a variety I received with another seed order. They have all sprouted in the coir pods, but aren't as big as I would like before transplanting to the garden. Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil
It was also time for another round of greens. Resowing every 3 weeks will keep us in salads all through the summer and fall. Want continuous harvests? Succession planting! We planted Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach which will last about two weeks longer in the heat than other types of spinach.
For lettuce, I planted bedding plants of Red Romaine, Buttercrunch, Red Sails, Paris Island Cos Romaine, Buttercrunch, and Iceberg. For the next round of lettuce sowings, I'll go with the more heat resistant varieties Jericho Romaine which has been tested to last 3 months before bolting as well as Red Sails loose leaf lettuce which stays sweet after bolting. Look for varieties that have heat tolerant in the descriptor. Here are some varieties that are proven to do well in the summer Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces
Lettuce and spinach aren't the only greens you can use for salads, see more at Growing summer salads
We have already fertilized, added compost, and mulched at the end of March. When planting, I like to powder the roots of each plant with mycorrhizal microbes. Mycorrhizal fixes nitrogen to the roots of the plant, helping it to grow sturdier, bigger and faster. Once you have the microbes in the soil, they will stay year after year. For a quicker route, you can add plant starter in each hole which has the microbes, root support and fertilizer all in one.
Later this month, I will add Azomite around each of my transplants under the mulch with the next round of fertilizer. During the growing season, you should fertilize monthly. Azomite contains many minerals which can result in significantly improved growth for your plants and more minerals in your harvested plants for a healthier you. A win-win for your garden and your family. The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals
Before you send your new transplants into the garden, insure they have been sufficiently "hardened off." If you started your own seeds indoors, take your plants out daily over a week or so into a partially shady spot, letting them get used to the strong sun and wind. I put mine out on the deck to get used to the sun and wind for several days before planting out.
If you purchased your transplants and they were already outdoors, they are ready to be plopped into the ground or pot and grow!
|Iris in background and celosia in foreground interplanted with lettuce and sorrel|
I always interplant my garden with flowers. This year, I am using zinnias, marigolds, petunias, old fashioned Cock's Comb which is ruby red and grows 4 feet tall, red flowering Hummingbird Vine, Love Lies Bleeding, Moonflower vine, heirloom sunflowers, and alyssum for annuals. For perennials, there are delphiniums, hollyhocks in a variety of colors-Summer Carnival and Peach, red hot poker, day-lilies, irises, and gladiolas.
May is an exciting time in the garden. Every day you go out, you can see things growing. The spring vegetables are in their prime, the summer veggies are just starting, and there are so many herbs ready for seasoning your favorite salads or dishes. Just be sure to keep ahead of the weeds and provide even watering.