What to Do in the Garden in May

Planning Ahead

  • Prepare beds for the garden 1 – 3 weeks before planting.
  • Watch any weeds for flowering and setting seed.  If you are trying to prevent these plants from growing in abundance in your garden, you will need to pull them before their flowers mature.
  • Mulch to prevent weeds.  Rake back mulch and warm the soil before planting seeds.
  • Compost and collect organic matter for the compost pile.
  • Compost and amend your soil before planting.
  • Plant summer cover crops such as buckwheat, clover, and alfalfa in preparation for the winter garden.
  • Watch for slugs and other insect pests on your plants and trees.
  • Protect your plants from deer and other wildlife.
  • Protect your plants from cold temperatures with a cloche or cold frame.
  • Ensure good air flow around your plants to prevent fungal disease.
  • Build trellises for vining plants.
  • Dry herbs for tea.
  • Harvest edible flowers.

In The Vegetable Garden

  • Wait until after May 15 or so to plant warm season crops
  • Set out tomato plants when the evening temperatures are above 50 degrees.
  • Harden off seedlings by placing them outdoors 5 days – 1 week before planting.  Gradually help them adapt to the potency of the sunlight and the wind.  For the first couple days, bring them indoors at night.  On the third day or so, keep them out all night.
  • Plant eggplant and pepper starts late in the month.
  • Use willow tea or kelp tea diluted in water 10:1 to prevent your plants from experiencing transplanting shock.
  • Direct sow cucumbers, melons, squash (summer & winter), and pumpkins after the danger of frost has passed.
  • Soak your bean seeds in preparation for planting.  Coat in legume inoculant before planting.
  • Remember your succession crops of Radishes and Lettuce.  Plant about every two weeks.
  • Sow corn in late May.  Pre-sprout your seeds by soaking in water before planting.  If you live in a wet area, you may want to consider transplants.
  • Direct sow outdoors carrots, caraway, cilantro, dill, parsnip, chives, leeks, green onions, amaranth, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, radishes, oriental greens, beets, orach, spinach, chard, quinoa, lettuce, and beans,
  • If you have starts, transplant arugula, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, oriental greens, kohlrabi, and lettuces in the garden
  • By the end of the month, transplant out squashes, cucumbers, pumpkins, basil, and melons.
  • Thin carrots, beets, onions, lettuces, parsnips, leeks, and radishes
  • Harvest leafy greens.  Remember, the more often you pick, the more you encourage these plants to produce greens for you.  Nitrogen is the crucial nutrient for leafy vegetative growth.

Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes

  • Set out mason bee houses.
  • Monitor for insect damage and disease.
  • Take note of when each fruit tree blooms
  • Mulch your blueberry plants heavily with woodchips to help hold water in the summer.
  • Divide your strawberry plants if they have not flowered yet.  Transplant new strawberries into the garden.
  • Divide and transplant raspberries.
  • Control foliar diseases using compost tea on roses, apples, pears, cherry, etc.
  • Watch for currant worms.  Ideally, feed the worms to your chickens.
  • Check your trees and shrubs for insect or disease problems.
  • Spray fruit trees for fungal diseases such as scab and mildew.


  • Plant flowers that attract beneficial insects and repel pests.
  • Top dress your rhubarb plants with compost or manure.
  • All flower seeds can be sown in the garden.
  • Divide and plant dahlias in the garden.
  • Remove the foliage from your bulbs once it withers and turns brown.  Plant annual flowers to take up the newly available space.
  • Move tender perennials outside after there is no danger of frost.
  • Label the locations of your bulbs for dividing in the fall.
  • Transplant any potted plants into larger containers.
  • Prune woody plants after they are done blooming.