May into June

Usually ‘March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers’ – because of the warmth that May provides. May 2010 is an exception. Night time temperatures have been the lowest for 40 years; down to -4oC. Cold daytime winds deepen the problem. Now in mid-May it remains cool but with the promise of warmth to come.

This may be a problem for those who started to sow seeds in March, then plant out in April. If you did, and things survived, OK. If frosts persist, protect plants overnight by covering with opened out newspaper, several sheets thick and water the paper thoroughly.

If frosts killed your newly sown seeds and plants – simply start again. And if we haven’t started yet, like me, start planting seeds now. We can start planting seeds now if we haven’t done so yet. So – for May – look at the hints for March (March into Spring) and keep going. (I notice that in March I advised looking at February’s tips!) The seasons are a-changing.

Planting late is not a problem. Last year I planted courgette and French bean seeds in July and was picking good crops in late November. So – take a chance, persevere, experiment!

We can expect temperatures to rise in the next week or so – the forecast looks good. Persist with seeds planted in the last month; re-sow if they have not germinated; sow seeds now if you have not done so this far in the season.

(Since everything is late – look at bargains in garden centres. Homebase in Huddersfield have half price seed potatoes, garlic and onion sets as they try to clear the shelves.)

Look at the RHS Veg Planner (pdf) – check out the blue lines for seeds to sow in this period:

Runner beans – these grow high and need a frame for support. A tall wigwam (as tall as you can reach) of poles, stakes or canes tied securely at the top – a metre diameter at the bottom. Put a seed either side of each pole and tie the growing plants to the pole when they are long enough.

French (dwarf) beans – see March into Spring notes for good types. These can now be sown outdoors immediately into the ground in rows 20cms apart and 8cms between seeds – 5cms deep.  With a draw hoe (a swan neck and blade to pull soil back) and a garden line, make a 2” deep channel in the soil; drop the seeds in, water the channel and push back the soil. Or use a dibber / trowel to make holes into which to drop the seeds – then cover after watering.

Broad beans – as above but 30cms between rows and 15cms between seeds.  Sutton is a dwarf variety. If taller varieties are chosen you need to erect a string frame on poles along each double row to support the plants up to 1m – 1m 30cms high. Double poles, either side of the double row, hammered in, and string taken around each pole continuously every 15cms as the plants grow. Leave 50-60cms between each double row for picking.

Peas – can be sown outdoors or planted outdoors if you’ve sown them in pots and they are around 15cms tall. Peas, like beans come in dwarf and taller varieties – some very tall up to 3m+! There are also peas that you pod to eat them – and peas that are mange tout – you can eat the pod too.

  • Little Marvel is a dwarf pea that grows only to about 45-60cms.  A few twigs provide adequate support. 
  • Tom Thumb is even smaller at around 30cms.  Both of these can be grown well in deep pots. 
  • Oregon Mange Tout grows to 1m tall so needs more support – netting on posts or string as in broad beans above.  Pick the pods early when they are flat and sweet. They can be eaten raw, steamed or stir-fried. 
  • Kelveden Wonder is a popular variety, crops heavily, is tall and needs good support. 

Planting peas is straightforward. With a draw hoe or the back of a rake, make a shallow trench 2” deep, pulling the soil to one or both sides, 30cms wide. Plant the seeds in three rows across the shallow trench – and only 4cms apart. Water them in – and draw the dry soil back over the wet trench. When the peas sprout and come through they are attractive to birds, especially pigeons. Wire netting pegged both sides in an arched shape is an effective defence. If you have the ground – sow in succession a week at a time – for a continuous supply after a couple of months or so.


  • Check back to February tips (Spring into Gardening) for hints on potatoes. They can still be planted – and seed potatoes are half price at Homebase just now.
  • These hints will appear throughout the late spring-summer and autumn periods, hopefully covering more ground and different crops for new growers.
  • If you need specific advice on an issue or a problem or other more general advice and tips – send them to David Browning at and we shall get back to you and publish those questions and answers for others as the season goes on.
  • There will be other advisers and specialists at the up-coming Growing Newsome event on Saturday 29th May in the Scout Hall from 10am-12noon.


David Browning

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