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This month in the garden - 2018

May in the garden

After a very unusual April, with all the wind and rain and late frost, I'm sure I'm not the only one that's totally behind with my planting schedule. It's not too late to direct sow courgettes, cucumbers and pumpkins and you can do so until the middle of this month. If summer lasts longer, like it did last year, we might have hot weather all the way to October, so those late planted summer veggies should do just fine. May is time to focus on getting everything in the ground. Get those tomato poles in nice and deep and try to keep up with pinching out the side shoots and tying the plants to the poles. French beans can be direct sown until July. They will take three months to bear fruit so plant some every month now and harvest beans until October. Okra, corn and peanuts can be direct sown and those sweet potato slips that you started growing in January can go in the ground now too. Melons and watermelons can be direct sown and the aubergine, pepper and chilli plants can be transplanted.

If you are thinking about saving some of your own seeds this year, you have a few extra things to think about. Educate yourself on what will cross pollinate with what and consider what needs to be isolated. It's also important to know where your vegetable transplants have come from. If you are planning to save seeds from organic plants from an almacen, those plants could very well be hybrids. Most of the tomatoes grown in semilleros are hybrids, even the organic range, and although the plants will perform very well, the seeds saved from these plants will not give good results.

And of course I have to mention the weeds. What perfect spring weather we've had, if we want to grow lots of weeds. Just try and keep ahead of them and don't despair. Hoe and mulch!

Tip: As garlic starts to flower, pinch out the central flower stalk and eat it as fresh garlic. Chop it finely and cook it with fish. Delicious! Some say that pinching out the central stalk makes the garlic bulbs grow fatter.

Reader's question: Can you advise what the best non chemical bug spray would be to use? Steph.
Soapy water works well for aphids and a garlic spray is effective against most pests. Neem is a natural insecticide and it is very effective but do bear in mind that however natural it is, it is still toxic to all insects and so will kill the good ones as well as the bad ones. Insects tend to attack sick and weak plants so before you reach for the insecticide, try feeding your soil or give your plants a foliar spray of liquid comfrey feed. If caterpillars are bothering you, you can remove them manually. They are easier to deal with at the egg stage. Look for the little clusters of yellow eggs on the underside of your leaves and gently scratch them off with your fingernail. Insect plagues are usually a sign of an imbalance in your system and you would be wise to feed the soil. Experiment with companion planting to attract predator insects and discourage pests. Chamomile attracts hoverflies and beneficial wasps, dill repels aphids and spider mites and hyssop repels flea beetles. Plant plenty of flowering herbs to attract the insects away from your vegetables and to encourage predator insects.

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