The May Garden

May garden

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.”

The quote above from American naturalist and writer Edwin Way Teale pretty much sums up my thoughts about the garden in May. In the May garden, anything seems possible.

The May garden is pure enjoyment. The hard work of prepping the soil and planting the garden is complete. The seedlings that I’ve been nurturing under grow lights for weeks have taken their rightful place in the raised beds. The seeds that we’ve direct sown in the garden are popping up through the earth and unfurling their first leaves. Some plants already have blossoms, and others – the leafy greens and herbs – are ready to eat. I sense freedom from the grocery store in my near future

The May garden is pristine. The purslane and crabgrass haven’t yet taken over the vegetable plots, and there isn’t a squash bug or potato beetle in sight. Maybe this is the year that I will win the battle against the weeds and the bad bugs. Heck, it’s May, and anything is possible.

Let’s take a look at the May garden.

What we’re eating from the May garden

Salad is what it’s all about this time of year. We have several varieties of leafy greens to enjoy, including leaf lettuce, head lettuce, and spinach, radishes to add a peppery crunch, and herbs to flavor homemade dressing.

This year, we grew three varieties of lettuce: Arctic Crisp, a butterhead variety, Giant Caesar, a romaine variety, and Seed Savers Mixture, a colorful mix of at least eight varieties of loose leaf and head lettuces including Australian Yellowleaf, Forellenschluss, Pablo, and Red Velvet. We started the Arctic Crisp indoors in February and transplanted it in the garden in early April; the others were direct sown in early March. We also grew the America variety of spinach.

Seed Savers Mixture

Seed Savers Mixture

Arctic Crisp lettuce

Arctic Crisp lettuce

Giant Caesar lettuce and America spinach

Giant Caesar lettuce (front) and America spinach (back)

Most of our herbs are perennials, like the chives, thyme, and sage pictured below, or self-seeding annuals like cilantro and dill. The only herbs we actually plant every year are parsley, basil, and fennel.



Thyme and sage

Thyme (left) and sage

What else is growing in the May garden

At the risk of forgetting something, here’s a run-down of everything that we have growing so far this year:

  • Asian greens: Pac choy (new in the garden this year!)
  • Beans, green (bush and pole varieties)
  • Beets (Detroit Red and Chioggia varieties)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant (2 varieties)
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mustard greens
  • Onions (sweet and storing varieties)
  • Peas (snap and shell varieties)
  • Peppers (10 varieties)
  • Potatoes (red and white varieties)
  • Radishes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatillo
  • Tomatoes (8 varieties)

Yet to be planted (within the next couple of days) are summer and winter (butternut) squash and cantaloupe. We have found that waiting until the end of May to plant these crops helps to thwart the squash bugs, perhaps by missing the first hatch.

Here’s a quick look around the garden:

pea blossoms

The first planting of shell peas is fully engulfed in blooms

bean plants

Beans should be planted after the last frost date, which is mid-May here in Iowa

celery and onions

Celery (front) and onions share a raised bed this year

potato plant

We are trying something new this year – potatoes in containers (we also have more in the ground)

Wild edibles in the May garden

The timber that makes up the back third of our property has been a good source of wild edibles like plums, raspberries, and mulberries. Those will come later in the year. In May, we search the timber for morel mushrooms. Sadly, this year, we found only one of that prized delicacy.

morel mushroom

The lone morel mushroom from our timber

The egg garden

I can’t forget about the girls, who are producing reliably this time of year. I’ve been getting 3 to 5 big, beautiful eggs most days for the last month or so. However, this little oddity showed up in the chicken pen the other day:

fairy eggThe tiny egg in the middle is known as a fairy egg and is the result of a glitch in the hen’s reproductive system that caused an egg to form without a yolk. That was a first (and only) for my flock. And I’m still waiting to get my first double-yolk egg.


The girls enjoying a treat of meal worms

I will take you on another tour next month to show you how things are progressing. In the mean time, let me know if you have any questions about what I’m growing.