The first week after our expected last frost date has us checking our gardens for frost damage from a light snow and freeze just days ago. Colorado gardeners are always on their toes throughout the month of May because the weather usually is all over the place. For example, I have some bok choy that has already started to flower long before it should because last week we had a few days near or above 80°F. This month can really make the cool season a lot shorter depending on the weather. Technically according to weather data the month of May is considered the warm season, even though a lot of people are barely starting their gardens. This is one reason a lot of new gardeners who are trying to grow cool season crops grow frustrated because those plants may bolt or not reach maturity before temperatures are steadily warmer than they like or need to thrive.
We now need to be doing daily garden walks, even if it is only for a few minutes, to check for early signs of pests and for our mental health. It is far better to catch a pest issue in the early stages before it can get out of hand. There are many ways to removes pests. I prefer to pick off cabbage moth caterpillars/worms, etc. and toss them away from my garden. For things like aphids a good spray from the hose can help after squashing/smashing as many as possible. (Did you know aphids are born pregnant?) I also suggest pruning to remove as many damaged leaves or sections as possible so they do not spread disease or welcome unwanted pests. If your pests problems are further along you may want to turn to organic methods. (Not every bug/insect is a problem, many can be beneficial to our gardens.) After pruning, adding a bit of a side dressing of compost to help nurture the plant with a little bit of extra nutrients, you can try using things like an insecticidal soap or garlic oil spray, neem oil, BT, etc depending on the specific pest. I have seen a recipe in a fabulous books called, “Garden Alchemy” written by Stephanie Rose of Garden Therapy. It is full of recipes and direction to make all sorts of things including a recipe I will be trying this season should I need it: Herbal Pest Deterrent Spray. It is a recipe that has ingredients that I would eat, so I don’t mind trying it on my edible plants. I am hoping though that my pruning, harvesting and watchful eye will make it so I don’t have any pest problems that grow out of hand.
Now is the time to sow seeds or plant transplants of flowers for your kitchen garden. Growing flowers within or on the border of you raised beds is a good way to attract pollinators to your garden. You can grow edible flowers for a two for one benefit. Some edible flowers to include in your kitchen garden include: Violas, borage, nasturtium, scented geranium, marigold, calendula, bee balm, and many, many herbs. For herbs I suggest making sure their mature size isn’t too large for your raised bed and that they do not take over spaces. (Think about mint, thyme, etc. they should be planted in their own bed or containers so they don’t take over your raised bed.) There are a lot of books and resources about edible flowers, but if you would like a post from me specifically on this topic, let me know! I always suggest having a pollinator garden bed near by if you have the space. This is another way to bring the pollinators to your garden. It is also a great way to grow so many beautiful flowers to support our pollinators who need us more than ever. Especially native flowers, which are often a part of the food chain for local birds and wildlife. Without native plants our local wildlife suffers. (This is a huge topic and needs its own blog post to give it the attention it deserves.)
As for sowing seeds, now is the time to sow okra seeds, your second round of bush beans(if you have already sowed some), pole beans can be sowed now too, along with summer savory. You can start to harden off basil now along with tomatoes, peppers, squash, melon and eggplant. Remember to start slowly, 30 minutes to an hour in the shade the first day, building up time each day after for 7-14 days. Keep an eye on the weather, tomatoes want overnight lows to be in the mid 50’s (°F) so their growth is not stunted. It’s tricky timing when to transplant with Colorado’s fluctuating temperatures in May. If you look for the mid 50’s for overnight lows, you “should” be good to go. Make sure to cover any warm weather crops overnight if the temperatures will be low. Seedlings are the most susceptible to damage from the cold, which could effect heir production, size and if they even reach maturity.
You can now be harvesting daily greens and possibly radishes depending on when you sowed seeds. I am harvesting daily many greens for salads, smoothies and various meals. I really love when we can begging to harvest so much from the garden and immediately use it. Talk about super nutrition, amazing flavor and perfect texture! This is another busy week in the garden, but with some effort you will also be rewarded later in the season with your warm season harvests. If you need any help growing in the garden or kitchen please book in for a coaching session. Book here