May In The Vegie Patch

The last of the zinnias, the first of the leeks, greencrops beneath protective fabric, brassicas and compost piles galore – May in a nut shell. Here’s all you need to know about your vegie garden tasks for May.

Direct sow

Sow lupin seed generously
  • Greencrops – lupins, broadbeans, phacelia, wheat, oats, mustard or barley. Kings Seeds Autumn Manure Mix is awesome. Grow as many greencrops as you can fit. Here’s how to sow a greencrop.
  • Corn salad and miners lettuce – sweet little winter/ spring cut and come again greens. Sow them once, let them self seed and have winter greens every year.
  • Broadbeans, peas, snow peas, spinach, bok choy, rocket, kale, coriander, radish.
  • In the greenhouse sow salads, leafy greens, beetroot and plant potatoes.
  • Good companions like calendula, poppies, cornflowers, larkspur and sweetpeas (must have sweetpeas!)

Tray sow

onions - 3 in 1 hole
  • Onions. If you get the chance to play with growing onions – go for it! There’s no greater sense of pride than in your home grown onions.
  • Salads. Plant them under cover where they’ll grow nice and quickly. Use a cloche, a bit of frost cloth, an old window, a greenhouse or on the porch.
  • Broccoli and cabbage. Even though growth slows right down from now in its still worth it to keep planting brassicas.


soak your seedlings pre planting
  • Strawberries if you raised your own plants from runners. Plant into raised ridges if you have heavy soil. May plantings have all winter to grow lovely big roots. Big roots = bigger plants = more cropping. For big juicy fruits use rotten manure in your soil preps.
  • Garlic. My garlic is already in, but May is still a great time to plant out. Part of our rust prevention strategy is going to be finding varieties that are less prone. Heritage is going to be a big player here. Hardneck garlic’s are hardier than softnecks though they don’t store as well. If you team them up with an early garlic you’ve got your season covered.
  • Lettuces – under cloches or in the greenhouse.
  • Brassicas for spring eating.
  • Lots of silverbeet, perpetual beet, chard, kale and parsley – our kitchen cornerstones.
  • Lots of flowers like stock, primula, tulips, snapdragons

Feed + Mulch

Buckwheat, meadowsweet, yarrow homemade mulch
Homemade buckwheat + weed mulch

Mulch everything. For a strong worm count, protection from cold, wind + rain and to help slow weed growth down, cover your soil with mulch. Make your own by mixing together prunings, spent crops and weeds from the paths.

Liquid feed broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery and leafy greens to boost them along.

Get Composting

compost making in the rain

Make lots of compost, here’s my easy peasy ways. Finished summer crops/ flowers/ perennials provide a bounty of ingredients for compost. Chop them down, cut them up and toss together. Pour on some liquid seaweed or EM and leave nature to make magic. There is nothing cooler than starting your spring crops off with the rotted remains of your summer crops.

An autumn compost pile is a strong start to a spring bed. Make it right on the spot where you want your new bed to be – spring planting has never been so easy!

Odd Jobs

Weed and thin carrots, kohlrabi, fennel, parsnips for good sized crops. Pour a watering can of liquid feed over afterwards to disguise scent and prevent carrot fly. If carrot fly’s a problem at yours, cover the crop with insect mesh.

Fresh new kale leaves sprouting from a stump

Refresh tired old kale or chard plants by cutting the tops off back to a 20cm-ish stump. Use the big old leaves to make chips, dry them for smoothie powder or use to mulch a bed with. The stump will re-sprout and if you pick it regularly will supply lots of small, sweet leaves.

Gather OM (organic matter). It makes our gardens sing, it’s shopping free, plastic bag free and all around us. Use this slower pace of life to get collecting – hay, sawdust, leaves, manure … whatever your neighbourhood yields. Make piles about the edge of your garden where its handy and the benefit will spread to your vegie patch as biology come for a feed.

Harvest kumara. If you haven’t already done it, get those kumara up! The rules say you’re supposed to wait till the tops die off, but in all these years I’ve never got to that stage. This instruction is for hotter climates I think. It’s more important to get them up before the frost hits it. The gamble is yours!

Lay Your Asparagus Down


When the ferns are nearly all brown, the asparagus has come to the end of its run. All the carbs have gone to the roots and it’s time to lay it down.

  • Chop down the dry stalks
  • Weed the bed
  • Cover with a generous amount of compost and manure and/or seaweed. Go nuts here and make it as deep as you can. It will after all rot down over winter, back to ground zero.
  • Top with the chopped up stalks.

Ready for a bumper spring crop 🙂


  1. Radha Sahar says

    Hi Kath
    We were interested to read in your newsletter about your hunt for a new natural fertilizer … the Ocean one sounds good. We liked Rok Solid, but were thrilled to find a much cheaper rock dust, RockPLUS Soil Remineraliser, from Fertile Fields in New Plymouth. We drive up there once a few 30 kg sacks of it – enjoying a couple of days off and a look at the Len Lye Gallery in the process. We highly recommend this product, which has been round for years. Perhaps a few folk might want to chip in to get a sack sent down to share and trial? Let’s know what you think of it – our veges are happy and healthy-as in it! Cheers, Radha and Charles … Here is the link …

    • Any thoughts on Bio Boost

    • Thanks so much for the link Radha – really helpful to give everyone options. Your garden gives you all the feedback you need, so pleased you’ve found something that’s working for you + the bonus of a roadie to the ‘naki – always great. nga mihi Kath

  2. I’ve been looking to buy Miner’s lettuce. Can’t see it in any of the shops. Anyone know where to buy this around Horowhenua.Thanks?

    • Buy a packet of seed Graham – kings seeds sell it. Miners lettuce does much better when direct sown ok. Best winter salading! And regards bio boost I love the recycled nature of it. Its not something I’ve really investigated – a little put off with all the processing. Have you been using it?

  3. Trish Sarr says

    Garlic and rust – lost it all two years in a row. Is there something I can plant where the rusty garlic was to “cleanse” the soil? Or maybe that isn’t necessary?
    Thank you for what you do for us all, Kath.

    • Hi Trish – No need Trish, just gather the foliage and remove it. You could sow a greencrop of cleansing mustard if you like. The hard part in a small garden is then keeping any allium (onion, leek,garlic) off that spot for as long as you can. If you run out of room in your garden try it in a pot – goes really well. Hope this helps. Love Kath

  4. Thanks for drumming it in to us about the green crops. I have several unplanted packets that I purchased after reading your last month’s blog (or maybe the month before!). They are going in THIS WEEKEND!!!! Bare soil no more…..

  5. Alana Cornforth says

    Hi Kath

    We’re about to move into a rented property so can’t do too much to the garden there. There are some raised beds full of soil already but no plants or even weeds growing. I’m wondering what you would advise to do to prepare these beds for use? As we may only be there for a year I’d like to get some plants in asap if possible, but do want to make sure the soil is ok. Any thoughts? There are 6 beds so could sow a green manure mix in some of them perhaps. Was wondering about getting some horse manure or store-bought compost as we won’t have our own ready for a wee while. Any advice greatly appreciated! Also, are there any fruit trees that you reckon would be ok in containers that we could take with us when we leave?


    • Hi Alana,
      Tricky question to answer from afar! Are there any worms? What does the soil smell like? I’m a bit worried when you say its bare dirt – no weeds even? I wouldn’t go raw horse manure, I’d get a good quality compost in – if you live round here check out Paranui Organics. And also something like EM and/ or oceans organics liquid feed to stimulate the good biology. Top it all off with mulch – a lovely leafy one if there are deciduous trees near you. And yes you cannot beat a greencrop for soil remediation. I’d go pea and oat from kings seeds. As for trees in pots, not so much. If its only a year I’d wait. You’ll need to get to know your new property first as well as perhaps creating shelter, drainage et all before planting trees anyway – never recommend rushing into the fruit tree thing. Hope this helps

      • Thanks heaps! I thought it seemed a bit odd to have no weeds or anything. Will check for worms and have a sniff once we move in. Anything in particular I’d be looking for?

  6. I have just planted several fruit trees (mandarin, ?, lemon, apple and feijoa) into a reasonably well drained flat area on my section and have been advised to also plant comfrey around them. Is this correct, and what other measures can I take? They appear to be growing quite nicely at present

    • Hi Roger
      Yes to the comfrey beneath the apples!

      I dont usually go for a living mulch beneath citrus because I live in the west coast/ lower half of the north island and at times we dont get great summers I need to be careful of airflow for best health around citrus and feijoas too. Therefore I go the deep mulch road beneath my evergreens. If you live somewhere with hot dry summers and are happy to prune the citrus and feijoas so that the first layer of branches is well above the height of the full grown comfrey – then go for it. Another useful option is a comfrey border round the edges of your citrus area so its easy to slash it and throw it on them for mulch.

      The advantage of mulch beneath feijoas rather than comfrey is that you can easily get to the dropped fruits, which are far better than picked ones.
      hope this helps!

  7. Patricia SARR says

    Thanks for suggesting I get my strawberries going now, in May, Kath. Any suggestions for which sort? I’ve given up on using runners as they just never produce as well as newly-bought plants.

    Many thanks, Trish

    • Good question, and yes strawberries do run out of juice after a while. I have two favourites that I grow at home the little heritage Captain cook strawberries – not as big as modern ones but so sweet and easy; and the clumping alpines, which you can grow in a perennial area – smaller again but so sweet and they just fruit and fruit and fruit! At the school garden we grew Seascape which is a modern variety but it went really well – the kids love big red juicy strawberries! Alpines benefit from dividing every now and then. All others are at peak in year 2/3 so after that need to be replaced with runners or new plants.

  8. Ray Page says

    Hi Kath, when you say plant strawberries in May you are talking about the runners off the old plants I presume? New plants don’t come available this early that I know of. We have found the runners never do as well as a new batch each year in our strawberry patch. Thoughts please? Cheers, Ray

    • Great question Ray! Yes I am talking runners. I grow the heritage Captain Cook strawberries, and pot runners up keeping a new strawberry nursery on the go. Runners from younger plants seem to go better, and I only use the first lot of runner, and runners that have grown somewhat in the pot seem to go better still. Thanks for your question, Kath

  9. Diana gabric says

    Hi Kath – I would like to know about the nitrogen fixer called Alaeagnus which is a good plant for adding N to the soil. There is one species called the Russian olive but it meant to be invasive. Would you recommend it and if so where could I find a source? I’ve looked on line but had no luck. Kay Baxter also mentions this species in her book “Design your own orchard”

    Cheers, Diana.

    • Yes it has become a big problem in the states which puts me off growing it too as I’d hate to cause havoc in our native bush. There are however loads of options for nitrogen fixers – right through from groundcovers, shrubs to trees – so you don’t need to be too attached to one particular variety. Check out Kahikatea farm website for the plants they sell.

  10. Kay Latham says

    Hi Kath,
    Great Newsletter, thank you. As I am in Levin I’m happy if Graham would like to come around and dig out a clump of miner’s lettuce. If he reads this again he can give me a call, Kay 368 3630

  11. Amanda Grogan says

    Kale tip is amazing. Just looped the top of one of my kale trees

  12. Margie Broughton says

    Hi Kath. SO much useful advice on your blog and Facebook page. I remember you said (somewhere) to chop up dried-up pumpkin vines after harvest to use for mulch. Many of our pumpkin leaves had some amount of powdery mildew on them before they dried up (I cut off the worst, but was afraid of cutting off too many photosynthesising green leaves). Would you still recommend using these vines, or putting into the greenwaste bin? Thanks.

    • Thanks Margie! Using all our finished crops as mulch is good in so many ways. I never used to recycle mildewed foliage as mulch, but I’m more relaxed about it these days – perhaps trusting in the vitality of my system here. Options – if the crop following is never going to mildew up for example a greencrop, then have a play. EM poured on will help clean up any pathogens as will diluting the intensity by mixing it with herb trimmings grass clippings et all. Or if this doesn’t feel good use it beneath a deciduous fruit tree + EM, or if this doesn’t feel good tuck it beneath natives. There’s no right or wrong here – though putting it in the wheelie bin is not a great call for the planet! Follow your gut and thanks for recycling your green waste at home :).


    Hi Kath
    Just love reading your blogs and pages and have gained some really good knowledge & tips from you over many many months. I so look forward to your emails each month. My question is about pruning berries. I’m going to be pruning my raspberries soon but am unsure on how to do this. Reason being is that they are on their second flowering and fruiting. I had a super crop in summer and then they started flowering & fruiting again end of March/April How do I prune these – will I prune as summer fruiting or autumn fruiting. I am also currently still picking a second wave of strawberries. I live in Canterbury (S.I.) and we’ve already had a couple of small frosts in the mornings so am surprised by this second wave from both these berry plants.

  14. Hazel Gallagher says

    As usual your information is bang on Sarah. Always love getting your posts in my inbox. Have a question for you. I have just discovered rust on my leeks today and had one of those moments when you just cant believe what you are saying. My plants are incredibly healthy, the soil is full of life, I feed both the soil and plants on a regular basis. EM and home grown compost for the soil and seaweed and other teas for the plants. I have removed as many infected leaves as possible being extremely careful. But Im thinking I could try baking soda or perhaps neem. What are your thoughts Sarah, Im a little devastated as the crop is amazing and the problem is I want to get my garlic in the ground soon and now Im too scared to as my beds are fairly close. Look forward to hearing from you.

    • Hiya Hazel.
      First thing is not to take it personally – rust is environmental – and even though the fashion is to grow nutrient dense food of high quality and theoretically never get any disease – its an unattainable goal, so lets put that to one side. Diseas will come and its annoying, but AOK.

      The same rust that leeks get, garlics get so if its in your leeks and the bed is beside – it is almost certain your garlic will get it. Once rust is in the only way I have successfully held it back has been with weekly sprays of kiwicare super sulfur. Neem wont make any difference and baking soda is a preventative and may slow it some but wont stop it.

      How about planting your garlic in pots or containers elsewhere? Or use sulfur this season on both crops? or grow garlic in a mates rust free garden? or experiment carry on with your EM et all and also use baking soda sprays and decide that if the garlic gets it too, ah well so be it.

      hope this helps ease your mind some, Kath


    Thanks for that Kath. You’re simply the best

  16. Avon Lookmire says

    Hi Kath, we’re near Palmy and I bought awapuni asparagus seedlings – is it ok to plant these out and put frost cloth over? I have seen conflicting info on when to plant out new asparagus (they are seedlings not 1 year old crowns I think – all green and feathery – in individual planter bags. Thanks!

    • Yes Avon – as long as you have prepared nourished, free draining bed plant them out. If not then keep them in the pots until spring. Green and feathery is the end of the cycle pre die down ok. They’ll rise up again in spring.