Planting and Growing in May

The last couple of weeks have been a blur of planting here as temperatures warmed up a bit and rains slacked off enough to let the soil start to dry out. First up for planting were the indeterminate caged tomatoes. I’ve been growing tomatoes this way for several years now. I plant 2 tomatoes (same variety) per cage, and work in a generous amount of Espoma Tomato-tone (3-4-6) in the planting hole. Then I mulch around the plants with a couple of thicknesses of newspaper before adding the cages. I give them a drink of fish emulsion after planting to get them started. I’ll come back later and add straw to cover the newspaper. I’ll also give them more fish emulsion periodically, and when the first blossoms appear I’ll add more Tomato-tone.

newly planted tomatoes

newly planted tomatoes

We came up with this method of growing 2 tomatoes per generously sized cage (20-24 inches diameter) several years ago at the MG production garden, where we generally planted anywhere between 250 to 500 tomato plants every year. After much experimentation with different ways to grow all those tomatoes, this method consistently produced the most usable tomatoes for the least amount of work. Why plant 2 tomatoes per cage instead of one? The cages are large enough to support 2 plants, and the spacing winds up being about one tomato per 15-18 inches of linear row, which is right in line with recommendations for spacing supported tomatoes. Of course you could always make smaller cages and just plant one tomato per cage.

newly planted cucumbers

newly planted cucumbers

I use a similar method for growing my vining cucumbers, though I do use smaller cages for them and only plant 1 cucumber per cage. Some of the cucumber cages still have two seedlings at this point, but I will pinch one off once I am sure I didn’t lose any plants in the planting process. For the cukes I also mix in Tomato-tone in the planting hole. This slow release organic fertilizer won’t burn the roots of seedlings, but you don’t want to try this with a non-organic chemical fertilizer or you might kill the plants!

Purple Queen bean

‘Purple Queen’ bean

Next in line for planting were the beans and squashes. I planted some early Purple Queen snap beans a couple of weeks ago, and the rest of the bush beans (Rocdor, Derby and Jacob’s Cattle) last week. I need to weed there, once the beans are up a bit bigger. The garden is downwind from our maple tree and the rabbit ears are everywhere! Other weeds are sprouting up too. Since the soil warmed up sufficiently I also planted some pole beans (Fortex, Helda, Marvel of Venice and Musica). They should be up in a few days. And I planted a whole 40 foot row of bush squashes, both summer and winter types. I still need to mulch those with paper and straw. I started these squash plants in plug flats, which gives them about a 2 week head start versus direct seeding them. Go squash!

‘Striata d’Italia’ zucchini seedling

That’s about all I can plant for the moment. I will wait a week before planting any peppers or eggplants, since my plants are still small and the soil isn’t quite warm enough in my opinion. And I will plant the sweet potatoes around the last of May.

Apollo broccoli heading up

‘Apollo’ broccoli heading up

The early planted crops are looking good at the moment. The Apollo broccoli will be the first to show a head, though the initial one is usually fairly small on this broccolini type variety. If you look close in the above photo you can see side shoots already forming. I see some small bulbs forming on the kohlrabi plants too, so it won’t be long before we get a taste of them. I’m using shredded paper for mulch in the beds where the cole crops are planted. I need to get some around the kohlrabi too.

‘Winner’ kohlrabi is bulbing up

I am replanting lettuce in the cold frame bed with new seedlings as I harvest the early plants. We’ve enjoyed Black Seeded Simpson, Simpson Elite, Red Sails, Kweik and Bibb in salads for about a month now. A new variety I’m growing is a red romaine called Outstanding. It is a selection from Outredgeous, and so far it has lived up to it’s name. It’s in the middle row in the below photo.

a selection of lettuces growing in a cold frame bed

a selection of lettuces growing in a cold frame bed

The Asian greens are bolting already, as is the arugula. The Fun Jen started bolting before it even started heading up. I believe the cold temperatures we had earlier this spring are to blame. Oh well, we’ll eat the leaves and the flower stalks on the Fun Jen, Tatsoi and Mizuna, then I will replant that bed with something else. And I am letting the arugula go so I can save seed from it, so that’s not a bad thing at all. We’re still eating the arugula too, for that matter.

Asian greens and arugula bolting

Asian greens and arugula bolting

I planted some ‘wild’ arugula in a salad box to fill in while the regular arugula is going to seed and I wait for more seedlings to size up. I have one called ‘Rustic’ from Renee’s Garden Seeds, and ‘Sylvetta’ from Fedco planted in the large salad box. We will see how they both taste when they get a little bigger. The wild types of arugula are slower growing than regular arugula. The seedlings I planted are almost 2 months old and still very small.

‘Rustic’ arugula seedling

Not small are the garlic plants, which are starting to get nice, fat stalks on them. The one in the below photo is Simonetti, an artichoke type. If the bulb is as big as the stem, it should be a whopper!

stalk of Simonetti garlic

stalk of ‘Simonetti’ garlic

Also sizing up are the potato plants. I have two fingerling varieties (Russian Banana and French Fingerling) planted in the kitchen garden area. I’ve hilled them once already, but they need it again. Russian Banana did great last year, and I have hopes that it and the French Fingerling will do even better this year given our ample spring rains.

fingerling potatoes growing

fingerling potatoes growing

I’m super excited about all the blooms that are forming on the Asian persimmons this year. They flower late, so none have opened up yet, but the two trees are absolutely loaded. Last year we got 15 persimmons, and I was happy with that. This year there are so many blossoms forming I can’t count them all. Time will tell how many turn into fruit. Both trees are types that are firm when ripe, but this fall I am planting Tanenashi and Saijo, which are two types like the popular Hachiya that need to soften before eating. The Asian persimmons are so easy to grow here that I wish I had tried growing them years ago.

blossoms on

blossoms on ‘Ichy Ki Kei Jiro’ persimmon

I’ll close with a shot of more fruits blooming, in this case the blackberries. The Apache blackberries are covered in blossoms. It looks like snow with all those open white blooms! Blackberries are a dependable fruit crop for us, and if the blooms are any indication then 2013 should be a good year.

blackberries blooming

blackberries blooming

I hope you enjoyed a look at what we’re planting and growing here in May. And I hope things are growing well for you too!


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11 Responses to Planting and Growing in May

  1. Jenny says:

    WOW! That is one very large garlic! And love the persimon and blackberry flowers. How long did you have Persimon tree before it started to bloom? We planted one last spring and it’s very small but I couldn’t find any reference on how many years it will take, unlike apples that I know will take 5 years on average.

    • Dave says:

      We planted the Ichy Ki Kei Jiro in 2008, and got our first couple of persimmons in 2010. The Gwang Yang was planted in 2009, and had first fruit in 2012 (quite a few). This year both trees are loaded with blooms!

  2. elizabeth says:

    I grew Apollo broccoli last year for the first time and loved it, I have a big bed planted this year. Your garlic is huge! This year I’m growing chesnok red, siberian, german red, pskem, and georgian crystal. All my garlic is doing well, although I remember last year, I harvested the biggest heads from the worst looking plants.
    I’d to try the Tomato-tone this year, can I scratch it in around the plant after planting, instead of putting it in the hole at planting? I’ve planted two plants in one large cage before also, but I really like growing them up twine/trellis in my greenhouse(too cold to grow outside here in MT).

    • Dave says:

      Yes, you can add the Tomato-tone after planting and work it in around the soil.

      It so true about the garlic. I never know how big the bulb will be until I dig it up!

  3. bavaria says:

    Thanks for all the great pics.
    How many layers of newspaper do you use around the tomatoes?

  4. Daphne says:

    I’ve got my early planted Fun Jen starting to bloom too. The later planted ones have done better. Which I suppose isn’t too surprising since the early ones saw some really cold weather.

    • Dave says:

      Unfortunately I never got around to starting more Fun Jen, or any Asian greens for that matter. I think I will wait until fall to plant any more.

  5. Mike R says:

    I was going to try two tomato plants in a cage at least with the San Marzano tomatoes but old habits die hard, so it was one per cage again. At least now I know that there has been some research showing that two is better than one. Looks like you may have a very good year for berries.

  6. Michelle says:

    I can’t believe how beautifully everything is growing in your garden. That garlic is amazing! Love the newspaper and shredded paper mulch ideas, I’m going to have to try that.

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