Gardens Illustrated
What to plant in May
© Claire Harrup

What to plant in May

Published: April 29, 2022 at 2:13 pm
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Head gardener Benjamin Pope explains what you should be planting in May. Illustration by Claire Harrup

Head gardener Benjamin Pope is here to make sure your garden looks great all year round. His practical gardening magazine column series continues all year round, and his tips on what to plant in May are a taster of what you can expect. For the full column, subscribe to Gardens Illustrated magazine. 

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Don't miss our suggestions of the best flowers in May, what gardens to visit and the gardening jobs for the month.

What to plant in May

Seed sowing in the greenhouse has started to slow down, as now many crops can be sown direct into the soil outside. I repeat sowings of salads and roots, such as carrots and radish, to continue the supply, while sowing or planting out tender beans including borlotti, edamame and French.

Summer-loving crops, such as celariac, tomatoes and sweet potatoes, leave the greenhouse and are planted into beds or containers.

I like to plant our squashes and pumpkins among sweetcorn, incorporating Amaranthus ‘Autumn Palette’, Persicaria orientalis, Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’ and Tropaeolum majus. By summer the patch is full of foliage and colour that gets better as harvest approaches.

If space is at a premium, try a tumbling tomato mixed with Tropaeolum minus ‘Ladybird Rose’ and Thai basil. All suited to container growing, they’ll look good all summer while providing something to taste.

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In the borders, seed-grown antirrhinums, cosmos and scabious are planted to fill gaps, while containers hold nemesias, salvias and verbenas. For foliage fillers, I love to use scented pelargoniums such as ‘Pink Capricorn’ or the silvery Helichrysum microphyllum ‘Silver Mist’ and Plectranthus argentatus. Experimentation is key and this year I’m including the cascading Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’, with floriferous perennials such as Verbena ‘Bampton’.

Authors

Head Gardener of a private garden in West Sussex, Benjamin lectures, writes and judges for the RHS plant trials, whilst creating a market garden in the South Downs.

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