May Gardening Newsletter 2023

Dear Fellow Gardeners,

May is the busiest month in your vegetable garden and hopefully you have managed to do all the other jobs such as bed preparation in the previous months. The soil has warmed up sufficiently to sow and plant nearly all vegetables. So make sure you take time off in May so that you can spend days in the garden!

  • Finish preparing the beds and keep the hoe and rake moving over them.
  • Watch out for late frosts and have some horticultural fleece handy to cover your potatoes if needed.
  • Please do not plant out your courgettes, pumpkins or squash till the first of June or protect them with a cloche.


Gardening Project in L’Arche Day Care Centre, Cork

In the last year I have been involved in this wonderful project in Cork.  We converted a large lawn into a thriving garden, including  vegetable plots, herb and salad garden, apple tunnel, greenhouse and currently we are developing a new sensory garden.  A lot is happening here at present and it’s a wonderful team including the staff and people with intellectual disability.  We also have a lot of fun.

Job Opportunity

As the project is expanding they are looking for part-time Horticulture Project Worker (3 days/week).  The role is to maintain and develop the gardens and to help support and encourage the participation of adults with Intellectual Disability in the gardens.  The requirements are good horticultural experience, maybe even some qualifications in horticulture and QQI Level 5 qualification in Social Care or willingness to acquire this qualification.

I’m still travelling to Cork twice per month and will assist the gardener.  For more information contact Meadhbh on 087 9396423.

Sorry the deadline is by Friday.


Gardening Tasks in May

Outdoor sowing:

You can sow beetroot, early carrots (cover with bionet), parsnips, perpetual spinach, annual spinach, chard, radish, turnip, peas and runner beans directly into the ground.

Indoor sowing:

In May you can still sow the following vegetables into modular trays: winter cabbages, Brussels sprouts, calabrese, Florence fennel, kale, kohlrabi, swede, turnip, lettuce, scallions, spinach and chard.

If you haven’t sown courgettes, pumpkins, squash, runner beans and sweetcorn yet you can still do so. Towards the end of the month you can sow Florence fennel and Chinese cabbage.


You can plant out the crops you sowed in the previous month: the first batch of leeks, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, calabrese, kohlrabi, rocket, swede, turnip, lettuce, perpetual spinach, chard, annual spinach and scallions.


We are still in the hungry gap month and if you don’t have a greenhouse or polytunnel you may only be able to harvest some oriental salads, radish, turnips, annual spinach and some of last year’s overwintering chard.  A polytunnel will be brimming with food at this time of year.

Pest watch

Don’t forget to keep a check on your plants especially the seedlings outside. This is the time when they are most vulnerable to a slug attack. You also need to be wary of leatherjackets, the larva of the daddy-longlegs. They can be a terror during this month especially on newly planted lettuce. If a small lettuce suddenly dies, it was probably eaten by a leatherjacket. They actually just bite through the stem of the young plants. If you don’t find the culprit in the soil it will move on to the next plant.

If you had carrot root fly in previous years it is nearly essential that you cover the early sow carrots with a bionet.


Dates for your Diary:

16th-18th June 2023

I’ll be at the Garden Festival in Antrim – a wonderful and exciting weekend.  This year’s focus is on growing food.


Sunday 2nd July 2023

Open Day at L’Arche, Cork


Sunday 13th August 2023

Gardening Course in Tombrack Community Garden.  Places are limited.

Contact: Denis 086 8111088


A few tips on growing cucumbers

Cucumbers are one of my favourite crops to grow.  Here are a few tips:

  • Choose the best variety – Passandra F1 which is an all-female variety with excellent disease resistance.  Gergana is one of the best flavoured varieties but not an all female.
  • Only grow them in a tunnel or greenhouse.
  • Don’t be tempted to sow the seeds too early. You can sow seeds now or even into June.
  • Give the greenhouse beds a good feed of compost or composted manure. Two buckets per square meter.
  • Train the plants up a string (not a biodegradable string though)
  • Remove all side-shoots every week. Only keep the main shoot growing up.
  • Remove all emerging cucumber fruits up to knee height or 50cm. This is important as it strengthens the plants.  If you don’t do that they can become exhausted early on.  (I do the same for courgettes – I remove the first 2 or 3 fruits as they emerge, otherwise they turn brown at the end).
  • Back to cucumbers: If you want to spoil them, give the plants a daily shower with warm water and a fine gentle spray between late morning or early afternoon.  They love it and it prevents red spider mite attacks.
  • Then simply enjoy the bounty. You may get a cucumber a day from one plant.


Happy Gardening,

Klaus Laitenberger