Timing it right with tender veg
By May you should find yourself in the clear from the risk of frost, especially towards the end of the month. That means it’s time to get your tender plants out. Early summer is starting to appear on the horizon, and loads of vegetable, herb and flower seeds can be directly sown outdoors. Any earlier sowings that were started inside can also be planted out, but make sure they have a chance to acclimatise to outside conditions. This can take a week or two, but moving them suddenly can really weaken them, so it’s important for the sake of your plants.
Your courgettes can actually be direct-sown outside as long as it’s in well-prepared soil, but seeing as they’re a tender vegetable it might be worth playing it safe. If you want to start them inside, you can grow them in multi-celled trays or containers and then transplant them further down the line. If you started any courgettes in April, now is the time to plant them out so they can really start to kick on. Once they’re hardened off, keep them protected from slugs and snails and water them regularly. Courgettes are hungry crops, so as soon as they start flowering you should feed them weekly.
Another tender plant, aubergines need sunshine and warmth to really flourish and grow at their best. Because of that, they naturally do best in a greenhouse. If you start them early in the year, do so in warm conditions. When it comes to planting aubergines in the ground, it needs to be in a warm area. Choose the warmest, sunniest and most sheltered position. Once the danger of frost has gone, warm the soil using polythene or cloches two weeks before they’re due to go in. Space them out by around 60cm and cover the young plants with cloches or fleece for a couple of weeks until they’re acclimatised.
May is your last chance to sow sweetcorn so that it has plenty of time to grow and ripen. Any sweetcorn plants sown in April should be ready to be planted out - just make sure to harden them off first. For sowing sweetcorn in May, starting them off in a multi-celled tray indoors will give you the best results. Once the seedlings get big enough to handle, they’re ready to go outside. They need a sunny, sheltered spot where they can be spaced at least 45cm apart. They thrive in the same conditions as courgettes, so it’s always worth planting them together.
Obviously the harvesting time depends on the crop. Make sure to check the packaging of your seeds to give yourself a rough idea of when you can expect them. For your tender crops, it’s usually around the summer period. Sweetcorn is typically ready for harvest in August and September, but keep an eye on it. If you see the tassels turn brown, push your thumb into a kernel. If a milky sap comes out, it’s ready. Courgettes usually start fruiting in early summer and carry on for months. Pick them when they’re young for the tastiest results, plus regular harvesting when they’re small encourages more to form. From August onwards is when you’d expect to harvest aubergines. Grab them once they’re ripe with glossy skin.