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Introduction & Thinning Seedlings

“Button to chin till May be in, Cast not a clout till May be out”

Jack Frost SunAnd then some people say “Marry in May, repent alway”. Perhaps if we do marry in May we may find the maid—like the month—fickle and fitful; sometimes sunny, sometimes stormy — and sometimes more than a bit frosty!

That is the trouble with May, those killing frosts that do so much damage to our fruit blossom and young potato plants, and catch the unwise and unwary who put out their tomato plants too early and without protection. The end of May is quite soon enough for tomato planting. Too often we gardeners cling to tradition and get too far ahead with our sowing and planting, regardless of how our weather varies and how treacherous it can be.

However, May should be a busy month with all of us—so here’s hoping you will be “as full of spirit as the month of May”. And watch out for those frosts !

May is a month for many jobs on the vegetable plot and it’s not easy to keep pace with them all. Let’s just list them now and deal with them Here they are :—

Thinning seedlings ; earthing up potatoes ; mulching peas and beans; top dressing certain crops; sowing winter greens in the seedbed and planting out Brussels; making successional sowings of earlier crops; sowing runners and marrows; planting out tomatoes; attending to the compost heap and keeping an eye open for pests.

Now let’s say a bit about each of them.


Always try to seize the opportunity, if the ground’s fairly moist and the weather cool with a promise of warm showers to come, to thin any crops that need it—lettuce, spinach, parsnips and, later on, spring-sown onions.

If these crops need thinning when the soil is too dry and the weather seems set fair, water them thoroughly before thinning and again as soon as you have finished. This will prevent too great a disturbance of the seedlings remaining while their neighbours were being pulled out.

Generally thin seedlings twice: first leaving twice as many plants as you will need , at the second thinning remove every other plant. Always pull out the weakest seedlings, leaving the strongest to grow on. Hoe between the rows, removing any seedling weeds at thinning time, and leaving the plot tidy.