May is not the typical time to start a garden in Northern Ontario. However, there’s not much typical about this year. Gardening is one of my favorite things to do during the summer months. Not only does it provide my family with food, but it gets me outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Gardening is also a fantastic way to keep in shape, especially during the early stages when prepping the area and planting time. The May 2020 garden is an unusual but welcome sight. Spring is a good opportunity to spend some time in the garden, admiring the plants coming out of their dormant state and seeing the potential of the area.
May 2020 garden
I try to plan my garden well in advance. This allows me to order what seeds I need to ensure that they arrive by the time planting month comes around. My initial plan changed, but not too much. Then everything got crazy and I completely scrapped my old plans and made a new one. This year, I wanted to make the most of my garden (though I try to do that every year) and so a few plants would no longer be in the equation since they don’t produce a ton.
However, as time went on I decided to once again revamp my garden plan. Some plants that were previously scrapped were now back not he table, but in small quantities. A few I hadn’t intended to grow were now being added and I was starting much sooner than normal. We live in a cool climate, with our last frost date in mid-June, which means generally the garden can’t be planted until then. But this fact wasn’t about to stop me.
Prepping the garden beds
The first and most important garden task was removing the horseradish. This plant has been growing in a raised bed for four years and has never produced roots large enough to harvest. Needless to say, I don’t appreciate such a waste of valuable space, especially with such a short growing season to work with, so it had to go. This was a much larger task than I had thought it would be. The horseradish had invaded the bed beside it, so both beds, in between them and several inches down and around them, had to be dug up. While the beds were empty, I took some time to repair them as well, as the sides had started to bow out. Supports were added to the middle of the beds to prevent the bowing from getting worse. Then the soil had to be sifted and all of the bits of root removed, This task alone took about half of the month.
Once this was completed, it was time to amend the rest of the garden, adding compost and breaking up the soil that had been compacted over the winter. I tend not to do too much tilling, however, with the amount of snow we get and considering how long it lays on top of the garden, I do try to help soften the soil a bit.
May 2020 garden planting
I didn’t plant a ton this month. Truth be told, I actually planted quite a bit back in April. However, it was in May when these plants really started to take off as they were able to spend more and more time outside in the sun. This isn’t the first year I have started seeds indoors a few weeks before the garden could be planting. However, starting a multitude of potatoes extra early proved to be a fun challenge. They had to be put outside once the temperature was above freezing and then brought back into the house at night. All of this work has so far paid off, as the plants are large and healthy. I also planted spinach, bok choy, swiss chard, a number of herbs and flowers in April so that I would have strong seedlings by June.
As the weather warmed, and the ground thawed, the desire to plant in the raised beds grew. Luckily, there are a few plants that can tolerate our colder temperature and will survive a frost as well. So, once the raised beds had compost added and their soil fluffed up, I was able to plant onions, garlic, spinach, lettuce, carrots, and radishes.
Another task was the transplant some of the seedlings, which had been planted in April, into bigger containers. The bok choy and spinach were the first to be transplanted. There is still some more spinach and the swiss chard that needs transplanting soon. The potatoes, which I am growing in containers this year, were moved out into the main garden recently so they can enjoy more sun.
The chives, which have been growing in the garden for many years, have come back strong. In fact, I have harvested them once to make cheese and chive scones. The strawberries have also come back and are starting to flower, which is hopefully a sign of a good strawberry harvest in our future. Of course, the biggest surprise was that a parsley plant survived the winter. Though parsley can be a perennial, our extremely cold winters usually kill them off. This is the first year one has ever come back in the spring.
That is what the May 2020 garden looks like so far. There is still much to do when it comes to planting, but that will have to wait until next month. Have you started your garden yet?