May is a lovely spring month full of the promise of summer, so what can we plant in May?
May is a great month to plant fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, flowers like roses and cosmos, and vegetables such as potatoes, squashes, and carrots. You can also plant herbs, shrubs, and pot plants in May, and plant out bulbs such as crocosmia, lilies, and gladioli.
Let’s look at May planting in more detail, and also discover some of those essential jobs you can do in the yard at this wonderful time of the year…
Is May a Good Time For Planting?
May is an excellent time for planting out those summer crops. In fact, it’s likely that the bulk of your planting will be taking place in this sunny month. In most regions of the US, it’s also a lovely month to be hanging out in the yard, warm without being too hot. So, gardening in May is often a real pleasure.
But, as we all know, the USA covers a lot of ground, and the weather varies from one state to the next. May in California is very different to May in Boston, and this naturally affects what you can and can’t plant.
To make sure you’re planting the right flowers and crops at the right time, start by checking your plant hardiness zone. This is a way of categorizing the varying regional climates for farmers, smallholders, and gardeners across the States. Climates are divided into zones 1 to 10, cold to hot, and everyone from Home Depot to your local farmer uses the same zones.
Check which zone you live in using the US plant hardiness zone map. Type in your zip code, and it tells you which zone you’re in.
What Fruits Can I Plant in May?
You can plant plenty of berries in your garden in May. Popular choices include strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, and you could even try a blueberry bush. Not grown strawberries before? Take a look at this helpful film about growing different varieties of strawberries.
If you live in one of the warmer hardiness zones, you can try planting melons outdoors: just be aware that they’re really slow growing. If you’re in a milder climate and have a greenhouse, give melons a go this May.
It’s not the best time to plant fruit trees, so if you want to start an apple orchard or try your hand at home-grown peaches (delicious!), wait until the fall when the trees are dormant and the soil is at its best for roots.
What Flowers Can Be Planted in May?
Thanks to that lovely, warm soil, you can plant all sorts of flowers in May (again, please check what’s suited to your climate before you choose your blooms). Planting now means that you’ll get plenty of color in your garden for the summer, and hopefully well into the fall.
Here are some of our favorite flowers to plant in May:
- Sunflowers. Easy to grow, and great for kids
- Cosmos. Again, these are super-easy plants to take care of
- Roses. These beautiful blooms love the sun
- Lavender. A great plant for the bees
- Zinnias. Choose from a variety of colors
- Marigolds. As well as looking pretty, they make a great companion plant for vegetables, helping to keep the bugs at bay
- Chrysanthemums. For late summer and early fall blooming
- Geraniums. These add a real splash of color
If you haven’t planted your summer-flowering bulbs, it’s not too late. Plant gladioli, lilies, and crocosmia now for wonderfully architectural plants later in the season.
What Veggies Can I Plant in May?
Now comes the fun part. You can plant so many different varieties of vegetables in May, and you might even be on a second crop with some. Here’s just a selection of warm-season vegetables to plant in May:
- Lettuce. A year-round favorite
- Spinach. As above
- Potatoes. Think about planting two crops, one in early May and a second at the end of the month
- Sweet potatoes. Finally! But, only if the soil is at a temperature of at least 70 degrees fahrenheit
- Squashes. Try popular summer and fall squash like zucchini, pumpkins, and butternuts
- Parsnips. Plant these slow-growers early for a fall harvest
- Carrots. Keep sowing new seeds every three weeks for a constant carrot crop
In the greenhouse, go for Mediterranean veg like eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. Add garlic and chillies for extra flavor.
Can I Plant Shrubs & Trees in May?
If you want to plant trees and shrubs in May, stick to evergreens or species that are known to do well planted in late spring (butterfly bush and dogwood should be fine).
We tend to stick to the old saying about not planting trees until the leaves start to fall. This is because trees take better to their new home when they’re dormant. In the fall, the ground is still soft and warm, but the tree has stopped producing fruit. So, if you want to grow fruit trees, plan where they’re going to go and prepare the soil, but don’t actually plant the trees yet.
Can You Plant Herbs in May?
You can plant herbs all year round indoors; however in May, you can grow most of your favorites outside. Even super-fussy basil can be moved outdoors, provided it’s warm and sunny in your yard. Large herbs like rosemary, fennel, and spreading oregano make lovely features in your flower beds, while others look pretty in pots.
Must-have culinary herbs include:
- Mint (pots only. It grows like crazy in the ground)
Of course, you may prefer to start an herb garden on your kitchen windowsill, so you can simply snip off what you need while you’re cooking. Basil, thyme, parsley, and cilantro are particularly good indoors in pots.
What Can I Plant in Pots in May?
You can plant plenty of flowers, herbs, and veg in pots at this time of year. Dress your patio with containers full of colorful geraniums, chrysanthemums, and marigolds, or try some delicate patio roses. Add small evergreen shrubs for extra color and texture. Some varieties of lavender do really well in pots.
As we mentioned earlier, you can also have a container herb garden, either indoors or outdoors. Try parsley, thyme, sage, and mint outdoors, and basil and cilantro in the kitchen. Garlic and chillies can also be grown in pots.
Some veg will also thrive in containers, provided they’re deep and wide enough for your crop. Sow carrots, spinach, and lettuces in pots, and use planters for tomatoes and peppers inside your greenhouse.
Can You Plant Bulbs & Seeds in May?
Seeds will do well planted directly into the ground in most zones. The May soil is soft and warm; however as the weather is drier, make sure you keep your seeds well watered. Check the seed packet to make sure the crop is suited to your climate.
You can also plant summer-flowering bulbs such as crocosmia, lilies, and gladioli. These are all stunning flowers that will bring late-summer drama to your planting scheme. This is your last chance to get these in the ground in time for the summer…
Summary: What Jobs Can I Do in The Garden in May?
As you’ve probably gathered, your main focus in May is planting out all those gorgeous crops and beautiful flowers. Having prepared the beds and tidied out the shed in April, you can now concentrate on the actual planting part of gardening.
Sowing, planting, weeding, and watering will take up a lot of your yard time in May, but what else can you do at this time of year?
- Fire up the BBQ. Getting out the grill has to be the most important part of early-summer yard work (OK, if you’re in Florida, you probably never even had to put your grill away…). Get out your grill, and give it a real good clean
- If you have any other outdoor equipment (fire pits, patio heaters, outdoor fridges and so on), check these over and give them a good clean, too
- If you haven’t already, check and clean all your patio furniture, awnings, and gazebos, ready for the long summer days ahead
- Painting, varnishing, adding protective coats… May is dry but not too warm, so it’s time to get out the brushes and spray
- It’s also a good time for any yard construction work, from DIY jobs like putting up a new shed to tricker tasks like paving the driveway or building a new deck
- Is it time for that first lawn cut? This depends on your zone and your species of grass. Double-check your mower is still in good working condition, and give that lawn its first trim in months
- Enjoy it. Make the most of these warm days to enjoy being out in your yard, planting your squash or painting the fence. It’s a lovely time of year, and definitely a favorite month among gardeners
Want to know what you can plant in June? Read the next article in our planting calendar…
Homeowner and property investor Larry Jones founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >