Planting & Gardening in May


by Elmer Krehbiel, Master Gardener
April 30, 2004

February, March and April were for planting flowers and vegetables. Now May is the time for many other garden activities.


It should not be too late to plant another crop of beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, Romaine lettuce, melons, okra, Southern peas, peppers, pumpkins, radishes (planted in part-shade), New Zealand spinach, squash, and set sweet potato plants.


Spacing is the real indication of a gardeners integrity in growing quality flowers, fruits or vegetables. If plants are too close, the effect is the same as having weeds. The spaces between plants in inches should be: radishes 2; carrots 3; beans and beets 4; lettuce and spinach 6 to 9; broccoli 12 to 18; cabbage and cauliflower 18 to 24; cucumber, squash and tomatoes 24 to 36; melons 36 to 48, and pumpkins 72.

If the fruits on a peach tree are less than six inches apart, the smaller and deformed green fruit should be removed before they are as large as a nickel. That will allow the tree to develop large high quality peaches. "Twins" are caused by dry soil in the previous summer and fall. Therefore, the tree should be kept healthy as it forms the buds for the next crop.


Roots absorb 98 percent of the nutrients plants need. Thus, the soil pH, fertility and condition are major factors for plant health, growth, and production. Foliar feeding is usually not an efficient method of fertilizing plants.

If plastic jugs are buried in the soil about one foot from the plants, fertilizer and water may be applied to the root zone. Some holes or slits must be cut in the lower half of the jugs before they are buried. This is a very good method for cucumber, eggplant, melon, okra, pepper, and tomato crops.

Flowers and vegetables may benefit from nitrogen around the plants or on both sides of the row (side dressing). Try one cup of ammonium sulfate or two-thirds cup of ammonium nitrate for a 35-foot row. It should be applied to:

  • Beans in the 3- to 4-leaf stage
  • Beets and carrots 4 to 6 weeks after planted
  • Eggplants, peppers and tomatoes after first fruit are one-half mature size and again every 4 weeks
  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower 3 weeks after planted and again 4 weeks later
  • Sweet corn when 8 to 12 inches tall and again when tassels are just beginning to show; cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and winter squash when plants develop vines
  • Garden peas when plants are 4 to 6 inches tall
  • Irish potatoes when sprouts begin to break ground
  • Leafy greens when 3 weeks after planted
  • Chinese cabbage and lettuce 2 weeks after transplanted
  • Okra after first harvest; onions after plants start growing and again at the 7- to 10-leaf stage

For southern peas, radishes, summer squash (when plants are 8 to 10 inches tall), and sweet potatoes,

no ammonium nitrate is needed.

Roses may need fertilizer

each month, with a ratio of 1-2-1, at the rate of two tablespoons per plant.

Lawn grass could be fertilized with one pound or less of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Too much fertilizer causes plants to grow faster. However, they will develop less fruit and become more susceptible to disease and insect problems.

Dr. Elmer Krehbiel is the former President of Keep Brazos Beautiful. See his column in The Eagle.