Northeast Planting Tips – What To Plant In May Gardens

Hands Planting Plants Into The Garden
(Image credit: YuriyS)

There should be some sort of national celebration when May comes around. May in much of North America is the perfect time to really get out those veggies and anything else you feel like planting. New England and other parts of the northeast should be able to plant anything that can handle a light frost. A few northeast planting tips will help get your garden off to a great start, while preventing early losses if a late freeze happens to occur. 

Regional gardening varies from state to state. The U.S. is divided up rather informally into regions and sub-regions which can help simplify gardening rules. May planting in the northeast follows different rules than other locations because its climate and seasonal warm up are at odds with much of the country. But May still signals the beginning of the gardening season and there's a lot to do to get ready. 

May Planting in the Northeast

Sharpen your pruners, get out your shovels, and be prepared to combat weeds, because May is coming. May is the perfect time to plant most trees and shrubs, so take advantage of those nursery sales. Before planting, test soil to see if it will need any amendments. Begin pulling mulch away from emerging perennials. If you don't have any mulch in your beds, it's a great time to lay some. The layer will help reduce weeds, conserve moisture, and keep plant roots cool in summer. The warming temperatures means it's a great time to start a compost pile. You can use the resulting compost in containers or around bedded plants. 

What to Plant in May

Since it's time to plant, you need to know what to plant in May. The options are nearly endless, but be cautious of anything that is considered tender. If you are very northern, or at a higher elevation, it will be best to wait until June for things that can be killed with frost. However, you can direct-sow plenty of crops. May planting in the northeast should include:

  • carrots
  • Swiss chard
  • snow and sugar snap beans
  • spinach
  • beans
  • kale
  • pumpkin and squashes
  • lettuces and other greens
  • radish
  • beets

If you started veggies indoors, harden them off and get them in the ground.

  • cucumber
  • melon
  • parsley
  • kohlrabi
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • celery

Northeast Planting Tips

Outside of starting the vegetable garden there are several other tasks. A couple of un-fun ones are weeding and thinning out crops. Neither is fun but both are necessary. 

Also, stake up leggy bloomers, like delphinium and peonies. Divide any perennials that are starting to die out in the center or that aren't producing well. Pinch emerging plants that get floppy, such as phlox and chrysanthemum. Make sure your established plants have a dose of fertilizer; a nice time release will feed them all season. If you aren't getting much rain, remember to water. If you haven't already, apply a weed and feed to the lawn, seed any areas that need it, and begin a mowing regimen that will last until you see frost.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.