Planting vegetables in May — the top five recommendations, according to pro gardeners

If you're dreaming of homegrown meals this summer, planting vegetables in May can make it a reality

Vegetables in a wooden container in a garden with a rake in the background
(Image credit: Getty Images/Dougal Waters)

If you're dreaming of homegrown dishes, get the scoop on planting vegetables in May.

It could take a bit of time before your backyard feels like the produce section of the grocery store, but with the proper guidance and maintenance, you can be well on your way to garden beds of gorgeous greens. 

If you're thinking about sneaking a few eats into your small garden ideas this year, allow our experts to point you in the proper direction. 

Planting vegetables in May: gardeners' top picks

Just like figuring out what to plant in May in terms of flowers, vegetables require some planning (even if you're a self-described chaos gardener). There are factors to consider, like your current weather forecast, what type of space you have available for your project, and most importantly, what gardening zone you're in

"Always check your last frost date and reference the seed packet or plant growing tips before planting in the ground," says Sarah Menz, director of brand marketing at Rachio.

With these tips in mind, here are the vegetables that are particularly suited for unpredictable May weather — and why.

1. Eggplant

Eggplant growing on stalk

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Should you be interested in growing a kitchen garden, starting with eggplant, which doesn't let frost stand in its way, is a good choice, regardless of your skill level. 

"Plant frost-sensitive vegetables outdoors in mid-to-late May," Sarah adds. "This ensures that you’re avoiding cold weather for these more delicate plants and times their planting with the start of warmer weather, which they love."

SHOP: Bonnie Plants Black Beauty Eggplant 4-Pack from Amazon

2. Corn

Corn growing on stalk

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Not only is corn a favorite side dish on the table, but it's a favorite veggie for May planting because it can handle some of the cold that might still be getting out of Mother Nature's system, just like eggplant.

"Corn needs a soil temperature of about 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit for seeds to germinate, and typical moisture patterns in April or May can make for healthy corn growth," Sarah adds. 

SHOP: Gurney's Sweet Corn Simply Irresistible Vegetable Seed (200 Seed Packet) from Home Depot

3. Beets

Close up of beets

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Beets follow a similar pattern to its predecessors on our list, in that they don't require super-warm temperatures in order to thrive. 

"The best vegetables to plant in May are ones that can take a frost and cooler weather," John Faerber, director of horticulture for The Lake House on Canandaigua, echoes. "If you're growing vegetables in a greenhouse or indoors, be sure to put them out in the sun for a week and bring them back inside. This is called hardening off and helps prevent plants from burning in the sunlight."

But that being said, you'll still want to take precautions. You might learn it could be beneficial to wait a certain amount of time before planting beets, depending on your area.

"Always check your last frost date and reference the seed packet or plant growing tips before planting in the ground," Sarah adds. 

SHOP: Click and Grow Smart Garden Red Leaf Beet Plant Pods, 3-Pack from Amazon

4. Basil

Basil plant in pot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Monty Don has provided tips on how to grow basil to Real Homes. Now is the time to put his recommendations into action.

"Every May, I plant out my herb garden for the summer ahead," says Real Homes content director, Lucy Searle. "My favorite herb to plant in May is basil. I tend to buy a small plant from the grocery store, bring it home and repot it into a larger container. Kept in a warm spot, in well-drained soil, it will continue to grow and produce aromatic leaves for me to harvest right through till fall."

SHOP: Bonnie Plants 19 oz. Sweet Basil Herb Plant 2-Pack from Home Depot

5. Swiss chard

Close up of Swiss chard

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"The best vegetables to plant in May are ones that can take a frost and cooler weather," John notes. "The best to plant in May are peas, beets, carrots, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. All of these examples are cold-tolerant."

SHOP: Bonnie Plants 19 oz. Swiss Chard Plant (2-Pack) from Home Depot

Meet our experts

Sarah Mentz
Sarah Menz

Sarah is the director of brand marketing at Rachio, the leading smart-yard tech company at the forefront of sustainable water use. She has over 13 years of experience leading creative content development and driving strategic communications around product launches, sustainability metrics, PR, and business development in small business, IoT, A/E/C, and non-profit settings.

John Faerber
John Faerber

John is the director of horticulture for The Lake House on Canandaigua, a lakefront luxury resort located in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

Lucy Searle has written about interiors, property, and gardens for over 30 years. Lucy is now Content Director across Homes & Gardens, Woman & Home, Real Homes, and Ideal Home. Lucy is a serial renovator and also owns rental properties in the UK and Europe, bringing first-hand knowledge to the subjects she oversees.

Now matter what you're growing this season, you're going to need the proper tools. Check out some of our favorite gardening carts under $150 that will feel like lifesavers when you're digging in the dirt.

Danielle Valente
Content Editor

Pleasure to meet you! I'm Danielle, a content editor at Real Homes who loves scoping out interior trends. I've specialized in lifestyle writing and editing for 10 years with a focus on events, food, and books, among other areas. When I'm not working, I'm usually cooking, reading, or searching for a new project for my apartment.