I'm not sure how merry the month of May is this year, but gardening goes on. This is the big planting month. Aside from providing food and beauty for …
I'm not sure how merry the month of May is this year, but gardening goes on.
This is the big planting month. Aside from providing food and beauty for us, gardening is soothing and creative, and it fulfills a need for connection and purpose. We are fortunate we have this activity to stay busy. And busy we will be in May.
As I write this, it is 28 degrees on my back porch. Fingers crossed the extra straw I put on my plants in the vegetable beds will protect them. These temperatures are not abnormal. May is a month to watch the weather, because our last frost is usually around June 1 and sometimes later. Being vigilant about overnight temperatures will protect your investment.
If you haven't yet, plant your cool weather crops, such as lettuce, Asian greens, broccoli, cabbage, kale and Swiss chard. Direct seed carrots, beets, turnips, peas and radishes.
Plant new perennials and divide older ones that are crowded before they put on a lot of new growth. Use a flat-tined pitchfork to gently separate the plants. Expand your gardens with the divisions or share with friends.
Deadhead spring flowering bulbs that have gone by, such as daffodils, crocus and tulips. Leave the foliage, which will store energy in the bulbs for next year's growth. Once the leaves have yellowed and died back, remove them. If you need to divide or move the bulbs, that's the time to dig them up, store them in a paper bag in a dry area indoors, and replant in fall.
Cut some lilacs to enjoy indoors. When the plants are done flowering, deadhead them and other spring flowering shrubs, such as forsythia. Next year's flowers will be on branches that grow this year, so removing seed heads and old growth now will encourage new growth and more blooms next spring.
Prune out dead and diseased wood and branches in the middle of the shrub to improve air circulation. Side dress with compost.
Make sure your irrigation system is in place and working properly. After planting, use mulch to conserve that precious moisture.
Keep up with weeds. They are easy to pull when small. As they get big, they steal water and nutrients from the plants you are trying to grow. Cover beds with a couple inches of mulch to smother them.
Put trellises in place for climbing plants before they put on too much growth. When they are young, it's easy to see exactly where they are, and you don't risk damaging them when they are big.
Plant summer bulbs, such as dahlias, gladiolas, canna lilies, tiger lilies and begonias. Many do well in containers. Enjoy them in the garden or use as cut flowers.
Consider perennial food crops for the future. Now is the time to plant raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and rhubarb. Make a plan to plant fruit trees in the fall.
Check ditches and fence lines frequently for wild asparagus. Harvest shoots before the tips open. Cut at the base with a sharp knife. The plants will put out shoots for several weeks, so keep going back for more.
If you haven't hung a hummingbird feeder yet, it's not too late. Make a sugar water mixture - 1 cup sugar to a quart of warm water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Fill a feeder only part way this time of year since there are not many birds right now. They return next month after mating and on their flights back south, and they will remember where the food is.
At the end of the month, plant out warm weather vegetables, herbs and flowers. Tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant and squash can be transplanted. Cover with straw, mulch or row cover if frost threatens. Direct seed beans, corn, sunflowers and more carrots, beets and turnips. Plant containers of annuals, such as snapdragons, petunias, marigolds and zinnias.
Always watch the overnight temperatures this time of year to avoid frost damage. I can't stress that enough!
Start a garden journal if you haven't already. It's easier to envision once you start planting. Map out your beds, label all plantings and make notes of varieties, how well or poorly they did, fertilizing and watering schedules, weather details and harvests. Take a lot of photos so you can make plans for next year, too.
As we move into June, chores will mostly entail watering, weeding and tending those young plants to give them a strong start for the season.
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