May Gardening Checklist
The May home garden
Spring is in full swing. The weather is mild enough now in almost all areas of the country to get everything but the tenderest perennials and annuals into the ground. It's a busy month, so a little organization goes a long, long way.
- Start with your tools. Use the right tool for the job and make sure each is in top working condition. A sharp edger makes short work of edging walkways and borders, whereas a dull one can double your time and make it look like a boy with a bad haircut.
- Stake your flowers now. They will be much easier to train.
- Weed now to eliminate an abundant crop of weeds later. Use a solution of scalding water and vinegar to kill many down to the roots.
- Transplant on cloudy days and make sure you keep the delicate exposed roots of your seedlings and plants protected from drying out.
- Harvest some of your well rotted compost to make high grade soil for your transplants. Alternately, check out the compost teas at your nursery and give a good bit to your young plants after transplanting. Use it immediately. It doesn't keep.
- If you see pests on shrubs or plants, eliminate them now. If you aren't familiar with the bug you see, take it to the nursery. Most of your local nurseries have excellent staff who've probably seen it before. Ask for organic or sustainable treatments
though. Don't kill your pests by killing the planet.
- Treat your lawn now for lush, healthy growth all summer. Overseed patchy spots and mow high to give new grass a chance to get established. Or consider reducing the size of your lawn and replacing lawn space with a combination of flowers and vegetables.
Then love the lawn that's left. Lawns should be mowed at 3 inches high after the middle of the month.
- Repot indoor plants and set outdoors to enjoy the summer. Most plants will flourish as long as they are in partial most of the day. Keep an eye on them. You don't want them to get sunburnt. They'll need more water and fertilizer too.
- Geraniums that weathered the winter indoors need to be cut back and repotted with new soil or have some good compost worked in.
- Put markers out for your plants. Often, late maturing plants are forgotten and dug up inadvertently which can sometimes destroy them. After you've planted a few dozen varieties, it's helpful to have the names right there, and gratifying when your
- Tender annuals can be direct sown now, but don't delay. Try your hand this year at impatiens or gaillardia from seed. Definitely sow abundant amounts of zinnia seed of several varieties for bright color in the late summer. Asters are wonderful too
and make great, long lasting cut flowers.
- Plant some viney things. Scarlet runner beans are always pretty and gourds, if trained, are lots of fun and create interesting fruits.
- Plan successive sowings of alyssum, cornflower, coreopsis, candytuft, forget-me-nots, love-in-a-mist, poppies, and phlox for continuous bloom through the summer.
- Plan to add edging plants to borders and walkways. Good annuals include ageratum, alyssum, dusty miller, petunias, lobelia, phlox, portulaca, marigolds, nasturiums, pansies, and verbena.
- Attend to your window boxes and planters. Mix flowers, herbs, and a little ivy for a beautiful display.
- Where sowing seeds doesn't work, buy flats of young plants for quick color. Ensure stocky growth in your transplants by removing the center leaves and buds when plants are about six inches tall. Calendula, ageratum, smapdragons, stock, marigolds,
phlox, alyssum, and petunias all benefit from this treatment. Leave poppies, asters, and nicotiana alone though.
- Buds on peonies are forming this month, so supplement water if necessary. Stake them before the buds get too heavy.
- Plant dahlias and stake as you go to avoid damaging roots systems later.
- Columbine is supposedly a perennial, but don't be discouraged if it fails after the first year. Try sowing it from seed and keep young plants in your seed bed to replenish your aquilegias.
- Plant lupine now, particularly near delphinium, for a beautiful show later in the summer.
- Stake delphinium, larkspur, hollyhocks, foxgloves, and glads to keep them upright as they grow.
- Begin cutting and deadheading as soon as blossoming begins. For late blooming bulbs be sure to take off the bloom and leave plenty of leaf so the bulb can store energy for next season.
- Add mulch to beds to conserve moisture and retard weeds.
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