May is a busy and beautiful time in the garden. Here are tasks and tips to keep you busy this month.
Early in the month
If you haven’t already gotten those warm-season vegetables in the ground, plant them now! Tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra, beans, eggplant and other favorites will get off to a fast start now that the weather is warm.
Set out bedding plants of zinnias, celosia, snapdragon, begonias, petunias, coleus – all the favorite summer annuals.
Plant plenty of basil in a sunny location to use in summer recipes. Clip and use it frequently, which allows the plants to grow sturdier. Snip off flowers as they begin to form.
Use mulch in perennial and annual beds and borders to keep weeds in check, and to retain moisture in the soil.
Here’s a reminder for mowing: set the mower to cut only about a third of the height of the grass, which results in a healthier lawn. By the way, grass clippings make good mulch, but allow them to decay before you use them on beds and borders.
If the foliage of daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs has turned brown, cut it down.
If you need to prune azaleas, do it now; don’t wait any longer, or you risk cutting off next year’s flowers, which will begin to form soon.
Watch for aphids that may cluster on tender new growth of plants. Spider mites may find your roses and other shrubs if the weather turns hot and dry. A strong spray of water from the hose every few days will help keep both under control. On roses, especially, concentrate on the undersides of leaves.
As perennials flower and fade, cut the dying blooms. This will encourage the plant to bloom longer.
There will always be unwanted plants (sometimes known as weeds). Pull or dig them out of garden beds before they form seeds. Weeds are easier to root out after watering or after a rain, when the soil is moist.
Later this month
Divide hellebores. Dig up as much of the root ball as possible and gently separate the roots. Replant right away, or share with friends (reminding them to plant as soon as possible).
Divide bearded irises after they finish blooming. Cut the leaves to about five inches, then lift the tubers with a spading fork. Separate the rhizomes and cut off damaged portions, then replant the rhizomes close to the soil surface.
Gardens and lawns need about an inch of water a week. If it doesn’t rain, use sprinklers early in the morning. Soaker hoses placed throughout garden beds are an efficient way to deliver moisture to the plants’ roots.
Container gardens dry out quickly in hot weather, so if your “garden” is a collection of pots on the deck or balcony, they need to be watered frequently.
As summer approaches, make sure spring-planted trees and shrubs continue to get enough moisture. Provide about an inch of water a week — by hose or sprinkler if it doesn’t rain.