PbDToDo May

To Do in MAY:  Time to Toil in the Soil!

Finally the month of May is upon us and the gardening season is in full swing. You could work in the garden from sunup to sundown all month long and still not get everything done that you wanted to.  So here’s a list to help you prioritize.

Be ready to water as needed, especially in the vegetable garden. Most vegetables and landscape plants need an inch of water per week (either from you or Mother Nature), but seeds need more when germinating.

Get out there and plant something. This is an ideal month to start a vegetable or flower garden project. We have a long, forgiving growing season, so it’s not too late. Select easy-to-grow plants that love hot weather. Consider planting a cherry tomato in a big pot, or sowing some zinnias in a strip of sunny soil.

Mulch everywhere, from the veggie patch to the rose bushes. Only two cautions:  don’t pile it up too deeply (3-4 inches is plenty), and don’t pile mulch up against the trunks of your trees.

Turn spring compost piles. Keep adding green material (spent pansies, finished mustard greens, etc.) to the compost heap.

Sow all kinds of beans, summer squash, cukes, basil, sweet corn, warm weather greens and heat-resistant lettuce in a cool spot. Don’t forget Asian melons and veggies, including yard long beans. Transplant tomatoes, squashes, melons, watermelon and cukes.  Plant out peppers, eggplants, edamame, peanuts, peas, okra and sweet potato sets. Top-dress vegetables with an organic fertilizer, compost or well-rotted manure, and be mindful of water. Veggies don’t like stress when they are small and growing. Use Bt (bacillus thuringensis) as needed to control cabbage caterpillars on brassicas.

Prune spring bloomers as they finish blooming. Deadhead roses to encourage more blooms and apply an organic fertilizer. Watch for signs of fire blight in pears and apples, and cut off infected branches following Cooperative Extension advice, dipping your shears in bleach or alcohol between cuts. Dispose of branches by burning or bagging and tossing.   Don’t leave them on the ground or put them in the compost.

For larger fruit, thin peaches, plums, and Asian pears to 4 to 6 inches apart.

Set out transplants or sow seeds for all kinds of heat-loving annual flowers, from amaranth to zinnias. Don’t forget summer bulbs, including gladiolus, crinums and tuberoses, and foliage plants such as coleus and Caladium. Plant moonflower (Ipomoea alba), caladium, coleus, zinnia, and other heat-tolerant flowers.

Want an instant hedge that will stop traffic? Try some of the new sunflower varieties, or the Van Gogh mix from Parks Seed. Plant sunflowers in full sun.

Cool season grasses such as fescue need regular mowing and watering. Mow fescue high (3 inches tall) and it will shade out weeds. Use a mulching mower. Don’t fertilize now. Warm season grasses, including Bermuda grass and other sub-tropical grasses, will begin to grow actively. Feed with an organic fertilizer rich in nitrogen. You can mow these grasses at a lower setting.

Move indoor plants out to the porch, patio or front stoop. Fertilize them with a mild, liquid organic fertilizer.

adele, lauren, michele & kristen

About adele

Adele Medina O'Dowd is a principal of Pruning by Design and willowlandscapedesign.net. She has been designing and working in gardens professionally since 2007 and before that as a web site and interactive designer for museums. She received a certificate in landscape design in 2009 from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1988 from Washington University in St. Louis. In 2009, Adele was a featured speaker at the Chesapeake Conservation Landscape Council’s annual conference.
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