Gardening Tips for May

Monthly task lists help to grow and maintain your gardens, indoors and out.

Scan these tips from gardening expert, Melinda Myers, and follow those that apply to your particular landscape to help increase your success while making gardening easier, less stressful and fun.

• Remove only diseased, yellow or dried foliage of spring flowering bulbs.  Leave the remaining leaves intact.  These are producing the needed energy for next year’s flower display.

• Remove flowers that form on new plantings of June-bearing strawberries.  Remove all flowers that form on day-neutral and everbearing strawberries the first six to eight weeks after planting.  This allows the plant to expend energy on establishing a strong root system and hardy plant for winter survival and long-term production.

• Avoid seed corn maggot damage on corn and beans by waiting until the soil warms before planting.  Quick-germinating seeds are less susceptible to this damage.  Seed corn maggots feed on germinating seeds, preventing germination or causing deformed seedlings that never develop.

• Yellow and green striped or spotted cucumber beetles can be found on vine crops in spring or late summer.  Remove and destroy these insects as soon as they appear.  Or use one of the more eco-friendly products like Neem, if needed. The cucumber beetles not only feed on leaves and fruit, but also transmit a deadly bacterial disease to plants.

• Summering houseplants outdoors can help rejuvenate declining plants.  One of my favorite spots to summer my plants is under the filtered shade of a honeylocust or other tree that casts light shade.  The high humidity outdoors and diffuse light is perfect for reviving houseplants.

• Newly planted lawns need extra attention.  Keep the soil surface moist until the sod is well rooted or the grass seed has sprouted.

• Dig and divide your woodland wildflowers after blooming. Do this only if you have to move existing or struggling plants; otherwise, leave your wildflowers where they are happily growing.

• Watch for columbine sawfly.  This wormlike insect eats holes in the leaves so quickly that it seems to devour the plants overnight.  Remove and destroy any that are found.  You can use eco-friendly products labeled for controlling sawflies on perennials.  Read and follow all label directions carefully.

• Thin garden phlox, bee balm and other powdery mildew susceptible plants when stems are 8 inches tall.  Remove ¼ to 1/3 of the stems.  This will increase light and air to the plant, decreasing the risk of powdery mildew.

• Whether planting a balled-and-burlapped or container grown trees and shrubs, dig the planting hole twice the diameter and the same depth or shallower than the rootball.  Roughen the sides of the planting hole, using your shovel or garden rake to nick or scratch the soil surface.

• Proper soil preparation is critical in planting success.  Add organic matter and fertilizer to the top 6 to 12 inches of garden soil.  Rake smooth and allow the soil to settle.

• Remove flowers and cut back leggy annuals and perennials at the time of planting.  This encourages root development, branching and better looking, healthier plants in the long run.

• Incorporate a slow-release granular or pelletized fertilizer into the potting mix of containers gardens.  A small amount of the fertilizer will be released every time you water over the next several months.  This constant feeding is good for the plants and you, as it saves you some work!

• Harden off transplants before moving them from indoors or a greenhouse to the outdoors.  Allow two weeks to complete this process.

• Cover broccoli, cabbage, turnips and radishes with one of the season-extending fabrics.  These floating row covers create a barrier, preventing harmful insects, including cabbage worms from reaching the plants.

• Smaller tropical houseplants, such as Rex begonias and ferns make great companions for more traditional annuals and perennials.

 • This is the second best time to seed or overseed your lawn.  Proper soil preparation is the key to creating a healthy lawn that can withstand pests and challenging weather.

• Late May or early June is the first time to fertilize your lawn. Consider using a low-nitrogen slow-release fertilizer to reduce the risk of burn on non irrigated lawns.

• Dig and divide overgrown perennials.  Spring is the best time to divide summer and fall blooming perennials.  Wait until after flowering or late August to divide spring-flowering perennials.

• Black spot is one of the most common and most serious fungal diseases on roses.  It causes black spots and yellowing of leaves.  Once a plant is infected, it is likely to develop the disease in the future.  Remove infected and fallen leaves as you see them throughout the season.

• Treat mugo and other pines infested with pine needle scale.  Timing is critical for successful control.

• Watch for signs of deer, rabbits and woodchucks.  These animals appreciate a few fresh greens – your new transplants – in their diets.  Repellents applied before they start feeding may give you control.  Fencing small garden areas may help keep out the deer, as they do not seem to like to feed in small, fenced-in areas.  A 4-foot fence anchored in the ground will help keep rabbits out.  Fencing may not be the most attractive remedy, but it beats having no flowers at all.

• Plant gladiolus corms every two weeks from mid-May through June.  This will extend the bloom time throughout the summer.  Plant full-size, healthy corms 4 inches deep and 9 inches apart.

• Replenish woodchip and bark mulch around fruit trees, shrubs and grape vines.  Add shredded leaves or similar material to raspberry and strawberry plantings.

• Consider planting containers filled with herbs and vegetables.  It is a great way to maximize planting space and extend the growing season.

• Harvest Asparagus when the spears are 6 to 8 inches long.  Break or cut them just below the soil surface.  Do not harvest new plantings.  Harvest three-year-old plantings for only four weeks.  Harvest four-year and older plantings for six to eight weeks.

• Sow seeds of lima beans, cucumber, melons and squash when the soil has warmed.  Select shorter season varieties of squash and melons that will reach maturity and be ready for harvest before the first frost.

• Plan for new additions to the outdoor patio garden.  Tropicals are quite popular and readily available.  Bougainvillea, oleander, hibiscus and other tropicals can add beauty to the landscape.

• May when the lawn is actively growing, is the second-best time to control thatch and soil compaction.  (The best time is fall.)  Thatch is a brown, spongy layer of partially decomposed grass.  Thick layers prevent water and nutrients from reaching the grass roots.  Dethatching physically removes this layer of organic matter.  Core aeration removes plugs of soil, allowing the thatch to break down.  The openings also help repair soil compactions.

• Save yourself the headaches and frustration caused by accidentally removing butterfly weed, balloon flower, hardy hibiscus and other late-emerging perennials by making a note to mark their spot with spring-flowering bulbs.  Next fall, plant bulbs next to these plants.  As the bulbs fade in spring, the perennials will begin to grow.  You will get twice the beauty and less risk of digging up your perennials.

• Put stakes, peony cages and trellises in place.  It is always easier to train young plants through the cages or onto the stakes than manipulate mature plants into submission.

•Prune spring-flowering shrubs as soon as they are done blooming.  Finish pruning by early June so that the plants have enough time to set flower buds for next spring.

 Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s monthly gardening tips with you!