Gardening Checklist for May
By Jodi Torpey
If April showers bring May flowers, what else can gardeners expect this month? Warmer weather and that can’t-wait-to-get-planting feeling. The combination makes the gardening to-do list for May one of the longest lists of the season:
Here are the top to-do’s to get done in May:
Take care of roses. If you want beautiful roses in June, May is the time to get to work. Prune out dead canes and then clip roses into shape. If your garden suffered the quick freeze at the end of last season, you may find your roses have died back to the ground. If so, prune out all the dead canes and fertilize to encourage new growth.
Deadhead lilacs. After lilacs have finished blooming, clip off the dead flowers to keep the shrub from going to seed and to make room for next year’s flowers. If you missed out on having lilacs in your landscape this season, now’s the time to buy and plant lilac bushes. Even if you don’t have a large landscape, there are new, smaller varieties that will add color and fragrance in the future.
Use a soil thermometer. A soil thermometer is a good tool for knowing when the time is right to plant either cool-season or warm-season plants. Cool-season crops are ready to plant when the soil warms to about 35-40 degrees; warm-season crops (like peppers, corn and beans) prefer the soil to be a comfortable 65 to 70 degrees. Planting too soon can set back plant growth.
Clean containers. Before planting in last-season’s containers, clean them with soap, water and a stiff brush. This simple step keeps new plantings healthy and avoids spreading any insect or disease problems that may have lingered from last year.
Add color everywhere. After weather warms and the danger of frost has passed, fill containers and window boxes with your favorite annual colors and flavors. Combine flowers from the new HGTV home plant collection with culinary herb favorites for ornamental and edible containers that make the most of your garden space.
Plant for fruit. Start a mini-orchard in your landscape by planting fruit trees like apples, plums and sour cherries. There are newer varieties that are meant to fit smaller spaces, but will still produce good yields of fresh fruits
Give established perennials a boost. Dig several inches of compost around perennials and fertilize ornamental grasses. Afterwards, refresh the mulch around perennials to help conserve moisture and prevent weed growth.
Plant a perennial winner. The Perennial Plant Association named geranium Biokovo as the perennial plant of the year for 2015. This geranium is more commonly known as geranium cranesbill and its delicate white and pink flowers make for a great groundcover that pollinators like, too. Because cranesbill grows in a range of soils and light conditions, it’s no wonder it’s a blooming winner.
Keep evergreens in check. To keep evergreens from taking over the garden, pinch off the new growth as soon as it appears. Fingers are a better tool than clippers to trim off about one-third of the tight candle clusters to keep plant size manageable and to maintain its shape. Avoid using pruners because they can cut the remaining needles, turning them brown.
Rev up lawn care. Start up the sprinkler system and check to make sure it’s in tip-top shape. Fix leaks, broken sprinkler heads and other problems before the season gets in full swing. Follow the lawn watering rules for your city to reduce water waste. Mow turf using best practices for cutting only one-third of grass blades at each cutting. If you didn’t fertilize in fall, this is a good time for a light application of a slow-release fertilizer.