Garden chores for month of May
|Plant some perennials, such as sunflowers, this month to attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies to your garden.
|Photo courtesy of MetroCreativeConnection|
• Deadhead spring bulbs. Do not cut back the foliage, but simply pop off any seed heads that may be forming on the stalk to redirect stored energy to the bulb for next year’s spring floral display.
• Dig up and divide all overcrowded daffodil clumps that did not produce flowers this year. Some folks wait until fall to replant these bulbs. I pop them right back in the ground in their new spots with foliage intact at the same depth they grew before. Scratch in a bit of fertilizer that is formulated specifically for spring flower bulbs at the base of the hole before placing the bulb.
• Tulips do not naturalize the way daffodils do. If your tulip garden is at the stage where it produces lots of foliage and just a blossom or two, it’s time to dig them up and discard. Use markers poked into the soil so you know where to plant new tulips come fall.
• Trim spring-flowering shrubs as soon as they are finished blooming, such as viburnum, lilac, azalea and rhododendron, among others.
• Deadhead the spent flowerheads of spring flowering perennials, such as peonies, candelabra primrose and irises, as they occur.
• Divide remaining perennials that need it now, before the weather heats up. Water well.
• Give chrysanthemums their second pinch at month’s end, removing about one-third to one-half of each stalk, depending on how tall they are growing. Apply a balanced fertilizer according to package directions.
• Weed garden beds before edging. I find the long-handled circle hoe perfect for this chore.
|Plant tomato plants on Memorial Day weekend or after, but not before.
|Photo courtesy of MetroCreativeConnection|
• Edge your garden beds before spreading mulch. Be sure your edger is freshly sharpened to make short work of this yearly task. Leave a bit of a horizontal cavity between grass and bed to provide a shallow well to hold mulch in place.
• Mulch the beds using a double-shredded hardwood mulch that preferably has not been subjected to color dyes.
• Scatter a weed seed pre-emergent product, such as Preen™, according to package directions after mulching.
• Plant dahlias, cannas and caladium now. Do not overcrowd the tubers/bulbs. Leave lots of room for roots to grow and spread. Be sure to place stakes at the same time as planting. If yours are already sprouted, be sure to keep an eye on the weather and protect the tender plants from the threat of frost as needed.
• Plant tender annual starts once all danger of frost is past, or direct sow the seed now.
• Give newly planted annuals a pinch, even if it means you will sacrifice some flower buds. Pinching now encourages more flower production later.
• Give any annuals already up and growing a pinch to help form a tidy plant. Pinch annuals that have a reputation for growing leggy, such as petunias, several times throughout the summer.
• Do not delay in getting container-grown trees and shrubs into the soil. The warm weather season is heating up fast. Water well and add a layer of moisture-preserving mulch, being careful to keep the mulch away from the trunk of the plant.
• Plant white potatoes and sweet potatoes now.
• Sow beets, carrots and radishes now.
• Wait until month’s end to plant melons, summer and winter squash and cucumbers outdoors.
• Start sowing bean seeds now in short rows and every two weeks thereafter.
• Plant tomato plants on Memorial Day weekend or after, but not before. Ditto for basil, eggplant and peppers.
• Apply a mulch to planted vegetable gardens using straw, leaf mold or other organic mulch.
• Plant some perennials this month that attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Consider one or more of the following:
√ Heuchera, more commonly known as coral bells: This plant forms tidy rounded leaves at its base and in late spring to early summer produces long lasting, graceful, airy stalks of tiny blossoms in shades of red, pink or white, depending on the cultivar. Coral bells prefer sun to partial shade and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Please note: Coral bells are shallow rooted and, therefore, subject to heaving in cold weather. They are best planted or transplanted in spring to allow the roots to settle in before cold weather. This is one perennial where the recommendation is to set the crown of the plant 1 inch below the soil level and then apply mulch.
√ Lobelia cardinalis, commonly known as cardinal flower: It blooms red summer to fall, grows 2 to 5 feet and prefers moist soil in partial shade. Especially loved by hummingbirds, it also attracts many varieties of butterflies.
√ Aquilegia canadensis, commonly known as red columbine: This blooms in spring, grows 1 to 3 feet in sun to shade and is loved by hummingbirds but also attracts a variety of butterflies.
√ Monarda didyama ‘Cambridge Scarlet,’ commonly known as red bee balm: This plant produces clusters of wide spiky scarlet flowers in mid to late summer. It’s long-blooming, grows to about 3-feet tall and prefers full sun to a bit of shade and rich, moist, well-draining soil.
√ Coreopsis verticillata, commonly known as tickseed: It has many different varieties and sizes to choose from, and butterflies love them all. A personal favorite is threadleaf coreopsis.
√ Still more butterfly, hummingbird and bee-loving perennials to add to your list: sunflowers, asters, daisies, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, butterfly weed, goldenrod, blazing stars, tall phlox, ironweed, Virginia bluebell and Joe-pye weed.
For more information, call The Ohio State University Summit County Extension Hotline Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3, and request Fact Sheet W-12-2002, “Butterfly Gardens.”
Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A. in communications and coursework in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is certified as a Master Gardener under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension.
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