A GROWING CONCERN: Thirteen things to do in May

MY FAVORITE TIME of year is upon us: May.

I love this month, especially the first day — though I don’t quite know why.

The beginning of May is the start of the mid-trimester of spring.

Without question, you can call it one of a gardener’s busiest times of the year.

So let’s dive right into your 13 jobs that must be completed by the beginning of late spring, May 29.

1. Spring flowering bulb care

This is one of the most important times of the year for your spring bulb program.

As the flowers fade, cut them away to direct energy to even more abundant and larger blooms next year.

Gradually cut away foliage as it dies. In daffodils, cut away half the leaves when they get spindly. Cut the rest to ground level May 29th.

Make sure to cultivate and weed soil; then add lime and fertilizer.

Treat the leaves of your precious plant until they fully deteriorate away.

Keep bulb plants moist and foliar feed them.

2. Soil care

If you have not done so, make sure to prepare your beds now.

Pour on three or four of the following additives: Peat moss, perlite, compost, manure, vermiculite, sand or black dirt.

Then till the soil thoroughly to a depth of at least 8 inches.

Mound, angle or tilt your flower beds towards the direction they will be viewed from to dramatically increase the visual surface.

Finish off with a nice edge and a germination inhibitor.

3. Lawn care

If it has been at least 3 months, lime and fertilize your lawn again using fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio, begin mowing every 5 to 7 days and raise your mower blade to a 3 inch to 3 ½ inch setting.

This is the ideal time to sharpen your blades, check oil, plugs and filters, tighten all bolts and then squirt the parts with WD-40.

Remember the mower will soon be your No.1 garden tool.

4. Tools and care

With a verity of jobs coming up, check your tool inventory. Sharpen the shovel, hoe, mattox and pruning devices.

Rub oil on all soil working tools so mud and debris won’t stick to them.

Tighten bolts, add new screws to more securely hold handles in place and replace worn out handles or tools.

Definitely buy a new ergonomic cultivator, trowel or rake.

Consider the ideally suited mini-cultivator. I just saw a very nice one on sale locally.

Whatever you do, buy, fix or lubricate those in-demand tools today.

5. Water and irrigation

Repair old hoses by fixing their leaks and hardware, or just replace them with 100-foot rubber, non-kinking, professional hoses.

Get a good water breaker and wand for easy work.

Turn off and inspect your irrigation system and watch out for new growth deflecting the spray.

Get a good rain gauge for proper measurement of water amount.

6. Blooming shrub and tree care

As soon as the flowers fade on your rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, forsythia, heather, magnolias, daphne or any other spring blooming hardwood, deadhead those plants by removing the spent flowers.

By cutting off all the old flowers and performing any shape pruning immediately after flowering, the plant will direct all of it’s energy to making more buds for the next year.

Also many of these plants set their buds very quickly, meaning a later prune will cut away next year’s blooms.

As always, cultivate the soil around the plant, weed, fertilize, mulch and water well for a dynamite next year.

7. Purchase an intriguing plant

Travel around to a few nurseries and outlets and see the new products and varieties.

Think of these descriptions when choosing the perfect specimen plant: textured, mounding, creeping, twisted or upright.

8. Find a stand-out hardscape element

Since you’re out anyway, check out the vendors, your friend’s beach or the woods to find a stunning piece of wood, rock, stump, statue, sundial, boulder or log.

Then after legally acquiring the item, place it with that just purchased plant to create a dynamic setting in your yard.

Fill around your new showpiece with bright summer flowers, no marigold, zinnias, geraniums, coleus, salvia or impatiens yet.

9. Roses

Be on the watch for anything dangerous: aphids, black spot, rust, deer or the neighbors.

Early detection of problems and quick response is the key to great roses.

Strip away any ill-looking leaves and keep the roses moist and well fed.

Always prune correctly when taking flowers — down to at least the first true leaf, which has five leaflets in the cluster.

Also weed and mulch your roses well.

10. Veggies

Get in the swing of sowing crops every few days. Radishes, lettuce, beans, green and onions can be sown every two weeks and planted between rows of items that take longer to mature.

Keep tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squashes all indoors until at least mid-May.

I prefer June 1, because the soil is too cold before then.

Keep sowing transplants of broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprout, cauliflower and kohlrabi to replace the other plants when harvested.

Make sure your soil is rich in organic material and add 50 pounds of lime per 1000 square feet.

11. Perennials

Go out and buy them now because the selection is huge and prices are marked to move.

Gingerly cultivate around established perennials as they emerge, and pull away soil or mulch that may be smothering them.

Remove any and all old leaves and decaying material before disease sets in.

Finally, be on the lookout for bugs and slugs, which will ruin lilies, hostas, dahlias, etc.

12. Containers and flower boxes

Get those containers out. Remove the old soil and till it into the garden.

Unplug the drain holes, add expensive professional grade new soil — it makes all the difference. Then plant ‘em up.

Move these items in and out of doors as weather permits.

This way you will have wonderful, mature looking pots by Memorial Day.

13. Baskets and hanging baskets

Get one for your house and whatever you do, get one for your mom because Mother’s Day is only two weeks from now.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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