ANDREW MAY: Here’s a baker’s dozen ways to prettify your yard

HERE WE ARE in the first weekend of my favorite month. (It just sounds so good!)

Since this is the month for flowers (think April showers), how about a baker’s dozen to-do list for the month of May?

1. Baskets, baskets and more baskets.

One of the easiest ways to bring Victorian charm to any home or yard is to display hanging baskets.

Also, what a perfect Mother’s Day present next Sunday. You could even drive around after brunch and let her pick one out.

Make sure to water them daily, as they are prone to “drying out,” and fertilize them each month.

2. Containers and flower boxes.

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

Unplug the drain holes, add expensive professional-grade new soil — it makes the difference — and 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.

You can also purchase ready-to-go containers at all plant vendor outlets.

3. Soil care.

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

Pour three or four in 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 toward the direction they will be viewed from to dramatically increase the visual surface.

Finish off with a nice edge and a germination inhibitor.

4. Roses.

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

Early detection of problems and quick response are the keys to great roses.

Strip away any ill-looking leaves and keep roses moist and well-fed. Always prune correctly when taking flowers — down to at least the first true leaf, which has five leaflets in a cluster.

Also, weed and mulch your roses well.

5. 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 29.

Make sure to cultivate and weed soil, then add lime and fertilizer. Treat the leaves as your most precious plant until they fully deteriorate.

Keep bulb plants and foliar-feed them

6. Blooming shrub and tree care.

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

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

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

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

7. Veggies.

Get in the swing of sowing crops every few days.

Radishes, lettuces, beans, greens and onions can be sown every two weeks and planted between rows of items that take longer to mature.

Keep tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash all indoors until at least the end of May (I prefer June 10 because the soil is too cold before then).

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

Make sure your soil is rich in organic material and 50 pounds of lime per 1,000 square feet.

8. Find a standout hardscape element.

Since you’re out anyway, check out the vendors, your friends’ 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 all those just-purchased plants 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. Tools and care.

With a verity of jobs coming up, check your tool inventory. Sharpen the shovel, hoe, mattocks 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 any old, worn-out handles or tools.

Definitely buy a new ergonomic cultivator, trowel or rake. And consider the ideally suited mini-tiller. I just saw a very nice one on sale locally.

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

10. Lawn care.

If it has been at least three months, lime and fertilize your lawn again using lawn fertilizer with a 3-1-2 ratio, begin mowing every five to seven days and raise your mower blade to a 3- to 3½-inch setting.

This is the ideal time to sharpen the blade; check oil, plugs and filters; and tighten all nuts and bolts.

11. Purchase an intriguing plant.

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

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

12. 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. (Dramm is the best brand, in my opinion.)

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.

13. 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 leaves and decaying materials before disease sets in.

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


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@peninsula (subject line: Andrew May).

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