Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print
We’ve endured April showers (or was it snow?) so now it’s time for May flowers! Lilacs soon will perfume the air, and by month’s end vegetable seedlings will take their proper place outdoors. Weeds will be moving in, as well, and you know what that means: It’s time to get busy!
Here’s a chore or tip for every day of the month to keep your garden on track.
1. It’s World Naked Gardening Day. (Do what you will with that information.)
2. It’s time to apply mulch to beds and borders to help retain soil moisture and warmth, and suppress weeds.
3. Plant dahlia tubers outdoors when your lilacs bloom.
4. Set soaker hoses in a spiral around newly planted trees, extending out over roots as far as the canopy above.
5. If you didn’t last month, aerate the lawn now.
6. Begin planting gladiolus corms, pointy end up in full sun, 4 to 6 inches apart. Repeat weekly until mid-June for a succession of blooms.
7. Fertilize lettuce, cabbage and spinach, and apply mulch if you haven’t already.
8. Happy Mother’s Day! Plant annuals (as long as nighttime temperatures are above 55 degrees).
9. Incorporate compost into prepared vegetable beds to enrich the soil.
10. Sow seeds of summer-blooming perennials and biennials directly in the garden.
11. Plant sweet corn.
12. Pull weeds early and often. They’ll come up easier if the ground is wet so wait until after rainfall or dampen soil with a hose.
13. Check the undersides of hollyhock leaves for orange pustules, telltale signs of rust fungus. Remove affected leaves.
14. Prune gray tips from juniper branches.
15. When potato plants reach 8 inches tall, mound soil over the lowest leaves; plants will produce more from buried stems.
16. Deadhead sweet peas to keep the flowers coming.
17. Divide early spring-blooming perennials such as primroses after flowers completely fade.
18. Transplant herb seedlings outdoors. No need to fertilize.
19. Install supports for floppy, climbing and veining plants.
20. Check asparagus daily and harvest when spears are 6 inches tall, but not if plants are less than 2 years old.
21. Avoid synthetic chemicals: Deal with pests with pyrethrins, Bt, insecticidal soap or neem oil.
22. Start hardening off vegetable seedlings: Set them in shade for longer periods each day for a week before transplanting. Keep watering.
23. Fertilize potted houseplants and acclimate them for their summer outdoors just as you would vegetable plants. (See May 22.)
24. Keep African violets indoors; they have no appreciation for the garden.
25. Shear an inch off Dianthus and creeping phlox when 6 inches tall for stockier plants.
26. Transplant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and melons into the garden. Watch my planting tips here: bit.ly/1TGzhFF
27. Fertilize tulip bulbs; remove foliage only after it withers.
28. Plant cucumber and squash seedlings around a support. You also can sow seeds directly into the ground now.
29. Replace fading pansies with petunias or New Guinea impatiens.
30. It’s Memorial Day, and that means it’s time to fertilize the lawn. Use 1 pound of slow-release nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
31. Prune spring-flowering shrubs immediately after they’ve finished blooming.