May gardening chores: A tip for every day

Christo Brock plants seedlings of mesclun mix in

Christo Brock plants seedlings of mesclun mix in his neighbor Julie Stern's organic garden. (Credit: Los Angeles / Ricardo DeAratanha)

Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more

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After months of waiting for signs of life, it's finally showtime!

Lilacs soon will perfume the air and, by month's end, vegetable seedlings will take their proper place outdoors. Weeds, too, will make themselves at home.

Naturally, this means we need to get busy, so here's a chore for every day of the month.

1. It's time to apply mulch to beds and borders.

2. Plant dahlia tubers outdoors when the lilacs bloom.

3. It's World Naked Gardening Day. Do what you will with that information.

4. Set soaker hoses in a spiral around newly planted trees, extending out over roots as far as the canopy above.

5. Plant Cinco de Mayo and other roses and have a fiesta. Mound soil at the bottom of the planting hole and spread roots over it, then bury.

6. Give cool-season vegetables like cabbage, lettuce and spinach a dose of fertilizer, and apply mulch if you haven't already.

7. If you didn't last month, aerate the lawn now.

8. Incorporate compost into prepared vegetable beds to enrich the soil.

9. Sow seeds of summer-blooming perennials and biennials directly in the garden.

10. Begin planting gladiolus: Place corms pointy end up in full sun, 4 to 6 inches apart. Repeat weekly until mid-June.

11. Happy Mother's Day! Plant annuals (as long as nighttime temperatures are above 55 degrees).

12. Plant sweet corn.

13. To make the job easier, wait until after a rainfall to pull weeds.

14. Prune gray tips from juniper branches.

15. Check the undersides of hollyhock leaves for orange pustules, telltale signs of rust fungus. Remove affected leaves.

16. When potato plants reach 8 inches tall, mound soil over the lowest leaves; plants will produce more from buried stems.

17. Deadhead sweet peas to keep the blooms coming.

18. Divide early spring-blooming perennials such as primroses after the flowers completely fade.

19. Transplant herb seedlings outdoors. No need to fertilize.

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. For bushier plants, shear an inch of Dianthus and creeping phlox when 6 inches tall.

26. It's Memorial Day -- time to fertilize the lawn. Use one pound of slow-release nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

27. Fertilize tulip bulbs; remove foliage only after it turns yellow.

28. Plant cucumber and squash seedlings around a support. You can also sow seeds directly into the ground now.

29. Replace fading pansies with New Guinea impatiens, sweet alyssum or Calibrachoa Superbells.

30. Set tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and melons into prepared beds. Add compost to planting holes, then mulch.

31. Prune spring-flowering shrubs immediately after they've finished blooming.