May is for planting plants we love — annuals, perennials, vegetables and herbs — and removing those we don’t (weeds, weeds and more weeds). It’s also for lilacs, mulch, seeds and compost. As the days get longer and warmer, the garden gets better and better. Here’s a chore or tip for each day this month to ensure a season of beauty ahead.
1. Incorporate generous helpings of compost into prepared beds, and spread around established plants to improve drainage and add nutrients.
2. It’s World Naked Gardening Day. Do what you will with that information — as long as you have a high fence.
3. Apply mulch around cabbage, lettuce and spinach growing outdoors, then fertilize.
4. Aerate the lawn, but don’t fertilize yet.
5. Weed and edge perennial beds and borders.
6. Plant perennials.
7. Spiral a soaker hose over the root zone of newly planted trees and water deeply.
8. Inspect junipers for gray branch tips; prune them off.
9. Sow blooming perennial and biennial seeds directly into the garden.
10. If you want to be the favorite, weed for Mom today.
11. Plant roses. Be sure to spread roots out at the bottom of planting holes before backfilling.
12. Inspect hollyhocks for signs of rust fungus — orange pustules on the undersides of leaves. Remove and discard affected foliage.
13. Plant corn in the garden.
14. Plant herb seedlings in the garden. No need to fertilize.
15. For a succession of blooms, plant gladiolus now and again every week until mid-June (corms should go in pointy end up, 4 to 6 inches apart in full sun).
16. Allow tulip foliage to remain until it turns brown, then remove and fertilize plants to aid next year’s blooms.
17. Make natural air freshener by clipping lilac stems and placing them in a vase indoors. When the buds open, you won’t believe your nose.
18. Shear an inch off Dianthus and creeping phlox when each is 6 inches tall, and you’ll be rewarded with fuller plants.
19. Give vegetable seedlings incrementally more time in a shaded outdoor spot — increasing by an hour daily for a week before tucking them into their beds for good.
20. If houseplants will be summering outdoors, acclimate them in the same manner as vegetable seedlings (see May 19).
21. Harvest asparagus when spears are 6 inches tall — except if plants are less than two years old (if so, no harvesting this year)
22. Keep African violets indoors — they don’t adapt well to new conditions.
23. Plant annuals outdoors as long as nighttime temperatures are above 55.
24. Set tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and melons into prepared beds.
25. It’s Memorial Day: Time to fertilize the lawn (apply a pound of slow-release nitrogen per 1,000 square feet).
26. Plant squash and cucumbers, seeds or seedlings, into the garden. Install a support for them so you don’t disturb roots later.
27. Apply compost and mulch to newly planted vegetables.
28. When lilacs bloom outdoors, it’s time to plant dahlia tubers.
29. Clean and store bird feeders.
30. Avoid synthetic chemicals in the garden. Address infestations with pyrethrins, Bt, insecticidal soap or neem oil.
31. Prune spring-blooming shrubs as soon as the blossoms fade.