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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Garden Detective: May calendar of chores

All's abloom on Ocean Beach, Fire Island, in

All's abloom on Ocean Beach, Fire Island, in May. (May 31, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday/ J. Conrad Williams Jr.

May can be a tricky month: All of a sudden there's an in-your-face transition from cool to hot, and suddenly everything in the garden needs tending to all at once. You'll need to pay special attention to what you plant when and where, and what needs fertilizing or monitoring for pests. Here's a chore for every day of the month to ensure you get it all done.

1. Plant roses. Be sure to mound a bit of soil at the bottom of the planting hold and spread roots over it.

2. Got questions? Join me for my monthly live chat at noon today: newsday.com/gardendetective.

3. Work generous amounts of compost into beds to enrich the soil.

4. Set soaker hoses in a spiral around newly planted trees for deep watering directly above roots all season long.

5. Fertilize early-season vegetables like lettuce, peas, radishes and spinach, and mulch around them.

6. Want to keep pansies and sweet peas blooming? Deadhead spent flowers.

7. Sow seeds of summer-blooming perennials and biennials directly into the garden.

8. Happy Mother's Day! Moms: You get the day off. Dads: Dig those holes.

9. Plant gladiolus corms, pointy end up, 4-6 inches apart, in full sun. Plant more weekly until mid-June.

10. Visit Old Westbury, Planting Fields, Clarke, Bayard and other local public gardens to get inspiration for your own beds and borders.

11. Aerate the lawn.

12. Trim any gray or brown tips from junipers.

13. Wait until after it rains to pull weeds or soak the area first; they'll come up more easily.

14. When shopping for vegetable seedlings, seek out short and stocky plants.

15. To increase yields, hill up white potatoes when stems are 8 inches long by mounting soil around them as they grow.
 

16. If you find pests, don't reach for chemicals. Most can be controlled with pyrethrins, Bt, insecticidal soaps or neem oil. Read labels carefully.

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

18. Harvest asparagus when stalks are 6 to 8 inches long, but not if plants are in their first or second years. Leave those be.

19. Plant seedlings of herbs like thyme, sage, parsley and basil outdoors in a sunny spot. No need to fertilize.

20. Plant dahlia tubers when lilacs bloom, and set stakes into the ground. Fasten stems when they're 12 inches tall.

21. Start hardening off vegetable seedlings by increasing their outdoor exposure, in the shade, by an hour a day for a week. Keep watering.

22. Divide early spring-blooming perennials like primroses after the flowers completely fade.

23. It's safe to plant annuals as long as nighttime temperatures are above 55 degrees.

24. After hardening off, fertilize and place houseplants outdoors and they'll thrive all summer, but keep African violets indoors.

25. Got weeds? Carpet weed and sheep sorrel mean soil is too acidic. Clover points to a nitrogen deficiency; oxalis, drought; plantain, compacted soil. Have soil tested and treat accordingly.

26. For bushier plants, shear an inch off Dianthus and creeping phlox when they're 6 inches tall.

27. Remove tulip foliage only after it withers. Fertilizing the bulbs now will increase chances of a repeat performance next year.

28. Plant vegetables outdoors. Be sure to install supports around tomatoes, cucumbers and vining squash seedlings. Mulch.

29. Now that the soil has warmed up, mulch beds and borders.

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

31. Prune spring-flowering shrubs when they're finished blooming.

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