Friday, May 1, 2009

May Gardening Chores

Spring is in full swing, and just in time for Mother’s Day, May 10! For a Mother’s Day gift that last longer than cut flowers, consider planting a tree or shrub for Mom. There are some excellent bloomers this month including: Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera): Low branched tree with white bell shaped flowers and grey striped bark; Crab Apples (Malus sp): densely branched tree blooming white, pink or red; Koreanspice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii): Mid size shrub with white blooms of the sweetest scent; Little leaf Lilac (Syringa patula “Miss Kim”): Rounded densely branching shrub with fragrant blooms, not as large or gangly as common Lilac but with an excellent fall color. Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum is also May 10th this year, call or visit their website for more information. Also, keep in mind that if you wish to avoid the crowd, the shrubs are in bloom before and after this date.

May is a glorious time in the garden and also a very busy month for garden chores; here are some tips to help keep your garden on track this month.

Prune back the winter damaged branches allowing for more sunlight and air circulation to encourage the new growth. I have seen quite a bit of “Sunburn” damage this year, especially to Rhododendrons, which may have gotten too much sun from the reflective snow cover this past winter. But by now you should see new buds and new growth on the plants, which is a sign that they will bounce back. The exception is of course plants in deep shade, which may need another week or two to show signs of life; and our garden teenagers who “sleep until noon” meaning they may not leaf out until late May or occasionally June (Clethra, Itea and Hostas to name a few).
It is also a good time to sow your annual flower seeds and vegetable seeds such as beets, carrots and radishes. Plant these seeds directly in the soil. It is also very easy to grow many herbs and veggies in pots on a Deck or in a Patio space. This close proximity to the house can make it easier to monitor their watering and possible attack from bunnies and other pests.

Consider a system for collecting and storing rainwater, which you can then use when your plants are thirsty, like those 90’ days we have experienced already this spring. The systems come in a variety of sizes, styles and complexities from a simple barrel (with lid to prevent mosquitoes and other pests) to some of the newer “rain harvesting” systems which collect, filter and store water to be used by the homeowner for watering or creating a sustainable water feature in your garden.

Fertilize bulbs blooming right now with 5-10-5 or similar fertilizer if you want them to bloom next year. Work about a teaspoon into the top of the soil around each clump. And be sure to ‘Leave the Leaves’ until they turn brown, they are still gathering energy for next year’s blooms. Some tulips were hard hit by the heat wave, this is a good reminder that even in April supplemental watering may be necessary. And with proper care these bulbs should also return next year.
Fertilize your lawn, selecting a product with at least 30% of the nitrogen in a slow release formula. Check the your lawn grass for tearing after you mow, you may need to sharpen your mower blades. Ragged cuts turn the grass tips brown a day or two after mowing and can allow diseases to enter the grasses.

And last but not least - Weed, weed, weed your garden. ‘One year of weed equals seven of seed’ if you let those annual weeds grow and set seeds you will be haunted by their offspring for years to come. Many annual weed seeds can remain dormant for years just waiting for the right time to come back and haunt you.