The Gardener's May Calendar - 2016

I sat down to write this month's garden chores and I already got that sense of panic in my chest. There's so much to do. There's so little time. I have a full-time job and I go to school part-time. I volunteer on the weekends.

When, oh when, will I actually have time to garden?

Does this sound like you, too? Maybe you're not going to school part-time but you have children to take care of at home. Or an elderly parent. Let's face it - today's gardeners have a lot on their plates, and having a beautiful garden shouldn't be regulated as a chore or an activity there is rarely time for.

That's why I decided to restructure the way I write garden chores. There are now three categories: Main priority; This would be nice; and If all the stars align. That way if you are pressed for your time, the main garden priorities are taken care of.

Let's begin!

  • Assessing the damage: Once again, I noticed my hydrangeas and butterfly bushes did not fair well over the winter due to our deep cold spell. This is the second year in a row this has happened for me, which means I should probably consider switching my hydrangeas out for varieties that bloom on new wood only. Any hydrangeas that make buds on old wood will likely not flower again this year. To check that the stems really are dead, scratch the stems and see if it is green underneath. If not, cut it off. I'll be trimming mine back to the ground. And don't even ask me about my beach plums. They look dreadful.
  • Be careful with trimming. Make sure that there are no bird nests being damaged when you prune. Look out for tiny ones, like hummingbird nests (as shown in this photo shared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Facebook).
  • Start seeds! I start warm season flowers like zinnias, tithonia, calendula, cosmos and marigolds now. Flowering vines such as morning glories can also be started (soak the seeds overnight). It's time to harden off the seedlings that have been growing indoors.
  • Invasives: Be on the lookout for invasive plants in your garden before they take hold. For me, that means I need to watch for garlic mustard, European celandine and wineberries. Usually they pop up around my compost pile, situated in the back corner of my property. Here is a resource for invasives in the Northeast region of the U.S.
  • Bulbs: Trim off spent blossoms so the bulbs do not waste time in producing seeds. Do not remove the leaves - this is the plant's source of energy for next year. Even though they become unsightly, leave them in place until they wither away.
  • Fertilizer: It's time to fertilize fruit trees and roses. You can fertilize container plants "weakly at half strength since it leaches out of containers quickly.
  • I smash the stems of lilacs
    to make them lastlonger in the vase.
  • Enjoy the blooms: Cut your flowers and bring them indoors. When I was a kid, my grandfather would cut his lilacs for Mother's Day and put them in vases for my mother to take home. Now whenever I see them in bloom, I think of him and her and that lovely Mother's Day tradition. The trick to keeping them from wilting is to smash the ends of the stems with a hammer so the water can be drawn up. This can also be done with pruners if you don't have a hammer at the ready. Instead of lilacs maybe you grow tulips or daffodils. Whatever it is, bring some inside to enjoy the show.

  • Hummingbirds: Lure them to your garden by setting up feeders and offering plants they like. For options read this story I wrote with suggested plants from one of my local plant nurseries. For food in the feeders, I boil 4 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar together, then let it cool before I put it outside. Make sure you are good about changing the solution so it doesn't grow black mold and poison the hummingbirds.
  • Pest Control: If you have ant problems, try using diatomaceous earth. When the bugs walk through it, it gets stuck to them and causes them to dehydrate and die. It's way safer than baited ant traps. Be sure to apply it on a day without a lot of wind since you shouldn't breathe it in.

  • Mulch: Order it in bulk! Who wants to drive home bags of mulch anyway? It's usually cheaper when you have it delivered. And stay away from the dyed colored mulch. That is so not earth-friendly.


I live in Central Connecticut and garden in Zone 6b.


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