Organic gardener growing food and flowers, lovin' pollinators and birds.

The Gardener's May Calendar

May rushes in with blooming tulips and daffodils. The peonies are starting to bud, the milkweed is poking up out of the ground, and the Kwanzaa cherry tree is in bloom. The seed starting is in full swing, as well as tasks such as dividing trilliums. 

Here are some items on my to-do list in the garden this month.

  • Be careful with trimming. Make sure you are not cutting off branches with bird nests when you prune (think evergreens), such as 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 or sweet peas, should be submerged in water overnight. 

  • Continue succession sowing baby greens such as lettuce, spinach and kale. (For creative ideas on how to grow, check out "Micro Food Gardening.")
  • It's time to harden off the seedlings that have been growing indoors. This includes edibles like tomatoes and peppers. When daytime temperatures stay in the 60 degree F range, move your seedlings into a protected spot in the shade.  Start with a few hours outside in the shade and bring back indoors overnight. You can gradually increase the time the plants are outside throughout the week. This process takes time but will help them get used to life outdoors,  including being exposed to stronger sunlight and wind and reducing shock. 
  • Invasive plants: Be on the lookout for invasive plants in your garden before they take hold. For me, that means I need to watch for garlic mustardEuropean celandine and wineberries. Usually they pop up around my compost pile, situated in the back corner of my property. Make sure to remove them and place them in the trash, not your compost pile. 
  • 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 continue to add compost to refresh containers (as long as the soil isn't very old) and around perennials. 
  • Enjoy the blooms: Cut your flowers and bring them indoors. When I was a child, 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. Click here to read the trick from keeping them from wilting.
  • Remember the pollinators! Here are some plants that I grow just to keep the workhorses of my garden happy

  • 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. Keeping feeders clean is essential. Also, leave out the red food dye — it's not good for the hummingbirds. I used a red ribbon (or a leftover holiday wreath bow) and attached that to the top of the hummingbird feeder to help them find it in early spring.
  • Pest control: If you have ant problems outside, 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 calm day (without wind) since you should not breathe it in.
  • Get kids involved: With summer vacation rapidly approaching, make gardening a staycation choice for younger children. Read more about the benefits here.
  • Now is the time to plant dahlias, cannas and caladium tubers in pots if you haven't already done so. They will benefit from the head start before planted in their permanent spot for the growing season. 
  • Divide large clumps of trillium to get more plants. Here's how I did it.
  • 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 garden in Central Connecticut and garden in Zone 6b. 
This post was originally published on May 4, 2021. Updated on May 14, 2024.

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