What to Do in May Gardening
MAY is the joyous month of the year, when old and young are working in their gardens. Perennials are now coming into bloom, but the various bulbous flowers are putting forth every effort to distract our attention from their fair sisters. The unwise annuals are growing, preparing for their profusion of bloom, overlooking the fact that other plants are conserving some strength for another year; The wildflowers of the woods are hastening to bloom for fear they will not complete their duties before the leaves of the trees shade them.
Parrot Tulips, with their brilliant red-and-yellow blooms and their peculiar petals, never fail to attract attention.
Dwarf Iris are in full bloom. Remember that you can get them in practically all the colors worn by their taller cousins, the German Iris. The Dwarf Iris are a much neglected but deserving group of plants.
Dahlias, either from cuttings or tubers, may be planted as soon as all danger of frost is past. All dahlias prefer a fairly loose, well-cultivated soil. Be sure to train them to a single stem.
Peatmoss comes in alkaline as well as acid forms, altho the acid is the most common. It may be well to ascertain which you are getting, especially if you are using it for rhododendrons and other acid-soil plants.
Staking is important for many tall-growing flowers, such as delphinium and Helenium, and for vegetables, such as tomatoes. Order these stakes early and place them before the plants start to break in the wind. Do not tie the stems too tightly to the stakes or they will be injured when they enlarge thru growth.
It is much better to make the initial tie upon the stake and then tie the plant to it. This prevents slipping of the plant, and also allows one to more gracefully arrange the shoots.
Bedding Plants. It is now safe to set out plants purchased from nursery, such as verbenas, geraniums, and coleus, and all other bedding plants.
Evergreens that are balled and burlapped can be planted before they start into active growth.
Thinning. Sweet Peas often sprout up too thickly, and better results will follow thinning them so that they are 6 or 8 inches apart in the row. This also applies to most of the annuals which we sowed earlier, most of which will produce splendid symmetrical plants if they are given sufficient space;
for example, Sweet Alyssum, zinnias, marigolds, poppies, and phlox should be at least 1 foot apart, altho for most of them 2 feet would cause still better specimen plants. Cosmos should be planted 3 feet apart. A good symmetrical plant is more beautiful than an overcrowded, leggy specimen.
Lawns. In starting to mow the lawn, be sure that it is not cut too short, as it is well to allow the grass to make sufficient growth to manufacture its food.
Roses. Begin spraying roses with a bordeaux-mixture or dust.
Biennials are plants that live two years. The seed is sown one year and the plants bloom the next, after which they die. Now is the time to sow the seeds of such common biennials as Canterbury-bells, foxgloves, and hollyhocks. They will not bloom this year but will make big, strong plants.
House plants will be much better off for the summer if the pots are buried in the ground so the surface of the soil is even with the top of the pot. They should be placed on the north side of the house beneath a tree.
Broadleaf evergreens, such as the rhododendron, mountain-laurel, and Andromeda, should be liberally mulched with peatmoss or leafmold.
The bagworm is becoming more serious each year because of lack of any great effort to control it. Spraying as soon as the insect begins feeding will soon effect control. It helps a great deal to hand-pick these bagworms unless the trees are too tall.
Tender waterlilies may be placed in the pools.
Fish should be put in every lily pool as soon as possible to catch the early crop of mosquitoes.
Red spider, which is injurious to many plants, especially to arborvitae, may be controlled.
Most annual flowers may still be sown this month. Even the tenderest annuals can be sown after May 15.
The West Coast
Plant chrysanthemums now to
replace beds of annuals which are thru their best bloom.
Seeds. Continue to sow vegetable seeds and annuals in open ground.
Garden and the Lawn. The long dry spell is about due, so keep up watering the garden and lawn. Also keep up cultivating.
Tithonias, sometimes called Mexican-sunflower, grow 5 to 6 feet tall, and the plants bear bright orange-red, daisylike flowers. The seeds are sown this month. They will flower nicely in the summer.
Tropical Plants. Evergreen shrubs may be planted this month, also various tropical plants, such as paperplant (Papyrus), bamboo, elephants-ear, and bird-of-paradise-flower.
Propagate from cuttings the succulents, such as cactus, Aloe, Crassula, Echeveria, Sedum, and Mesembryan-themum.
Bulbs. Take up such bulbs as have ripened their foliage, especially after the clumps are becoming crowded. They may be stored in ordinary paper sacks or in dry buckwheat hulls or peatmoss. Freesias should be kept dry all summer otherwise they should be dug.
Insects. Aphids, thrips, and red spiders are abundant this month.
In the Gulf states May is for many gardeners largely a maintenance month, when, except for cultivation and other care, one can relax a bit.
Move palms, especially large ones, late this month or early next, about the time the rains set in. Fertilize with organic plant food.
Make cuttings of chrysanthemums and root in sand.
Plants of tropical waterlilies are available.
Shrubs. As soon as the shrubs have finished bloom, they may be given a thoro pruning to induce a growth of good strong branches for next year’s bloom.
Annuals. To replace some of the early annuals which have passed, plant Torenias, Vincas, petunias, and various semi-tropical foliage plants.
Oleander is easily grown from cuttings, rooted in sand, or even in water. These cuttings should be made from the mature wood. The Oleander should never be partially cut back, but should have the old canes cut out clear to the ground.
Peatmoss makes an unusually good summer mulch. A layer of 1/2– to 1-inch thick should be placed over all the flower beds and about newly planted shrubs.
Pests. The annual battle against the bugs and weeds is first to order up the reserves. We must lay down a barrage of spraying, dusting, watering, and cultivating.
Transplant shortly after a good rain and shade for a few days.
Cabbage Worms. Watch cabbage plants for the green cabbage worm. Control by dusting once a week or after each rain.
Cucumber Beetle. Dust your cantaloupes and cucumbers, to control the cucumber beetle.
Iris can be dug, divided, and reset any time after blooming is over, up to October.
Plant Food. Give established lawns, perennials, and roses an application of plant food.
After tulips are thru blooming, cut off bloom stalks to prevent spread of disease.
Grass clippings left on the lawn are the best and cheapest way to return organic matter to the soil.
When sweet-williams are thru blooming pull out and fill in their places with potted or thrifty seedling annuals. Chrysanthemums, snapdragons, and China-asters are good.
The West Coast
Watsonia. After leaves of Watsonia have turned brown, cut the stems to the ground.
Mulch. Give chrysanthemum beds a good mulch of rotted manure or peatmoss. Many other plants thrive if mulched.
Bearded Iris. Divide at once or else wait until fall.
European Catnip. Cut back plants of European Catnip (Nepeta mussini) to get another crop of bloom.
Seeds of vegetables as well as some annual flowers can still be sown, including calendula, candytuft, late cosmos, African Marigold, nasturtiums, portulaca, salpiglossis, and vines.
Bulbs. When clumps of bulbs begin to crowd and the leaves are brown and died down, they may be dug.
Weeds. Killing weeds this month will conserve the moisture for the plants as well as serve as an excellent method of cultivation; in fact, some say that the value of cultivation is to kill the weeds, which rob the legitimate supply of moisture and food.
Cuttings. Many of the rock plants propagate very nicely by cuttings at this time of year.