• Cantaloupe, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, tomatoes, peppers, snap beans, lima beans, summer squash, sweet potato slips, muskmelon and watermelon.
• Continue to sod or sprig Bermuda, St. Augustine, Centipede, and Zoysia now if you need to repair or establish a lawn. Zoysia, St. Augustine, and Bermuda prefer a fertilizer high in nitrogen, but Centipede needs one low in nitrogen.
• May is also a good month to fill in the bare spots of a seeded lawn by slightly loosening the surface of the soil and sowing a good quality lawn seed over the area evenly. Tamp the seed in gently and water. Mow high to give new grass a chance to get established.
• It is not too late to sow directly into the soil seeds of sunflower, morning glory, cosmos, periwinkles and gourds.
• Definitely sow abundant amounts of zinnia seed of several varieties for bright color all summer. Asters are wonderful too and make great, long lasting cut flowers.
• Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) can be sown now to provide cut flowers later in the season. These richly colored bloomers, 4 to 6 feet tall, love the heat and sunshine.
• Try some night blooming annuals: moonflower vine, angel’s trumpet, night phlox, night-scented stock and four-o’clocks.
• The seeds of scented summer sweet peas can also be sown outside where you wish them to flower.
• Put Bonnie impatiens in shady areas. Begonias, coleus, ageratum, salvia and vinca can be planted in light shade (5 to 6 hours of sunlight).
• Buy flats of Bonnie plants for quick color. Good Bonnie annuals include coleus, celosia, dusty miller, petunias, Mexican heather, salvia, portulaca, marigolds, and verbena. Be sure to water transplants adequately until roots become established.
• If you wish to attract butterflies, add plants that will provide lots of nectar, such as butterfly bush, lantana, coneflower, and summer phlox. Also include host plants for caterpillars to feed on. Choices include parsley, dill, and milkweed.
• Perennial color can easily be achieved by adding daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) to your garden this month. Select them now while they are blooming so you can choose the colors, sizes, and flower forms you prefer. Plant in a location that gets at least six hours of full sun a day. Daylilies are not too picky about soil, as long as the area has good drainage. Once established, daylilies will provide carefree, reliable color for years.
• Chrysanthemums for fall color.
• Mix flowers, herbs, and a little ivy for a beautiful window box display.
• Overplant bulb beds with annuals from seed or transplant. (Be careful not to injure the bulbs.)
• Gladiolas bulbs may be planted at 2 week increments until the first of July to provide you with cut flowers until the first frost. Gladiolus grows best in well-drained soil where they are protected from the wind.
• Caladiums can still be planted (soil temperature needs to be above 70°F) in a shady to partially shady spot.
• Dig and divide any crowded spring bulbs once bulbs have matured and the foliage has browned. Thinning is needed every three to four years to produce large, plentiful blooms. Replant immediately in prepared soils or share with friends who have garden space.
• Transplant on cloudy days and make sure you keep the delicate exposed roots of your seedlings and plants protected from drying out.
• Geraniums that weathered the winter indoors need to be cut back and repotted with new soil or have some good compost worked in.
• Divide and repot crowded houseplants that have formed many new stems from crowns, miniature plantlets or offsets. Most houseplants will flourish as long as they are in partial sun most of the day.
• Put water plants out like water hyacinth, water lilies, and parrot feather. Tropical water lilies should be planted when the water temperature stays above 70°F.
NOTE: Always follow instructions when fertilizing anything.
• You may use either slow or quick release fertilizer, but time your fertilization regimen so the fertilizer will be used up before the onset of severe hot summer weather. Begin fertilizing again after the intense heat of the summer has subsided.
• When you read a fertilizer package, the first number is always nitrogen, the second is always phosphorus, and the third, potassium. Be sure to water-in the fertilizer thoroughly after it is applied and, when possible, make sure to fertilize early in the day to keep from "burning" plants.
• Keep an eye out for yellow or pale leaves with green ribs — a sign of iron chlorosis. Apply chelated iron according to package directions.
• It is always better to get a soil test but, as a rule of thumb, for vine crops such as cucumbers, squash, and melons apply a side dressing of 10-10-10. Apply at the rate of one pound for each twenty-five feet of row. For carrots and other root crops use 5-15-5, again at the rate of one pound per twenty-five feet of row.
• Fertilize tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants monthly, starting when they begin to bloom. Incorporate a small amount of 5-10-5 into the top one-half inch of soil, in a circle around each plant. Avoid heavy applications of nitrogen that can stimulate vigorous vine or leaf growth, but delay fruit production.
• Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils "fix" nitrogen from the air into the soil through their nodules. To avoid too much vegetative growth at the expense of pod-set, do not apply as much nitrogen fertilizer as for the other vegetables.
• Unless your sweet corn ground has been heavily manured or a good legume turned under as a green manure, it would serve you well to side dress with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Make the application when the corn is about one to two feet high using about one tablespoonful per plant. Make the application on top of the ground and about 3 inches out from the plant.
• Feed blooming annuals lightly every two to three weeks.
• Lightly side dress perennials with an all-purpose 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizer. Use care not to damage the shallow roots when you cultivate it into the soil.
• Lightly side dress caladiums with a 5-10-5 fertilizer every two weeks. Feed amaryllis (after blooming), lilies and Louisiana iris with bulb food.
• Roses have high fertilizer requirements. For most soils, use a complete fertilizer for the first application just as new growth starts, then use ammonium sulfate or other high nitrogen source, every four to six weeks. For organic sources use cottonseed, rotted manures or alfalfa meal.
• Spread a 2 to 3 inch deep mulch of homemade compost or well-rotted farmyard manure around your fruit trees/bushes. This will conserve much needed moisture and slowly feed this edible part of your garden.
• There’s still plenty of time to fertilize trees and shrubs. Use a ‘Rhododendron or Evergreen’ type of plant food to feed ever-greens like rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, Viburnum Davidi, junipers, etc.
• Work lime in the soil around your hydrangeas to produce pink flowers or aluminum sulphate for blue.
• Remember to continue following the "Major Holidays Rule" for fertilizing Bermuda and St. Augustine grass: divide your total nitrogen requirement for the year by four. Put down this rate of nitrogen on or near each of the four holidays: Easter’s application should be history, the next will be Memorial Day, then the 4th of July, and finally, Labor Day.
• As the growth rate of your house plants increases with the seasons, adjust your feeding schedule to provide additional food. Feed your plants a good all purpose house plant food at half of the manufacturers recommended rates, increasing the proportion slightly to accommodate growth spurts. Overuse of fertilizers can cause root and foliage burn, as well as the death of the plant.
• Water lilies need feeding when water temperatures stay above 700F with a tablet- form of aquatic fertilizer.
• Thin out direct-seeded annuals to correct spacing.
• Promptly remove spent flowers (deadhead) from any plant unless your intent is to harvest the seeds. It consumes the plants energy to produce the seeds, and in many species of plants (especially annuals), removing the dead flowers will promote further blooms. It also gives a neater appearance. DO NOT "deadhead" begonia, impatiens, alyssum, ageratum, lobelia, and vinca.
• "Pinch" away the growing tips of mums every week or so until desired height and shape are acquired. Continue this practice until the first week of July.
• If your hedge is looking a bit scraggly, give it a trim now, to prevent disturbing any birds nesting within it later on.
• Remove or cut back frost-damaged crape myrtle and other ornamentals as soon as the extent of the injury can be determined.
• Prune climbing roses as they complete their spring bloom season. Remove dead or weak wood as needed. This will result in shorter, more compact, and better-branched plants with more flowers.
• Remove the wilting seed heads from rhododendrons and azaleas, so that the plants energy can go to foliage growth and next year’s flowers, rather than seeds. Remove seed heads carefully so as not to damage next-year’s flower buds.
• Do not remove foliage from spring flowering bulbs until it has yellowed.
• Pines and other conifers can be kept to a compact size by pinching off the new growth ‘candles.’
• Remove any sucker growths from fruit trees as soon as they appear.
• Remove faded, dying or dead leaves from water lilies, lotus and bog plants.
• Check sprinklers to insure proper watering amounts.
• The soil of freshly emerging seedlings should be kept evenly moist. Newly set transplants should not be allowed to dry out.
• Water new lawns as needed to prevent drying.
• Avoid drying out new shrubs and trees. Irrigate planting areas deeply during dry periods.
• Caladiums and other tropicals need generous amounts of water.
• Gladiolus plantings need water once a week after the spike begins to show.
• Roses and lawn grasses need at least two inches of irrigation or rain each week.
• During the coming summer, soil moisture will become extremely important in your garden. Conserving this moisture around your plants is best done by mulching. Mulches are usually applied 2 to 6 inches deep, depending on the material used. In general, the coarser the material, the deeper the mulch. For example, a 2-inch layer of cottonseed hulls will have about the same mulching effect as 6 inches of wheat straw or 4 inches of coastal Bermuda hay.
NOTE: Always read instructions and precautions when using any pesticide.
• If you see pests on shrubs or other plants, eliminate them now. If you aren’t familiar with the bug or disease you see, take it to the Co-op. Your local Co-op has an excellent staff who’ve probably seen it before.
• Watch out in your vegetable garden for the "10 most wanted culprits": Mexican bean beetle, Colorado potato beetle, bean leaf beetle, Harlequin cabbage bug, blister beetle, cabbage worm, tomato hornworm, tomato fruit worm (and corn earworm), cucumber beetle and squash bug. Early discovery makes early control possible. Control can involve hand removal, placing barrier screen over newly planted rows, or spraying or dusting with appropriate materials.
• Cabbage loopers, cutworms and other caterpillars can be controlled with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).
• Tiny holes in foliage and shiny, black beetles on tomatoes, beets, radishes, and potatoes indicate flea beetles. Treat with Neem, rotenone or Bt.
• Control aphids on tender new growth with insecticidal soap, a hard spray of water, hand removal, by promoting natural predators or by using approved insecticides labeled for the problem plant.
• In North Alabama, start inspecting for Japanese beetles. Apply Milky Spore Disease to control future beetle larvae.
• Leafrolling worms will affect apples and blueberries. Prune off affected leaves and place pheromone traps or spray with approved pesticides.
• Spider mites can be especially trouble-some at this time of year. Select a chemical or organic control, or use insecticidal soap.
• Mosquitoes lay up to 250 eggs at a time in still water, which will hatch in 7 to 10 days. To avoid a mosquito infestation check for items that might hold water, including wheelbarrows, tires, hubcaps, toys, garden equipment, pool covers, tarps, plastic sheeting, pipes, drains, boats, canoes, recycling bins and trash cans. Remove standing water in ditches, clogged rain gutters, flowerpots, plant saucers, puddles, buckets, jars and cans. Stock ornamental ponds, wading pools, birdbaths and fountains with Mosquito Dunks or completely change water weekly. Drill drainage holes in tire swings. Avoid mosquitoes by staying indoors at dawn and dusk when they are most active. Wear long-sleeved, light colored shirts and long pants while outdoors. Apply insect repellent that contains DEET.
• Fleas, ticks, and chiggers can be controlled in your lawn and on your pets with several products offered at the Co-op. They can be kept off of you, again, with an insect repellent containing DEET.
• Treat individual fire ant mounds with Acephate and use fire ant baits like Logic, Extinguish or Come And Get It!. Then treat your whole lawn with Over ‘N Out.
• Prevent snails and slugs from damaging your new spring shoots and soft-leaved plants by using one of two methods …. Next to the plants, scatter slug pellets beneath a flat stone resting on 3 or 4 rounded stones, this will keep the pellets away from nosey garden birds. Or if you are gardening organically, you could encircle your plants with natural materials that slugs hate to cross such as sharp grit, crushed eggshells or bran. Removing or mowing vegetation near garden plots also helps.
• Moss and algae should also be removed from paths, patios and steps for visual and safety aspects.
• Choose your weed fighting weapon… hand, hoe or herbicide, then let battle commence. The first flowers to bloom on your property are usually weeds. Work to eliminate the weeds (roots and all), before they have a chance to go to seed, or you will be fighting them for years to come!
• The most significant disease affecting crape myrtle is powdery mildew. This can be controlled by spraying with Benomyl or Funginex.
• Spray rose varieties susceptible to black spot, using a spray containing triforine (Funginex) every 7 to 10 days.
• Beware of poison ivy, use FertiLome Nutgrass, Poison Ivy and Vine Killer RTU.
• Trap moles and gophers as new mounds appear.
• Keep your gardening journal updated with problems and failures that occur so you can avoid or prevent them in the next planting season. Note successful techniques and varieties for consideration next season; plan for the future.
• Harvest broccoli while the florets are still tight and green.
• Pick cauliflower before the curds (flower parts) begin to separate.
• Pick cabbage before it bolts.
• Pick green, sugar snap and snow peas every couple of days to keep more coming.
• Pole beans cling to the trellis or sticks more readily if attached by the time they start running.
• Stop harvesting asparagus spears when they get close to pencil size.
• Determinate tomato plants, also known as ‘bush’ varieties produce one big crop. Indeterminate tomatoes, or ‘vine’ varieties, continue to grow and produce fruit until the cold weather kills them. Keep fruit off the ground and make optimum use of space by using wooden stakes, bamboo or cages offered by your local Co-op designed for use with tomato plants.
• Make plans now for putting up some of your garden produce if you haven’t already.
• Treat your timber structures such as trellis and fencing with wood preservative.
• This would be good time to select and plant those perennials and bulbs that you need to replace that were winter killed.
• Stake tall-growing plants for support from wind and rain early in the season. This will also make them easier to ‘train.’ Be careful when staking bulbs not to injure them.
• Put markers out for your plants. Often, late maturing plants are forgotten and dug up inadvertently which can sometimes destroy them. After you’ve planted a few dozen varieties, it’s helpful to have the names right there, and gratifying when your visitors ask.
• Mow your lawn weekly but never remove over one third of the height of the grass. Setting your mower for a higher cut during the spring months will allow the grass to grow in fuller and help choke out the weeds.
• This is a great month to eliminate lawn weeds, control moss, thatch (if needed), aerate, feed and over-seed the lawn. Actually few lawns will need all this care so only do the steps that are necessary to get your lawn in tip-top shape.
• The compost pile should be getting a lot of use these days, both in utilizing this prime garden resource, and adding fresh garden refuse to it. The compost pile should be kept damp. Frequent turning will turn your garden waste into flower food much faster. If you don’t have compost, locate mulching materials for such crops as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, Irish potatoes, okra and lima beans. Apply before dry spells occur but after plants are well established (usually by blooming time).