May Gardening Tasks –
Welcome May – And welcome to the official start of gardening season – at least in SW Ontario! Yes, we’ve been puttering in the garden for the last few weeks. But now is the time to get serious in the garden. The planning and planting we do now will affect how our gardens will look in the coming months. So here’s my list of things to do in the garden this month.
Care for Tulips & Other Bulbs:
If you’ve planned ahead and planted bulbs last fall, your tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs will be in full bloom in the coming weeks. Gorgeous, right? But what do you do with them after they’ve finished blooming? Your first instinct may be to cut back the foliage once the bulbs have finished blooming. DON’T!
Just cut the flowers and stalks down to the leaves and let the leaves brown and die. It may not look attractive. But it’s an important step in the life cycle of the bulb. The leaves and remaining stalk are collecting energy through photosynthesis which feeds the bulb, making it stronger to bloom next year. Once the leaves are completely brown, then you can remove them.
Divide Hostas & Other Leafy Perennials:
This is the time of year to get at those overgrown perennials such as hostas and day lilies. By dividing these plants now, you will be giving life back to an older plant. But you’ll also be gaining new plants to use in other spots in the garden or give away to neighbours and friends.
Here’s a great video from Hostas Direct to show you the three steps of dividing hostas. This principal can be used for most leafy perennials such as day lilies, bleeding hearts, peonies, daisies, etc. Hold off on the irises though – they should be divided after they bloom.
Get Control of Your Lawn:
Taking control of your lawn now will ensure a healthy green lawn throughout the summer months.
Start by applying a good weed control and manually digging out any stubborn weeds like dandelions. We use this Fiskars 3 Claw Garden Weeder that eliminates kneeling to weed. It makes this task so much easier.
And now is also a good time to get a healthier lawn by applying an organic high nitrogen lawn fertilizer. Look for one that is made from feather meal, pasteurized poultry manure and gypsum to ensure that it’s safe for kids and your pets.
Fill in any low spots in your lawn with triple mix. These low areas cause poor drainage and are a great spot for crab grass and other stubborn weeds to grow.
If your soil is compacted and hard, it might be worth aerating your lawn – basically pulling small plugs of earth from the soil which allows water to permeate and loosen the ground. We have someone who comes and does this with a special machine for around $25 for our whole lawn. Check your local listings to see if there’s someone who can do it for you. Or you could rent an aerator from your local equipment rental facility.
Plant Up Tender Bulbs & Tubers:
If you haven’t already done so, the early part of May is the perfect time to plant up tender bulbs and tubers like begonias, dahlias and cannas.
- Start them off in a good potting soil in a small pot in the house.
- Once signs of life appear, harden them off by taking them outside on warmer days for a few hours.
- Once the last frost occurs, you can safely plant them in their permanent location for the summer.
Prune Lilac and Other Early Flowering Shrubs:
Once your flowering shrubs such as lilacs and forsythia have finished blooming, it’s safe to prune them. These types of shrubs set their flowers for next year in the summer after they have finished blooming. So it’s safe to deadhead the existing flowers and prune for shape and size. Some of the shrubs you can prune after spring flowering are:
- flowering quince
- rhododendrons & azaleas
- bridal wreath spireas
- peegee hydrangeas
Now is the time to harvest your rhubarb before any flower stalks start to grow. But remember to only pick up to one third of the plant in order for it to continue to be healthy. If you’ve missed it and there is a flower stalk growing, be sure to cut it back as far as you can. The flower stalk will suck nutrients from the leaves (and the edible stalks) and harm the overall health of the rhubarb.