Garden Tips for May

(excerpted from UMass "Garden Clippings")


1)  Fight weeds in the lawn by setting the mower height no lower than 2 to 2½ inches. Taller grass will shade out some of the weeds that invade thin or sparse turf. Leave the clippings on the lawn to return valuable nitrogen to the soil. Make sure your mower blades are sharp and will cut, rather than tear, the grass.


1)  Water newly planted trees and shrubs regularly during the first two years to establish a good root system. Give all trees (new and established) a good soaking once a week to supplement scant rainfall.

2)  If your established trees were defoliated or winter-damaged and are severely stressed, only a very light application of fertilizer is recommended.

3)  Prune forsythia, crabapple, flowering quince, lilac, and other spring-flowering trees and shrubs that have finished blooming. Think "trim" rather than "crewcut." While you're at it, remove any suckers growing from the bases of these plants.

4)  Clear a 3-foot area of grass and weeds around fruit trees and ornamental trees to eliminate competition and rodent hiding spots and to prevent injury to trees from lawn mowers and string trimmers.


1) Stake tall perennials while they are still small or use grow-through rings.

2)  Apply mulches to your perennial and annual flower beds to reduce soil moisture loss and inhibit weed seed germination.

3)  Pinch chrysanthemums and other fall bloomers like asters and sedum to induce bushy growth.

4)  Fertilize peonies and pinch off side buds to promote larger main blooms.

5)  The  leaves of spring-flowering bulbs are replenishing food in the bulbs to support next year's blooms. Cut down the leaves only after they begin to turn yellow or brown.

6) Plant summer-flowering bulbs--gladiola, dahlia, and canna in sunny spots and tuberous begonia and caladium in shady locations.

7) Start fertilizing roses.


1)  Mix radish seed with carrot and beet seeds when planting. Radishes germinate quickly and will mark the rows for the slower germinating carrots and beets.

2)  Remove the blossoms from newly planted strawberry plants. This will stimulate growth and give you stronger plants and better yields next year.

3)  Hill potatoes by pulling soil against the plants when they reach a height of 8 to 12 inches. Hilling protects the potato tubers from sun exposure and provides deep, cool soil for good growth.

4)  When harvesting rhubarb, pull off the leaf stalks rather than cutting them. Cutting creates a large exposed wound subject to disease infection. Discard the leaves; they are poisonous. Remove the flower stalks from rhubarb plants to direct the energy into strong stems and roots.  Rhubarb is easily stored in the freezer if you harvest more than you can use now.

5)  After all danger of frost is over, set out plants of squash, melons, eggplant and tomatoes, and plant seeds of beans, summer squash and other warm-season crops. Begin sowing sweet corn this month. Corn is wind-pollinated, so plant in blocks of at least four rows to ensure good pollen dispersal.