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May is here and the vacillating weather patterns of April are a thing of the past. Now that good weather is here for a bit, the garden tip for the month is to enjoy the fruits of your labor and spend some time outside before the "hazy, hot, and humid" days of summer descend upon us. And if you don't have a garden of your own to enjoy, a trip to Garden Oaks on Oak Street in the Old Town is a great way to spend an afternoon outside.
There are two important rules to remember when cutting your lawn:
1. Never remove more than one third of the grass blade in a single cutting. If too much of the blade is cut at once the grass plant's ability to perform photosynthesis is greatly reduced, affecting both the looks and health of your lawn.
2. Just as you wouldn't want someone to cut your hair with dull, rusty scissors, your lawn doesn't appreciate those old blades on your lawn mower. Sharp mower blades will not only give your yard a better look, but a clean cut is better for the health of your grass as well.
Beginning in early May, feed zoysia lawns with 10-6-4 GRASS FOOD or ESPOMA ORGANIC 18-8-6 and continue feeding every four weeks through the growing season.
Around the Garden
If your Azaleas and rhododendrons have finished blooming, now is the time to fertilize with HOLLYTONE. Work the fertilizer into the soil just below the mulch, then water.
Expect to see aphids on tender new plant growth. Plants that are prone to aphids include roses, spireas and honeysuckles. You can wait two to three weeks for ladybugs and other predators to gobble them up or spray at regular intervals with Safer's Yard and Garden insecticide. If you don't see ladybugs in your garden, you can introduce them - we sell them in containers.
If your roses are prone to black spot, it's a good idea to begin spraying now at 7-10 day intervals. It's easier to prevent the disease than to arrest it once it's begun.
If you haven't yet fed your crape myrtle this spring, feed it now with 5-10-5 fertilizer. You can also start using MIRACID or MIRACLE-GRO as a biweekly feeding on shrubs and perennials for an extra boost to encourage new growth and flowering.
Fertilize hanging baskets and pots biweekly with MIRACLE-GRO to keep them lush and in flower. Or add OSMOCOTE, a time release fertilizer, if you didn't mix it when you planted the pots.
Now is the time to "deadhead" your spent rhododendron blossoms. Carefully pinch off the blossom at the base, but be careful not to damage the emerging new growth. Deadheading not only eliminates the faded blossoms from view, but also gives the plant a chance to set buds for next year.
"Deadhead" lilacs as well to promote flowering for next year. Prune off spend flower heads if you can reach them. If you can't, wait until they dry up and knock them off with a broom or pole.
Late May is the ideal time to treat laurel and rhododendron for root weevil. If you saw damage last year, treat the root area this year. One application of DIAZINON as a soil drench around Memorial Day and a second application two weeks later should be enough to treat the problem of root weevils. If you prefer an organic alternative, DIATOMACEOUS EARTH or BENEFICIAL NEMATODES may also be applied around the root area.
Don't be too hasty! Wait until the foliage from your daffodil and tulip bulbs has turned yellow before you cut them back.
In the Vegetable Patch
If you planted early spinach or lettuce, you can start harvesting now. Pull up whole plants or simply pick the outer leaves as needed. If slugs are eating more salads than you are, sprinkle DIATOMACEOUS EARTH around the plants.
You can plant beans, corn, carrots and beets from seed this month. Cucumbers and squash can be planted form seed or already-started plants. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are best grown form plants. All vegetables benefit from being planted in well worked, loose soil to which you have added organic matter (such as your own compost or Leaf-Gro).
Mix a handful of finely ground lime with the planting soil of each pepper and tomato transplant to prevent blossom-end rot. If tomato plants are leggy, you can bury them up to the first set of leaves because they will grow roots along their stems. (However, do not strip off leaves just so you can bury tem deeper.) Water with a soluble starter fertilizer such as DRAGON PLANT STARTER to get them off to a good start.
Aphid infestations on transplants can be controlled with a spray of ultra-fine horticultural oil. Spray it on a few plants to be sure the concentration is not too great. (Avoid using insecticidal soaps, since they can burn tender young foliage). Once the plants are a little more established, you can rely on beneficial insects such as lady bugs to control aphids.
The Herb Garden
Start an herb garden this year. Or if you have an herb garden, consider expanding your tastes by trying something new and different. Nothing can beat the taste of fresh herbs to liven up a salad or grilled fish, chicken or vegetables. And even if you don't cook much, there's pure joy in brushing against a lavender, rosemary, thyme or oregano just to release their wonderful scents into the air. Herbs are easy to grow and many are perennials. Most need a sunny spot and good drainage. Consider growing some of them.
The "Scarborough Fair" herbs, flat leafed Italian and curly parsley, sage, several rosemaries and regular and lemon scented thyme.
Mints, including spearmint and Kentucky colonel mint, emerald and gold, plus many with fruity overtones, such as pineapple and orange. Mint in invasive and is best grown in an area where you don't mind an invasive plant taking over, or in a large pot either above ground or sunken into the ground.
Oregano and marjoram for Italian cooking.
Delicate spring herbs such as dill, chervil, chives, tarragon, fennel (licorice taste and scent) and salad burnet (lacy leave that have a cucumber taste).
Edible marigolds, including Mexican (tastes like tarragon) and Lemon Gem (tastes lemony).
For lemon lovers - lemon grass, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, lemon basil, or lemon gem marigolds.
For the cats in the family, catnip.
Basil - sweet, purple and lemon, including the new "Sweet Dani" variety which is much more lemony than other varieties. Pinch back top growth to keep your plants bushy, and don't let them flower.
Add some lavender, or use it as a low-growing hedge. Lavandula, or lavender, is part of the same family as rosemary , basil, and thyme, and just as essential to the well stocked herb garden as these culinary herbs. Lavender enjoys light, loosely compacted, sandy soil in a sunny spot. The soil should be alkaline, so test the area before planting or add a little lime to our naturally acidic soil. Unless your soil is well worked, loose and well drained, prepare your bed or planting hole by mixing half of the original soil with equal amounts of Clay-away. In any case, add a cupful of perlite for each plant to ensure proper drainage. Keep the area around the lavender free of weeds, especially weeds with underground rhizomes.
To create a hedge, plant lavender 12-15" apart, prune hard after flowering in the fall to maintain a compact hedge throughout the winter. You can also prune selectively throughout the summer to bring in flowers to enjoy indoors.
A great companion plant for lavender is grey santolina (a.k.a. lavender cotton). Santolina generally grows a few inches shorter than lavender and bears yellow button flowers in summer.
As the weather warms, take some of those indoor tropical plants outside for a little excursion. If your ficus tree lost a lot of leaves over the winter, cut it back a few inches on each branch, and put it outside in either shade or filtered light.
Don't Forget the Birds
If you have been feeding the birds all winter continue to do so. There are not yet enough natural seeds available for the birds, and they've come to count on you for food.
Want to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden? The right combination of colorful annuals will help make your yard a "must stop" for these delightful creatures.