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How Does Your Garden Grow? May checklist

By BARBARA LINDHOLM – DeKalb County Master Gardener

We are still in a cautionary phase of the virus pandemic. As gardeners, we are very lucky to be able to pursue our favorite hobby of gardening. We can go about planning, creating and planting our garden areas for the new season.

Woody plant care

Trees, shrubs and evergreens are the mainstay of our home landscapes. They provide us with beautiful color, relaxing shade and cheerful sunny areas. They also help us provide food and shelter for wildlife.

It is not too late to plant trees and shrubs and evergreens. Early morning planting is recommended on a cloudy day if possible.

Rose care

Roses can still be planted this month. After buds are formed, fertilize roses with a liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer. Rose slugs and aphids may begin to show up this month. Remove aphids with a strong stream of water.

Annual and perennial care

Keep the May 15 average last frost date in mind when preparing to plant your annuals. Cold-sensitive annuals will do better if planted closer to Memorial Day. Avoid fertilizing new annual transplants for at least two weeks.

Cage peonies early at about 10 inches so that mature growth will remain compact and upright.

Stake tall perennials while they are small to protect them from wind damage.

May is a good time to plant summer- and fall-blooming bulbs. Examples of bulbs to add drama to your summer season include Asiatic and Oriental lilies, cannas, dahlias, freesias, gladiolus, resurrection lilies and tuberous begonias.

Want to try something a little more exotic and challenging? You could consider colocasia (elephant ears), crocosmia or tuberoses.

Lawn care

After World War II, Americans suddenly became extremely interested, even obsessed, with creating beautiful lawn areas. NASA reports that 40 million acres of lawn exist in the United States with $40 billion being spent on tending our lawns.

As we begin mowing lawns in May, remove only 1/3 of the grass blade with the mower set at 2 to 2 1/2 inches. Leave dry clippings on the lawn or put in compost pile.

Fruit, vegetable and herb care

Plant corn, snap beans, summer squash and spinach in mid-May.

Harvest lettuce, radishes, green onions, rhubarb and asparagus when ready this month.

Indoor plant care

Gradually move houseplants, tender annuals and tropicals outside when night temperatures are in the 50′s. Avoid overexposure to a full sun location when your indoor plants first come outside.

May tip

For the first gardening tip for 2021, we will go back in time to some of the founding fathers of this country.

George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were farmers and greatly preferred farming and gardening to politics. The minute their presidential duties were over, they couldn’t wait to return home to their farms and gardens.

All three of these past presidents are responsible for shaping some of the gardening knowledge that we still use today. Their curiosity, tenacity and enthusiasm for gardening in this new country helped form many of the techniques and principles that are still in use in our current gardening practices. From Thomas Jefferson, and supported by Adams and Washington, comes a simple philosophy in regard to gardening. The three most important principles or guidelines from then to now are 1) observe what is going on in your garden, 2) experiment with new plants and ideas and 3) record your successes and failures. These were good gardening guidelines in the 1700s and 1800s and remain good advice as we begin work on our new gardens for 2021.

• The Master Gardener Help Desk is still closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gardening questions can be emailed to uiemg-dekalb@illinois.edu.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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