It’s time to get out in the garden


May! It’s here with its wonder and beauty of colors and fresh aromas, bird song and hope. It also brings chores as one of the busiest months in a gardener’s life. The much appreciated rain we’ve had made everything jump with growth and reminded us we need to get busy.

Early azaleas, daffodils and dicentra. Photo by Joan Weed
Early azaleas, daffodils and dicentra. Photo by Joan Weed.

We’ve been warned not to start Joan Weed, Contributorclean up too early so pollinators and other insects can emerge as they will on their schedule. But now we can start before true growth begins. Adding compost or mulch of choice is a perfect early season chore. It’s so much easier before the stems and new leaves get in our way. Now is also the time to pull those small beginnings of garlic mustard, burdock and dandelions that have invaded our garden beds.

Deadheading the spring bulbs as they finish blooming is useful to direct energy to bulb health rather than seed production. When I walk to enjoy the garden, I try to remember to bring a pair of snips along for this. Doing small bits every day makes the chores less onerous.

I hope you used your “armchair garden time” to plan, order and assess. Good idea to make notes as things occur to you. I have ordered some plants from a few favorite nurseries and scheduled arrival around end of April. Usually this works, but if chilly like this year, keep these in a covered garage or shed till the air and soil warm up. These days my orders are usually replacements for favorites that have died or other choice plants to fill in holes in the planting beds. I rely mostly on perennials except for the containers I keep here and there for color in between mini-seasons of interest. It’s still early for most annuals, but pansies can take the cool air and are good to tide us over till it warms up. Dahlia tubers are potted up to get a head start and I think will be okay. I sometimes buy my  local annuals as early as they are available and keep them under wraps to ensure that my choices are available. Horsford’s has greenhouses full.

For the vegetable garden, the garlic has come through nicely after last October’s planting. Seed potatoes have been secured and can go in the ground now if your soil isn’t soggy. I only plant a couple kinds these days, a fingerling and an all-purpose type. You can buy these locally at Red Wagon Plants or Gardener’s Supply. There might be other providers—check the internet.

Since I did not start any tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers inside this year, I will purchase starts from local places. Brit-Sue’s has a nice selection of veggie starts every year, well grown. I bought Marketmore cukes last year and had the best crop in ages. They need a trellis or climbing pole. They have heritage tomatoes as well as hybrids. Wait to plant these tender vegetables till near the end of May. Feel the soil and reach in to see if it feels warm.

Seeds that can be direct-sown this early are radishes, peas of all kinds, lettuce, spinach, onions, Swiss chard, beets and carrots. Parsley plants can take cool air and should be started indoors earlier or buy plants.

Save beans, basil, dill, squash and melon to sow in early June. Corn needs real warmth and is a heavy feeder.

If we should experience another dry spell, be sure to keep the starts or seed beds hydrated. I don’t use much fertilizer for my gardens but rely on compost. If you choose to, I hope you’ll pick an organic label. Our nearby lake will thank you. Some of my herbs are perennials, so I check them out and replace if needed. A few I grow are thyme, sage, savory, tarragon, garlic chives and chives.

Annual herbs that need planting each season are dill, basil, cilantro, chervil and parsley. Some will self-sow so learn to look for tiny starts.

I guess we should raise ourselves and get out in the garden. Wishing you a fruitful year in your plot.