May Garden Tips

Mother’s Day and May 15th are dates critical for gardeners. These two dates are the county’s spring frost-free dates. Plantings installed after these dates should escape the late spring frosts. The gardens go through a complete metamorphosis through the month of May. The landscape becomes lush again, while activities come alive.


(Photo by Jan Barrow)

Tips for this month include:

  • Continue to rake and clean the leaves from under the shrubbery to help prevent disease.

  • To determine if the soil in the yard or garden is ready to work, grab some soil in your hand and squeeze it. If a ball forms, it is too wet; but if the soil crumbles through your fingers, it is ready for planting.

  • Plants started indoors can be set outside in the day and brought in at night, because some nights might be too cold even if there is no frost.

  • Seedlings do not like temperatures below 50 degrees, nor do they like wind. So place the new plants in a protected area.

  • Continue to plant the cool season vegetable crops such as lettuce, peas, carrots, broccoli, onions, spinach, and beets.

  • It is not recommended to set the tomato plants out into the garden until the night temperatures remain above 55 degrees. Tomato plants do like cold soil or cold nights.

  • This year, try plantings that attract pollinators. These include yarrow, dwarf larkspur, Dutchman’s breeches, Joe-pye weed, Turk’s cap lilies, dill, fennel, and parsley.

  • Prune the spring flowering shrubs after blooming

  • Continue to take soil samples of the yard and garden to get maximum production and growth

  • Warm temperatures will make the grass grow rapidly, so mowing twice a week will help keep the grass in check. However, do not remove more than 1/3 of the height at one time. ( 3-3 ½ “)

  • Birds are migrating through the county, so keep an eye out for a rare bird! Consider taking down the feeders for the summer when there is a lot of natural food available.

  • There is still time to transplant trees and shrubs

  • Plant and mulch. Mulching conserves moisture, inhibits weeds, and improves the soil.

  • Take cuttings of perennials

  • Remember not to use grass clippings in the garden if the lawn has been treated with an herbicide. The herbicide in the clippings most likely will damage the plants.

  • By the end of the month, harvest should begin on the asparagus, lettuce, kale, collards, and other greens. Rhubarb should be available to make rhubarb bread pudding, YUM,YUM !!

Every year, dozens of distinctive wildflower species bloom in Maryland forests. Take time to visit a park, forest, or woodland area to see Mother Nature’s beauties. They are sometimes short lived, so do it soon. Pink Lady’s slipper, trillium, spring beauties, native columbine, smooth Solomon’s seal, Jack-in- the–pulpit and the buttercups are just a few beauties to look for. One of the Golden Books on wildflowers is very helpful in identifying what flowers you might be seeing.

So, ready-get set-GO!! Spring is here, and life everywhere is ramping up. Best of wishes to all of you in the yard and garden. It is an exciting time! Enjoy the out of doors.

Article by Dawne Howard, Master Naturalist and FCFCDB member

Nature Note for 5/20/2018