What to do with your garden in May


Repotting Plants: Indoor and outdoor plants kept in pots may need repotting now. Carefully remove the plants from their pots and check the root to soil ratio. If there are more roots than soil, consider moving that plant to a larger pot. There are some exceptions, some varieties like small containers. For example, spider plants grow best when somewhat tied to the pot. Unlike April, if life is busy, your potting station can get chilly for a few days. Houseplants left outside overnight in May will not automatically die. Whether you need a bigger pot or not, consider refreshing everyone’s soil, adding a layer of compost or soil on top.

UP YOUR WATERING GAME: Get out those water hoses and watering cans, it’s time to make it rain. Both indoor and outdoor plants will need more water as the degrees rise. Trees planted in fall or winter require irrigation the first year to establish. Try to set up a standard routine. Perhaps it is a meditative watering at the start of the day. Maybe you and your child can water every Wednesday and Sunday together. Maybe you’ll be like me and walk around the yard at 6 p.m., beer in one hand, pipe in the other. Don’t water every green shoot every day. If you frequently drown your plants, try dividing your garden into quarters and focus on watering a quarter a day.

Weeding Time: May transforms the mild, harmless weeds of spring into the hellish, ubiquitous and easily reanimated weeds of summer. Spring weeds like dead nettle provide flowers for pollinators, and easy-to-pull chickweed and watercress are great treats for my chickens. Summer weeds, such as Bermuda grass and crabgrass, require effort to control. Get out what you can, where you can. Lay down barriers, such as cardboard over mulch, to slow their growth. Try shading areas by planting hardier varieties that can outgrow these weeds. It’s also a good month to fight poison ivy. The vines are still quite young but large enough to see and they have not yet fruited. I usually wait for the rain, dress in plastic gloves and an old rain jacket, and shoot as much poison ivy as I can fit in a few trash bags. Weeding is not a zero-sum game for me; it’s about slowly reducing the footprint of these invasive species.

Check for ticks: check dogs, cats, children and adults. Ticks often ride deer in neighborhoods, so you don’t need a backcountry trek to find the parasite. Deer ticks (black or brown and black) can carry Lyme disease, and solitary ticks (dark with a small white dot) carry Heartland virus. Wear long pants, spray ankles and shoes with insect repellent, and check your body for little boogers trying to hitch a ride.

Garden planning: May is a great month to start mapping out what you’d like where, budget for upgrades, and start collecting plants for your eventual makeover. Garden planning can go wrong when there are no leaves on the trees – are you sure this spot gets eight hours of sunshine? You can save money by buying a few accessories in late summer when prices tend to drop.

SUPPORT YOUR HOBBY: Vines like cucumbers, indeterminate tomatoes, pole beans, clematis or morning glories need their trellises now. Taking too long to put your supports in place can lead to some vegetables, like cucumbers, contracting diseases or attracting soil pests. Pipping out supports later in the season could also damage needed roots. Trellises for natural vine plants help them produce more flowers and more fruit.

Start composting: Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful provides extensive information on how to compost on the accgov.com website. There is a bin for purchase and plans for various DIY bins available on the site. Like gardening, composting is about gaining experience, making mistakes, and figuring out what works best for you. Late spring is a good time to tackle this project because, with a little care and attention, you could have usable compost by fall.


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