Gardening tasks for May

By Faye Mahaffey - Contributing columnist

It has been a spectacular spring for blooms! As I walked down our drive to fetch the mail and paper, I was amazed to hear bees buzzing in our crabapple tree. I stood for several minutes just listening the working bees and enjoying the fragrance of the blooms. My neighbors have to think that I’m crazy some days.

What’s blooming in my landscape?

Lilacs, red buckeye, lily of the valley, redbuds, Ohio buckeyes, mayapples, Jack-in-the-pulpit, pansies (that survived the winter), and spring larkspur are at the top of the list at the moment. I found the spring larkspur on a hillside where I was yanking garlic mustard. What a pleasant surprise!

Spring larkspur (delphinium tricorne) is a member of the buttercup family. The native perennial blooms in the spring and can be found in moist woodlands throughout Ohio. The flower is a spike cluster of pea-like blue flowers; five sepals with the upper sepal forming a long, slightly bent spur; four tiny petals are enclosed within the spur. Many larkspurs contain a toxic chemical that is poisonous to grazing animals, so the plants have been removed from many places.

Have you started prioritizing your list of things to do in the garden? Weeds are at the top of my list! It seems that they are growing by leaps and bounds. garlic mustard is blooming brazenly on the hillsides, so this weed is now number one on the eradication list at the Mahaffeys’.

Our May gardening task list includes: Weed your beds thoroughly before they get out of hand. Top off summer mulch in beds where levels have dropped below two inches. Rake beds that have ample mulch, to prevent matting. Keep watering transplants and new plants frequently. Prune shrubs that flower in early spring right after they bloom. Train topiaries and espaliers. Plant potted roses. Fertilize roses, if you didn’t feed them earlier in the season. Cut back perennial stems. Set out dahlias after the last frost date. Plant gladiolus corms beginning early this month. Finish dividing summer- and fall-blooming perennials. Start planting tender annuals outdoors after the last frost date. Reseed bare spots in the lawn. Continue sowing onions, carrots, and beets directly in the garden. Begin direct-seeding bush and pole beans and corn after last frost date. Direct-seed parsley, which takes three weeks to germinate. Begin transplanting tomatoes into the garden, but don’t move them until night temperatures consistently stay above 50 degrees. Set herb transplants into the garden. Be sure to wait until the weather is warm and settled to move basil and lemon grass transplants. Plant strawberries. Start cucumbers inside. Continue sowing radishes, endive, escarole, lettuce and spinach every two weeks.

Is you garden journal handy? Have you made notes about what is blooming? What plants have been slow to emerge? The butterfly weed is finally up, the swamp milkweed is at least 12 inches tall and the common milkweed is popping up everywhere around my raised beds! It’s going to be a banner year for the monarchs!

Take time to stroll through your gardens and celebrate this beautiful spring.

Faye Mahaffey is an Ohio University Extension master gardener volunteer.

By Faye Mahaffey

Contributing columnist