The people's voice of reason

Southern Gardening - Potpourri for May

Where are all the May Day parades, and the fun children would have making May Poles and then dancing and weaving the colorful ribbons hanging down. Perhaps people are too busy, or have forgotten how much fun group activities can be. The garden can and should also be a location for group activity. With the beautiful weather this month, children and grandchildren would love to be included in outdoor endeavors, with gardening at the top of my list. Of course a little supervision is warranted, but letting them help with weeding, adding soil, planting new flowers fertilizing, plus making up a plan for the flowers and showing them how to follow the scheme. We all know in our hearts that adults and children alike need a break from social media "work". Also we may think about letting them have their very own garden space or container that will be theirs to tend. What a sense of accomplishment when their flowers grow and mature from their efforts. Not only a useful skill for children, but a good solid learning experience.

Garden tasks for May

1. If your garden includes climbing roses such a Lady Banks, or any climbers, now is the time, right after they bloom, to prune the canes back to 4 to 5 feet long. The new growth can to trained with supports or as the English use Wayward Vine supports which attach to walls or solid fences with a type of exterior putty. The pruning encourages new growth and makes for a more vigorous rose.

2. Whether it is a rose, fruit trees, other shrubs and trees, now is a good time to inspect for disease and/or other pests. It far easier to kill the culprits now, than later, when the plant has gone to wrack and ruin. For roses, we worry about powdery mildew and black spot symptoms. One must treat the rose with a fungicide. Remember overhead watering of the rose is not recommended, but rather to deliver water directly into the soil. In other words, do not wet the foliage. Gather up and throw out any dead infected leaves to prevent disease from spreading. Also, when applying any insecticide or fungicide, the better choice would be to don a mask. In other words, who would want to breathe in a poison.

3. If the garden area is cleared of weeds and mulch, a regular 10-10-10 commercial grade fertilizer will be fine, just make sure to water this in. The Osmocote or time released type of fertilizers are very costly and can be used after the plants are established. We use this fertilizer mainly in the summer when regular fertilizers may burn the leaves when applied. But always water after fertilizing whether the plantings are in pots or in the garden.

4. If your plan calls for flowers grown from seed, we can sow the seed throughout May. Zinnias and cosmos are great choices to add to the garden. In fact, these do better sown than getting up the seedlings and transplanting. Once the seedling germinate, you can always thin to the desired number of plants. Liquid fertilizers are the preferred food for these tender plants.

5. Herbs grown from seed or purchased plants adds novelty and interest to the flower garden or start an herb bed. I love my parsley, both the Italian flat leafed or curly; also basil, dill, fennel, cilantro and rosemary. These are herbs I use in recipes constantly. Thyme, oregano and marjoram are also easy to grow and make a great addition to any Italian recipe. All of these herbs can be purchased a garden centers and nurseries now.

Remember that herbs benefit from picking which stimulates growth. Many herbs, especially the ones from the Mediterranean climates do not like to be over watered.

6. If you have an irrigation system, have it checked out before the heat of the summer when system repairs can take weeks due to the repair companies being swamped with calls. Otherwise, hours can be spent just to keep your beautiful garden alive.

Plant of the month---DAYLILIES (Hermeracallis)

We can thank the Chinese for this popular garden perennial, which was cultivated for food, medicine and ornament for over 2500 years. The roots and leaves were used for pain relievers and other medicinal purposes; the flowers and flower buds and young leaves were eaten as vegetables. These first appeared in Europe in the 16th century with the yellow or lemon daylily arriving first. Even today, we can see wild daylilies along the side of the road, in old cemeteries, and around abandoned houses. Some have even called them "outhouse" lilies because of the propensity of gardeners to plant them around outdoor privies. They are tough, easy to naturalize, and beautiful when planted in large drifts. They range in every color, and even variegated. They bloom in spring and summer and require full sun to partial shade. There are varieties that thrive from zone 3 to zone 9. Buy a few and in a few years, you will have many more.



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