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Things to Do in the Garden in May

Many thanks to Extension Specialists Bodie Pennisi, Clint Waltz, Elizabeth Little, and Bob Westerfield for contributing to this post!

MGEVs, are you part of the media team in your local program? Do you write articles for local newspapers? your office blogs or websites? contribute to your county Extension’s social media sites? If so, then this post is for you! These are things that we can continue to do in our gardens, given the current guidelines to stay at home and keep healthy social distances.

You might use this list as a source of article ideas to cover more in depth. You might want to re-post to your county blog site to share with people in your county. As with any of our written materials, please share with your Extension agent first prior to publishing!

WOODY ORNAMENTALS

  • Plant container-grown trees and shrubs. Supplement rainfall so that newly installed plants receive 1” of water per week.
  • Fertilize actively growing trees, shrubs, and ground covers. If you fertilized last month, you may not need any additional fertilizer for the season. Base fertilizer decisions on soil test recommendations. Apply fertilizer by broadcasting under tree canopies and under shrubs and vines. Be sure to shake off any fertilizer that lands on plant foliage. Ideally, apply just before rain or water in the fertilizer after application.
  • Prune conifers that are in the candle stage. Do not prune back to old wood or prune severely.
  • Prune broadleaf evergreens, like Japanese hollies and Chinese hollies, while they are actively growing to maintain formal shape. Note that hollies have bloomed and many berries have already been set on female plants. Pruning now will reduce the number of berries.
  • Prune out any storm-damaged or dead limbs as soon as you notice them.
  • Prune spring-blooming shrubs, like forsythia and azaleas, after they finish blooming. You’ll want to finish pruning these shrubs this month.
  • Renewal pruning can continue this month in North Georgia, but should stop in southern parts of the state.
  • Mulch planting beds for weed control and moisture conservation. Remember to apply thinly (no more than 1”) around trunks of trees and shrubs.
  • Control emerged weeds by hand or with herbicides (follow label directions). Avoid herbicide contact with green bark or foliage of trees and shrubs. Monitor environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and wind, to avoid damage from herbicide drift.
  • Scout for diseases on trees and shrubs (azalea and camellia leaf gall; fireblight in pear, pyracantha, and crabapple; cedar apple rust in crabapple; downy and powdery mildew; entomosporium leaf spot; black spot on roses; botrytis), but be sure to get a diagnosis and Extension recommendation before attempting to treat
  • Scout for insects on trees and shrubs (aphids, fall webworm, bagworms, dogwood borers, lace bugs, leaf miners, mealy bugs, thrips, and scales)

HERBACEOUS PLANTS

  • Plant summer-flowering bulbs, such as dahlias, cannas, caladium, agapanthus, and gladiolus.
  • Replace cool-season annuals with summer annuals.
  • Plant perennials. Monitor moisture daily to ensure they do not dry out before establishment. Perennials establish best when planted before vigorous growth occurs.
  • Plant annual and perennial herbs. Monitor moisture daily to ensure they do not dry out before establishment.
  • Sow warm-season annual seeds in garden beds.
  • Fertilize annuals at planting. If using a general fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, mark your calendar to fertilize again in 6 to 8 weeks. If using a slow-release fertilizer, mark your calendar to fertilize again in 8 to 10 weeks. Liquid fertilizer applications can supplement granular or slow-release fertilizers, especially for container gardens and hanging baskets that are watered frequently.
  • Fertilize actively growing perennials at least once this year.
  • Deadhead any spent flower blossoms.
  • Scout for insects and diseases.
  • Hand-weed for weed control.
  • Mulch planting beds for weed control and moisture conservation.
  • As foliage dies naturally, cut back daffodil and any other spring-blooming bulb foliage.

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

  • Harvest of cool-season spring crops, such as lettuce, chard, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and spring English and sugar snap peas) is likely coming to a close, especially in southern parts of the state.
  • Asparagus harvest should stop if 40% of your spears are the size of a pencil or smaller.
  • Continue planting warm-season vegetable seeds, such as green and lima beans, squash, corn, pumpkin, okra, and southern peas. Sow successive crops every 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Plant warm-season vegetable transplants, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, sweet potatoes, and cucumbers.
  • Water transplants and seedlings, as needed.
  • Hand-weed and cultivate as needed for weed control; click here for other options.
  • Mulch planting beds for weed control and moisture conservation.
  • Keep an eye out for insects (i.e., aphids, cucumber beetles, cabbage loopers, potato beetles) and possible disease (i.e., powdery mildew, early blight).
  • Fertilize young figs in mid-May if grown in low-fertility soils or around many other plants.
  • First- and second-year Muscadine grapes will need a second fertilizer application in late May. Check third-year vines, as well, applying fertilizer in May is the vine has grown well and is producing a crop.
  • First-year bare-root fruit trees will need a second fertilization in May. Apply around the drip line of the growing tree.

TURF

  • Warm season turf grasses
    • Warm-season grasses are transitioning into active growth. All the rainfall early this spring has resulted in wet soils which are generally slower to warm as water is a buffer of heat.
    • Establishment of new turf, statewide
    • Fertilization begins, based on soil test results, when soil temperatures at the 4-inch depth are consistently 65F and rising. Remember to split total nitrogen across all applications.
    • Core aeration throughout the state
    • Begin any turf renovation efforts. These will need to be done by June.
    • Scout for weeds. Since spring green-up is when warm-season grasses are most susceptible to herbicide injury, the mower can serve as a weed control option. If possible, mow regularly.
    • Address summer broadleaf weeds now while they are small and easier to control.
    • Scout for fungal diseases on turf (brown patch, dollar spot). A single fungicide application can protect the grass for four weeks. It is still spring and a second fungicide application will likely be warranted. If application was made in April, then an application now would be protective measure.
  • Cool season turf grass
    • Fertilizer applications are done until the fall.
    • Continue to encourage good root growth to prepare the grass for the upcoming summer heat stress.
    • Address summer broadleaf weeds now while they are small and easier to control.
    • Scout for fungal diseases on turf (brown patch, dollar spot, pythium blight, melting out)
    • Scout for insects (armyworms, cutworms)
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sdorn

About sdorn

Sheri is the State Coordinator for the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program and Extension Specialist for Consumer Ornamentals. When she is not traveling about the state of Georgia admiring the work of Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteers, she spends time in her own (real and virtual) gardens.