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Flowerland May Gardening Tips

Prune woody flowering plants, till and amend soil, watch out for weeds…

Many woody plants are in bloom this month or bloomed during April. The best time to prune woody flowering plants like Forsythia or Lilacs if they need it is right after they are done blooming. Later in the year they will be developing buds for blooming next year. Remember that broadleaf evergreens like Azaleas or Rhododendrons look beautiful this month and is the perfect Mothers Day gift. Mom might also enjoy a rose bush, hydrangea or flowering tree for the gift that keeps giving!

In general, our last frost date in West Michigan is usually between May 10 and May 20. Some plants like Snapdragons, Alyssum, Cabbage, Lobelia and Petunias can tolerate a light frost. Other plants like Coleus, Impatiens and Begonias can tolerate no frost whatsoever. Consistent cold temperatures and cold soil can stunt the growth of annuals planted too early. Every year is different, watch the weather forecasts and hope for warm weather! Add a splash of season long color to your landscape with annuals. Pinch off the initial bloom and the plant will put its energy into establishment rewarding you a few weeks later with multiple blooms. Use cool colors like blue and silver in tight areas and bright bold colors viewed from a distance like red or orange. Enjoy a whimsical approach mixing colors for a polychromatic look or combine opposite colors for a stunning display like purple and yellow together.

For annual and vegetable beds, till and amend the soil before planting. Apply a good quality granular fertilizer and supplement with water-soluble feedings during the growing season. A fertilizer with a little extra phosphorus (the middle number) is especially good for blooming annuals.

Container gardening is a great way to start the growing season. Soil in containers warms quicker than ground soil. If we have a frosty night, containers can be moved to a protected area or easily covered. Use annuals as well as vegetables, perennials, tropicals and herbs in containers, combinations are limited only by your imagination!

May is the month when weeds begin to become a problem, especially dandelions in the lawn. The best way to avoid the problem is to be killing weeds in fall, the most effective time to kill lawn weeds. That said, if you have lots of weeds in May use a lawn weed spray in a pressure tank sprayer and spray the foliage of the offending weeds. If you are using a weed and feed in May, make sure the lawn is damp or moist when applying so the herbicide sticks to the weeds. Once again as mentioned earlier in the calendar, raise the deck on the lawnmower. By raising the deck you give the lawn a competitive edge against weeds by shading them out. A scalped lawn or lawn with bare spots is most likely to have a weed problem. Remember weeds don’t cause bad turf, bad turf causes weeds!

When bulb plants like tulips are done blooming, cut off the spent flower head and stem but leave the foliage on to absorb sunlight. This will help the bulb “recharge” for the next blooming season. Scratch some bulb fertilizer in the soil. Plant some annuals in between the remaining foliage and when the foliage yellows and dies cut it off at ground level. The annuals will quickly fill in the area.

Put up hummingbird feeders. Make sure they are clean and stocked for the warm months ahead. Plant favorite companion plants like red Impatiens, Crocosmias and Abutilon to name a few along with the feeders to attract “hummers” to your yard!

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