It has been said, “A gardener’s work is never done!” The month of May is one of my favorite with all the flowering shrubs and early perennials blooming. However, with this glorious season, comes responsibility.
Shrubs - You have heard the saying, “May is bursting out all-over,” and it is evident in the spurt of growth seen in spring-flowering shrubs. To keep a natural appearance, please avoid those cookie-cutter box shapes that you often see for forsythia forsythia x intermedia shrubs. If you must trim, remove suckers from the base. Or, maintain a free-form for those branches that are just too long to keep your yard looking tidy.
If by chance, you have an area that would benefit from another shrub of two, forsythia is easy to root. A sure-fire method that works for me is to use a long knife and bore a hole the length of the blade into the soil. Garden soil works fine. Remove any leaves from the branch that will go down into the hole. Dip the bottom tip in a rooting medium and insert into the hole. Only a few inches of green leaves should remain above ground level. Water and mark the spot with a small flag or rock so this tender plant will not be stepped on while working in the yard. Do not allow to dry out.
Vertical Gardening - If you are familiar with the folk tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” you know about vertical gardening. Growing vegetables in an upright, vertical position has many advantages. Less space is required than row planting. Plants receive more sunlight in this position. Harvesting vegetables is easier than bending to the ground. Better air circulation may prevent mold and fungus from attacking the foliage.
Wire tomato cages are inexpensive and can be removed after the fall harvest and used again and again. Another method is to make a tripod of strips of wood or sturdy canes. Yarn or a half inch of cloth cut into strips tie the growing stems to the cages or stakes. Tie loosely, to allow for summer growth.
Containers - Gardeners often reuse containers from last summer, but before you place tender transplants in old pots, there are a few house-keeping chores to do first. If you have kept old potting soil in them from last year, remove it. Begin the summer season with fresh soil. Using a garden brush, clean the pots with hot water and soap. Rinse well. If there is an encrusted rim of fertilizer or chemical build-up around the rim, scrape this off with a dull knife. Clay or terra-cotta pots have a tendency to have this collect more than plastic or other materials.
If you need to purchase additional pots or containers this year, shop early for best selections. Local garden shops carry beautiful colors of pottery to complement your landscape. Consider the colors of your annuals. Do you plan a color scheme in pinks, white, or lavender? Red or yellow? Cobalt blue works well with many summer colors—even all yellow-green foliage.
Enjoy this season of the year—it is gone too quickly!
Carolyn Tomlin, Jackson, writes for numerous gardening magazines. She knows the best days of the year are spent in the garden.