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by Amanda

May Gardening Chores - Garden in bloom with Bearded Iris, Allium, and Tulips
No matter where you live, there's plenty to do in the garden in May to ensure a healthy, vibrant growing season.

No matter where in the country you are, May is one of the busiest gardening months. It’s a time when our gardens come alive and start bursting with blooms, and it's also a big month for planting wildflowers, perennials, tender annuals, and more. We’ll talk about what to add to your garden in May, along with important maintenance tasks to keep up with to ensure a long, healthy growing season. The work you put in now will pay off in the summer months, we promise!

May Gardening Chores: Planting

Whether you’re in a warmer area and finishing up your planting in May, or just starting if you’re in a colder zone, there are plenty of varieties that can be added to your garden. The first step is to check your last frost date.  After your last frost date, you can plant tender annuals, wildflowers, and perennials to your garden with ease knowing that they’ll grow with no problem.

May Gardening Chores - Planting Wildflowers
One of the most important steps in planting wildflowers is making sure you remove all existing growth from the area and that the seeds are planted on bare soil.

Planting Wildflowers:

May is the perfect time to add wildflowers to your garden, meadow, or even to replace part of your lawn. The most important step in planting wildflowers is making sure that you prepare the area and remove all existing growth. Wildflowers grow best when planted on bare soil. If you’re looking for quick color that attracts pollinators to your garden, we recommend adding annual varieties or one of our popular All Annual Mixtures. If you are looking for a nice variety of regional-specific flowers for blooms in the first and successive years, try one of our Regional Wildflower Mixtures or Native Regional Mixtures. The wildflower possibilities are endless and May is the time to get seeds planted for summer blooms!

Learn all about planting wildflowers in spring.

Planting Perennials:

If you’re looking to add perennials to an existing garden bed or start a new perennial bed, now is the time to plant. Remember that whether you order your plants from us or pick them up at your local garden center, the best varieties to plant in spring are bareroots or those with minimal growth. The smaller the plant, the more the root system can grow and become acclimated to your garden. Although it may be tempting to pick up that Peony with buds on it from the garden center, one without will ultimately thrive better in your garden. Add an organic fertilizer to your perennials after you plant and make sure to keep them watered.

May Gardening Chores - Planting Bulbs
Make sure there is no more chance of frost in your area before you plant tender bulbs like Gladiolus in your garden.

Planting Bulbs:

Tender bulbs like Dahlias, Gladiolus, Calla Lilies, and more can be safely added to your garden (or containers) after your last frost date. If you’ve started them indoors to get a jumpstart on growth, make sure to gradually bring them out for a few hours a day for several days to help get them acclimated before planting them in the ground.  

Planting Vegetables:

If you’ve started Tomato, Pepper, Herb Seeds, or other vegetables indoors, be sure to harden them off (gradually bringing them outside for several hours a day for several days) before adding them to your garden. Direct sow varieties like Beans, Pumpkins, Corn, Zucchini, Cucumbers, and Lettuce.

If you’re in a warmer climate and have already planted, May is a good time to do a second round of succession planting for a longer season of blooms. Learn all about succession planting in our blog.

May Gardening Chores: Maintenance

April is a big month for cleaning up after the winter months, and once May comes around it’s time to get working in the beds to make sure your plants have a healthy start in the season. Here are some important maintenance tasks to do in May:

Keep up with weeding: This is extremely important! The more you identify and remove weeds when they’re small, the easier your battle will be throughout the season. Take photos of weed seedlings to keep on file for next season to make sure you don’t mix them up with your perennial plants.

Feed/Fertilize: Fertilize your flowering perennials in early spring to help give them a boost. We recommend using an organic, all natural fertilizer. Although you’ll want to water the fertilizer in after you apply it, make sure not to fertilize right before a rainstorm or your hard work (and money) could be washed away.

May Gardening Chores - Alyssum
If you don't want to use wood mulch, consider using a living mulch like easy-to-grow Alyssum to help suppress weeds and add interest to your garden beds.

Mulch: Once your plants start to emerge, add a natural mulch to the beds to help retain water and suppress weeds. If you aren’t a big fan of wood mulch, we recommend using living groundcovers instead! Plant varieties like Alyssum, Thyme, Red Fescue, or Clover around your plants to help suppress weeds, stabilize, and enhance the soil.

If you’re creating new garden beds, plant a quick-growing cover crop to help stabilize and add nutrients to the soil before you add your flowers or vegetables. Once it’s time to plant, simply till the cover crop into the soil.

Tick checks! This is an extremely important task that should be done throughout the summer. If you’re working out in the garden, make sure to take the time after you’re done to thoroughly check your body for ticks.

Pot up your windowboxes and containers with annuals, perennials, vegetables, or even low-growing annual wildflower seed! We recommend using a potting mix that helps retain water. If you don’t want to purchase potting soil, simply mix your garden soil with compost and peat moss.

Bring your houseplants outside: Give your houseplants a natural fertilizer and gradually move them outdoors for several hours each day to acclimate them to the weather. Once you do bring them outdoors, place them in a sheltered area (in a screened porch or under an awning).

May Gardening Chores - dividing plants
May Gardening Chores - Daylilies

Divide and transplant perennials: Wait for a cool, rainy day to divide perennials like Hostas and Daylilies that have outgrown their space. Wait until the plants are at least 5” tall, but make sure to do so before they start budding. Learn more about dividing plants in our blog.

Set up your supports: If you have perennial or annual vines, or top-heavy varieties like Peonies, make sure to set up your trellises and supports in the early season.

May Gardening Chores - Clematis
Make sure to add trellises and supports you took down before winter for your climbing vines like Clematis.

Spring flower maintenance: Deadhead spent spring bulbs like Tulips and Daffodils, but leave foliage intact until it has died back. Once the plants turn brown, you can cut them back to the ground. This is important as the foliage dying back helps recharge the bulbs for next year’s growth. Learn more about caring for fading spring blooms in our blog.

Mowing: For your first lawn mowing of the season, leave the grass clippings on top of the lawn to help add nitrogen back to your soil.

As trees and shrubs start to wake up, remove any diseased or damaged branches right away. Also, prune any evergreens that need it in the spring.

Prune shrubs like lilacs and forsythia after they’ve finished blooming.

May Gardening Chores - Tulips an Forsythia
Deadhead Tulips after they've finished blooming but leave foliage intact until it has turned brown. Prune spring-flowering shrubs like Forsythia after they've finished blooming.

Start your garden journal: As things start to come alive and bloom in your garden, make sure to keep records in your garden journal. Take note of when things start to bloom, varieties you divided and transplanted, as well as the growth of new varieties in your garden. This is important to compare your notes to last season and to help you plan for the years ahead.

May Garden Chores: Enjoy

May often brings some of the most beautiful weather of the entire season: warm, breezy days aren’t stifling hot and the mornings are still cool. Enjoy this time in your garden and try to take it all in; the fragrant Lilacs, elegant Bleeding Hearts, and classic Bearded Iris are just some of the treasures of the May garden that should be appreciated. And remember, the more work you do to pull weeds, mulch, and give your plants a healthy start to the season, the less work you’ll have to do in the hot June or July garden.