Seedlings in Pots

HORTICULTURAL HINTS

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MAY HORTICULTURAL HINTS

Early May is the right time for a second application of horticultural oil to manage pests on trees and shrubs.  Horticultural oil is not a pesticide — it works by smothering eggs so they cannot hatch.

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Shrubs, trees, and certain perennials are fine to plant now.  Anything that can survive our winters should be going into the ground this month.  The earlier you get trees and shrubs in, the longer they have to establish their roots before the heat of summer takes hold.  Perennials also benefit from time to settle into their new home.  And, because rainfall so far this season is several inches below normal, it is vital your plants get adequate water when there are no watering restrictions.

Protect your tender plants against deer.  Those hostas and other perennials that are just emerging for their new season are taste treats for deer, rabbits, and other herbivores.  Your best bet to protect your investment in those plants is to make them taste terrible.  There are several commercially available preparations (Bobbex and Liquid Fence are two examples) that consist of putrefied eggs, mint oil, garlic, and other ingredients that deer and rabbits find noxious.  These preparations are applied using a home sprayer.  A spraying of all new foliage is best when no rain is in the immediate forecast.  For an hour or two, your yard will smell terrible.  Once the sprays dry, humans no longer detect them but deer and rabbits avoid treated plants for up to a month.

Deer browsing - credit Garden Betty.jpg
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Vegetable gardens. If you don’t have beets, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard in the ground, do it immediately. When planting members of the cole family such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, add lime to the soil because the resulting higher pH (more alkaline soil) inhibits soil-borne diseases that can remain in the ground for up to seven years after first appearing and can devastate cole crops.
 

After spring bulbs pass their bloom, allow foliage to yellow and ‘ripen’ before being removed.  It’s important because the foliage is responsible for passing the nutrients down into the bulb that will allow it to produce a new flower next year.  Hide the foliage by growing perennials and annuals around it.  When the foliage turns brown, cut it at ground level, secure in the knowledge that your favorite spring bulbs will return in 2023.

Perennials planted adjacent to bulbs will hide foliage as it browns.  photo credit - Corne
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Resist the temptation to feed your lawn repeatedly. Instead of purchasing multi-step ‘programs’, find out what your lawn really needs with a reasonably-priced, highly accurate, and unbiased soil test from https://ag.umass.edu/services/soil-plant-nutrient-testing-laboratory/ordering-information-forms.  Healthy lawns need a large population of beneficial insects, bacteria and microbes to make nutrients available to the roots.  Lawn insecticides indiscriminately kill these good guys along with the bad so reconsider annual applications of “insect control”.

May is the month to fertilize your perennials. They’re entering their growth cycle for their late spring and summer displays, and the fertilizer ‘boost’ will ensure a long and colorful display as you add the nutrients to bolster both root and flower production. But remember: when applying fertilizer, less is best.

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