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May Gardening To-Do List

May kicks garden season into high gear — nothing is really off-limits this month. Get out and dig into gardening before the summer heat arrives.

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Photo: Bailey Nursery

Savor Lilacs

A spring shrub favorite, lilacs make their appearance this month in several regions. Many communities host lilac festivals to celebrate a local collection of these blooming beauties. If you want to add a lilac to your yard, look for varieties in a size to suit your planting spot. If your yard is already home to a lilac, tackle any necessary pruning right after flowers fade. Plants start forming next year’s flower buds in early summer, so late pruning means you’re reducing next year’s show.

how to plant and care for lilacs

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Photo: Image courtesy of Mary Beth Shaddix

Plant Warm-Season Veggies

By month’s end, warm-season vegetables should be in the ground in all but the northern-most regions. This includes pepper, tomato, eggplant, squash, corn and cucumbers. Okra, black-eyed peas and melons are also on this list. Plant beans, too, growing several varieties so you have beans for fresh eating and drying. Direct sow seeds into the garden, or tuck in transplants. Once soil is warm, seeds quickly catch up with transplants.

a–z advice for companion planting in your vegetable garden

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Photo: Ball Horticultural Company

Look for Healthy Roots

Healthy plant roots are white and fill the soil volume in the pot of a well-established plant. When plant shopping, you can often slip a plant out of its pot by gently squeezing the pot sides to see if the root system is healthy. You don’t need to do it on every plant, but if a plant seems small for the pot or has unhealthy-looking leaves, you might want to check the roots.

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Fertilize Roses

Roses have big appetites and need feeding to fuel a stunning flower display. In northerly areas where new growth is just unfurling, top-dress beds with a slow-release fertilizer, scratching it gently into soil, or add a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of compost. Follow label instructions for whatever plant food you’re using.

In warm-region gardens, plan to feed roses again by month’s end if you’re using a slow-release fertilizer. With liquid rose fertilizer, you’ll need to apply every two weeks until August. Some rose fertilizers include a pesticide to help defeat common rose pests like Japanese beetles. Read the label carefully, because these products often harm beneficial insects and pollinators.

13 unique roses to grow

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