By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
May is a busy month in the garden with a variety of chores to keep on track. We might be harvesting cool season crops and planting those that grow in summer. Our May gardening tasks for the Southeast region might involve staking and caging some climbers. Depending upon our location, we might even be working up new beds. An ongoing chore for improving the soil is keeping a compost pile going.
May Gardening To-Do List
This is an appropriate time to divide clumps of bulbs previously growing in the landscape. Other perennials may be dug and divided now. Add some of the divided flowers into new beds, if needed.
Are you getting an urge to plant tomatoes and other warm season crops? Many sources advise waiting until June in some parts of the Southeast. While freezing nighttime temperatures are usually history by this time of year in the most of the southern states, check your local forecast for 10 days ahead. Mountainous areas might still get low temperatures in the morning this month. Other than those spots, it is likely the right time to start your warm season crops.
Plant okra, sweet potatoes, and corn. Get your melons going. Start your tomatoes. If you think there’s a chance of frost or freeze shortly, start by using the succession method (plant in two-week intervals). If you get those cold morning temperatures, protect your plants with small cloches or an old sheet.
Additional tasks for May include:
- Feeding shrubs
- Feeding the lawn
- Planting daylilies (late bloomers) and other perennials
- Continue planting heat-loving annual flowers
Pests in the Southern Garden in May
Insect pests tend to appear when the weather warms up. Keep an eye out for bugs that might be on or around your growing food crops and ornamentals. Treat with an organic only if an attack appears imminent.
Add plants to gardens in the Southeast that attract beneficial insects to your landscape. Many herbs are helpful, like dill, comfrey, yarrow and chamomile. Ornamentals like marigold, sunflowers, bee balm, and many others attract them as well. Lacewings, ladybugs, and syrphid flies will find the blooms.
Plant some of them around crops that you’ve had infested in the past. Beneficial bugs help cut down on populations of damaging insects. Be careful of treating these plants with pesticides, as these can take out the good bugs too.
This is a great time for being outside and enjoying the weather. It’s also the perfect time to get new plants growing by air layering, grafting, division, or cuttings. Try that propagation you’ve been wanting to experiment with.
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Gardening Tasks by Region
- Add organic material such as compost and rotted manure to garden beds
- Control weeds in your garden while they’re still young and haven’t taken over
- Be on guard against frost prepare to cover crops when necessary
- Test soil pH levels and amend where necessary
- Order Seeds
- Plan your upcoming garden
- Test soil pH levels and modify where necessary
- Clean out your garden shed and toss anything which is outdated or is going unused
- Prune your trees while they’re still dormant
- Reapply mulch in areas where it thinned out over the winter
- When temperatures rise, be sure to water your plants thoroughly
- Remove any snow which may be lingering on your bushes to avoid any damage which may be caused by their weight
- Order seeds promptly
- Remove snow from trees or shrubs to prevent any damage the pressure could cause them
- Fill your bird feeders
- Get rid of any limbs which may have been damaged by snow and ice they could be hazardous to you or your home
- Check your fruit trees for any damage which may have been caused by winter pests treat accordingly
- Order seeds now
- Check stored bulbs for mold and make sure the moisture level is good if not, move the bulbs to a different location and rewrap them
- Plan and map out your garden
- Remove snow from any branches where they’re hanging with little to no support and could become hazardous
- Prune fruit trees while they’re still dormant
- Plant lettuce as an indoor crop under grow lights
- Prune trees and shrubs
- Check soil pH levels and amend as necessary
- Plant new trees and shrubs
- Fertilize fruit trees which were previously planted apply horticultural oil
- Add manure and compost to garden beds and turn into the earth
- Plant lettuce, cabbage, beets, carrots, broccoli, turnips, spinach, radishes, cauliflower, and peas
You’re now in the know as to what you should be doing around your garden by both your planting zone and your region.
It’s a good idea to cross-reference the two lists to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. This will help you to make sure your garden is at its best when it’s time to start your new garden for the year.