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Master Gardener: A checklist for May

Annuals. Increase your flower beds’ visual impact by adding these sun-lovers: zinnias, ageratum, petunias, Madagascar periwinkle, celosia, ornamental peppers, scarlet sage. For shady areas select coleus, impatiens and nicotiana. Deadhead blooms to prolong the show.

Perennials. Finish planting, mulching as you go. Keep identifying labels on plants in the bed or draw up a diagram of what is planted where. Watch for leaf holes and silvery trails on hostas - telltale signs of slugs. Divide early-blooming perennials after bloom. Begin pinching mums. Likewise on the deadheading.

Bulbs. Leave foliage intact until brown. Avoid braiding leaves so that they have more of a chance to capture sun rays and re-energize bulbs for next year’s blooms. Apply bulb booster. I have already set out caladiums, cannas, glads, calla lilies and dahlias.

Azaleas. Local azaleas put on a good show this year. Watch for insects: lace bugs or spider mites can cause yellowing foliage. Use Orthene for control.

Camellias. Plants infested with scale can be treated with a faithful monthly application of Orthene (excluding January and February). To keep scale off healthy plants, thorough application of dormant oil is necessary.

Trees. Prune spring-flowering specimens after they bloom. Late corrective pruning will remove next year’s blooms. Prune hedges when new growth reaches 2 to 4 inches. Clipping is easier when growth is soft. Mulch shrubs and trees to reduce weeds and retain soil moisture. Fertilize azaleas and rhododendrons after they bloom. Deadhead lilacs, rhododendrons and azaleas after bloom so they don’t use energy to form seed. Faithfully water any newly-planted trees and shrubs the first year so they will set a good, healthy set of roots into the ground - an inch of moisture weekly.

Fruit. Most fruit trees bloomed out with little trouble from evening temperatures. Thin fruit from trees now to produce larger, superior fruit later in the season. Also keeps tree branches from breaking under the burden of too much fruit.

Houseplants. Move yours outside now. Place in partly shaded area to avoid leaf bum from over-expose to sun. Increase frequency of waterings and fertilize twice monthly with a water-soluble solution of 18-18-18 or 20-20-20. Consider leaving fragile plants like ficus inside.

Roses. Makely weekly fungicide applications as soon as plants green up. To control thrips and aphids, add Orthene. Follow manufacturer’s instructions. Feed plants monthly into fall with 1/4 cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer scratched in under each bush. Container-grown roses can be planted until the 15 Ih of the month. Make sure they have sufficient water to stay hydrated until you do or bud formation will suffer. Prune climbing roses as soon as they have finished blooming. Always remove dead or diseased wood. Thin out some of the older canes to the ground. This stimulates the rose to grow new shoots that will eventually produce next year’s flowers. While we’re on the topic of climbers, do make sure that the trellis or whatever structure you’re using can take the weight and growth of that rose.

Vegetables. Warm-weather crops of green beans, squash, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, sweet potatoes and corn should already be planted if your garden has dried sufficiently from all the rain we’ve had. Cool-season vegetable production has tapered off.

Lawns. Growing rapidly! Grass does best when cut only a third of its height. Mow often. Cutting too short sends the grass into shock, setting you up for a weed invasion. Keep your blade sharp and mow when the grass is dry. Remove debris before mowing, wear sturdy shoes particularly important to have tread on when you are push-mowing sloping areas), and never add fuel to a hot mower. Pay attention to traffic if you are mowing up against a highway. For Bermuda, apply a second pre-emergence crabgrass control treatment between May 15th and June 15th. For Fescue, fertilize with nitrogen only; check for sod webworm larvae and control as necessary. Check out all the green alternatives to maintaining a healthy lawn.

Herbs. Try the most-used: parsley, chives, basil. Most herbs need full sun with a welldrained soil on the limey side. Confine aggressive specimens like mint by placing them in a container sunk into the soil. To cook with fresh herbs, use about 3 times as much as you would dried. Don’t begrudge your butterfly friends if they nibble - plant extra.

In general. Enjoy porch sitting again. Moon-lit evenings, the fragrant smells of plants in bloom - your own little piece of God’s green earth.

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