(and other May Gardening Tips)
By Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor University of Vermont
Proper flowers and feeding for hummingbirds, proper watering, and correct
timing on moving spring-flowering bulbs, are some of the gardening tips for this
Hummingbirds arrive back in our area of New England usually in late April in
southern locations, early May in the north. After their incredibly long journey
northward, they're ready for food.
How to Attract Hummingbirds
Hang a hummingbird feeder or two this time of the year, and either use
hummingbird food you can buy (a powder to mix with water), or make your
own. Add two cups of sugar to a quart of water, heat to dissolve, then allow to
cool before placing out. Don't use any other additives such as food coloring.
Refrigerate what you don't use, and replace the feeder food every few days. If
your feeder hangs from a pole, and ants find it, put Vaseline on a section of the
pole to deter the ants.
Plant Some Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds
Even if you put up hummingbird feeders, also plant some of their favorite
flowers, such as fuchsias, salvias, columbines, nicotiana, trumpet vine, bleeding
hearts, foxgloves, and others that have trumpet-shaped blooms. They are
attracted to the color red but they visit flowers of other colors, too, as long as
they are the right shape.
To encourage good rooting of new plants in the ground, make sure you water
long enough to moisten the soil around the root zone of the plant. Sprinkling a
little water on plants every day can do more harm than good by encouraging
the roots to stay close to the surface where they are susceptible to drying out
faster. Stick your finger into the soil and if it's dry two inches deep, it's time to
water. Apply enough water to moisten the soil a bit deeper than the roots.
Move Bulbs Around
If you want to move some spring-blooming bulbs to another spot, wait until the
foliage has turned yellow later in summer, then carefully dig them up and let
them dry in a shady spot for a few days. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place for
the summer until it's time to plant them in fall. If you need to move the bulbs
sooner, dig and "heel" in (temporarily plant) out of the way, marking where
they are so you can find them once the foliage has died.
Keep Pots from Staining Wood Decks
Use clay or metal "plant feet" underneath large containers to help with drainage
and to keep pots from staining wood decks and steps. For heavy indoor plants
that you summer outdoors, use plant trivets with four casters to make moving
them in and out less backbreaking.
Don't Let Plants Flop Over
Brace plants that tend to flop over now, while they're still small. Use wire rings
and supports, or make your own by placing sturdy branches in the ground in a
ring around the plant. Then loop twine from stake to stake to encircle the plant.
Or you can wrap the twine around each stake and the one across from it, to
make a criss-cross pattern for the plant stems to grow through. If you set the
cages in place now, the foliage will soon hide them. In contrast, trying to tie up
toppled plants is frustrating and usually ends up looking ridiculous.
Other May Tips
Other tips for this busy month include planting cool vegetable crops early, such
as carrots, lettuce, peas, broccoli and cabbage. Wait until the usual last frost is
past for warm crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, and for sowing
seeds of melons, squash, and corn.