Monthly Garden Calendar for Southeast United States

Organic Gardening Month-to-Month Almanac

By Don Boekelheide

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MAY

May is the swinging door into summer and by the end of the month, we'll all be roasting in Zone 7's summer heat. Meanwhile, enjoy lovely spring flowers like phlox, irises, roses, daylilies (and Trilliums an maypops, down in the woods), and relish the harvest from our spring gardens.

Clear Your Compost Bin. Make sure you've got an empty compost bin to hold finished pansies, cleared-out weeds, and any bags of leaves you decide to harvest from the curb. I usually start a new worm bin about this time, too.

Fill In Bald Spots. On any bare places in the garden, sow a cover crop to build soil and out-compete weeds. I like buckwheat and black-eyed peas as summer covers.

Sow and Transplant. You can sow or transplant beans, black-eyed peas, Crowder peas, cantaloupe, squash, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, sweet corn, okra, hot weather lettuce mixes, tropical greens, basil, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and sweet potatoes.

Crop Care. Harvest your cool season crops regularly, keep them watered and weeded. When the snow peas show signs of heat fatigue, you can dig them right into the bed to enrich the soil, or contribute to the compost.

Flower Power. Now is the time for planting annual flowers like asters, cleome, coreopsis, cosmos, flowering tobacco, marigold, petunia, sunflower, Tithonia ("Mexican sunflower") and zinnias (all types). Continue setting out summer annuals like begonia, geranium and petunia this month.

Pooped Pansies. Relegate pansies to the compost pile when they burn out, replace with summer annuals.

Pruning Preparation. Prune flowering trees and shrubs after they bloom, and then spread a fresh inch of compost followed by mulch. Don't wait on azaleas and other spring bloomers.

Ravishing Roses. Like vegetables, roses are big feeders. Side-dress with an organic fertilizer this month, and keep topdressing with compost.

Time For Softwood Cuttings. Make cuttings of old-fashioned roses (modern ones are patented). Cut stem about 1 foot long, discard last 3-4 inches.

Hummingbirds Are Back! Red flowers attract hummingbirds to your garden, they especially like tubular shaped blooms, like Penstemon—in my yard, they love Monarda, especially the old fashioned red one.

Veggie Bugs. In the vegetable garden, monitor for squash vine borer, flea beetle on eggplant, cucumber beetle. In the landscape, watch for bagworms, azalea lace bugs, leaf miners, camellia-tea scale, euonymus scale and aphids, of course. Remove azalea and camellia leaf galls when you spot them.

Soft, Slimy, and Sinister. Slugs and snails can create huge problems this time of year. I hear that diatomaceous earth or ashes can help discourage them, but hand picking works most effectively for me. Go out at night with a light, a container, a strong stomach and iron will.

Invasives and Pest Plants. Poison ivy and invasive exotic plants like Japanese honeysuckle can be real problems. If you are using only cultural controls, be constantly vigilant and take action while invaders are small.

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