May’s Garden

May has symbolized rebirth and a definitive end to winter throughout the centuries. For many gardeners, this is the month that their garden is at its best – and ironically, the month that they will be visiting other gardens for inspiration. To that end, this year I’ll be taking a tour group with CarexTours to visit country gardens in England – ending at the Chelsea Flower Show.

The challenge is to move beyond May in the garden and face the other eleven months of the year (or at least the other nine). Consider this as you begin your buying frenzy and extend your bloom season well into the fall!

I look forward to May with breath held, for just as it will be one of the most beautiful months in my garden, it will always be my busiest. It probably is for you too. Here’s why….



Outside Tasks:

  • May 1st is the last frost date for planting tender vegetables and annuals in the Mid-Atlantic – though many often wait for Mother’s Day. It’s Tomato Time folks!!
  • Still a great time to plant trees and shrubs.  Do not let lingering rains convince you that they do not need to be regularly watered in their first season.
  • Cut back and/or shape flowering shrubs that have bloomed, such as forsythia, quince, lilac, viburnum and spirea.
  • Weeds are in their element. Try to get them out by the roots before they go to seed.
  • Mulch newly planted veg beds with leaf mold or straw.
  • Very soon it will be too late to plant cool season crops in the Mid-Atlantic. Check out this excellent planting guide from University of MD Extension service – HG16. You’ll find all the dates you need there.
  • Now that the weather has warmed up, painting projects can confidently begin.
  • Keep an eye out each morning for pests, so you can solve problems before they get to be insurmountable.
  • Don’t cut those lawns too low – 3-4 inches is recommended to keep lawns healthy and weeds out.
  • Got an area you’d rather not mow?  Turn it into a grassy meadow instead, cutting one or two paths through it to keep the neighbors happy.
  • Start your tender container gardens now. Keep them watered.
  • Enjoy those outside blooms by taking a few inside.  Don’t worry, you’ll hardly notice their absence.
  • Mosquito season starts NOW. Every few days, take a walk around and make sure water hasn’t pooled up in tarps, saucers, containers and holes in trees. The Asian tiger mosquito only needs a couple teaspoons over a few days to make your life miserable with her progeny.


Inside Tasks:

  • When moving out your winter refugees, make sure they are placed in a part-shade situation. Otherwise you are going to end up with scorched leaves and a stunted plant. As they adjust to temps and sunlight, you can move them where you wish.
  • Clean and organize your inside growing space (basement, garage, etc.) as things go out, so that plants can come in easily and efficiently in the fall.
  • For those plants that spend their lives indoors – this is a great time to re-pot them if they have grown pot-bound.

“The world is young to-day:
Forget the gods are old,
Forget the years of gold
When all the months were May.”

-Digby Mackworth Dolben
-from “A Song”





About the Author:

Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.