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May Highlights

* Peonies, chives, lilac, hollyhock
* Hardening, transplanting, direct seeding outdoors
* Potted dahlia bulbs move to the screened porch
* Drought and pest management
* Fertilize rhododendron and roses
* Insects attacking mammals:  ticks, blackflies, mosquitos
* Insects attacking plants:  cutworm
* Trillium and Lady's Slipper in the woodland
* Hummingbirds

Trillium          Male Hummer

In the Seeding Room

Seed succession lettuce every two weeks.  Amaranth and Swiss chard can also be started indoors for an early summer crop, since they are more heat tolerant than other greens.

In the Garden


Tiller's Cardinal rule #1  from Planter Master Tiller and Composter (below):   Minimum till rows and wait till soil dries to till.

In the almost 9 years of gardening in central NY, only once were we able to till as early as April 1st.

When we first moved here, our brother-in-law, a native New Hampshirite, told us not to bother planting till June 1st. We ultimately took his advice. The plants catch up, especially if they are in 2"-3" pots.

Till some compost or well rotted manure into the soil.  Cover crops planted last year can also be tilled under at this time.  According to Virginia Extension Service, tomato and pepper plants had more aphids when grown in bare soil and less yield when grown in living rye mulch compared with those grown in raised beds.  They produced greater yields and had fewer pest problems when grown in white and black plastic.  Planter uses black plastic for all peppers and some tomatoes.  Four-mil plastic will last for several growing seasons if care is taken when removing it from the ground in the fall. 


tilling.jpg (24417 bytes)   (click to enlarge)


"Double digging"  is a good way to recycle good topsoil.  Dig down at least "6."   Set the topsoil (about first 3"-4") aside and add any clumps of grass, or weeds if they are seed-free, upside down in the bottom of the trench before filling. 

Double Digging


Fill trench with a mixture of dug soil and compost or manure.  Toss out larger chunks of clay or rocks.

Double Digging 2

When refilling the trench, raise the top of the bed at least 3", ideally 6" above the soil line.  It warms up the soil faster, improves drainage, and helps roots get better established.

Virginia Extension Service advises not to dig too far down when planting asparagus crowns. "Yields improve dramatically when crowns are set at a depth of 5 to 6 inches -- not the commonly advised 12 inches. Contrary to the standard practices of deep planting and not harvesting for up to three seasons, recent studies show that harvesting shallow- planted asparagus after the first year boosts yields 40 percent over three years."  That is, if the rodents don't get to them first!


compost_pan01b (9K)

The evolution of Black Gold. Pile at the left of picture is leaf compost; dark pile to the right of the picture is cow manure left over from last year.

Hardening,Transplanting, Direct Seeding


Harden off plant sets  in a cold frame or screened porch with adequate protection from wind and intense sunlight. 

Transplant tomatoes at least 30" apart to avoid blight and other fungus disease.  Pick a cloudy, drizzly day to transplant, especially when summertime temperatures are climbing.

Cucurbits (cucumbers and squash) and sunflowers resent transplanting and grow quickly, so they are saved till the end of the month and seeded directly in the garden.

Dahlias stored over the winter and potted up last month can be transplanted.

Drought and Pest Management

Both are fed by weather and life cycles.  Neither can be controlled without controlling the other.  As weather conditions become more extreme global warming), staying ahead of the game becomes more critical.

Knowing the insect life cycle is critical for those who want to avoid using chemicals.

Cutworms are the nemesis of our spring-planted brassicas and greens. Normally, they appear around mid-May and continue through late June.

Drought has become the norm in NH since we retired here in 1997.  New Hampshire is known as the Granite State for a reason.  The soil is extremely sandy and drains away moisture as quickly as it falls. 

Early June Peppers

In mid-May, we lay black plastic for peppers, some tomatoes, and okra. The plastic helps heat the soil up quickly, retains moisture longer, and keeps the weeds out. If cool, wet springs drag on, our homemade rowcovers provide an assist. 

Fedco is the best source for this and other "season extenders."  A roll 4x50 feet costs $5.00.  See Garden Links for their web site.

We lay drip irrigation hoses before applying plastic.  If carefully removed at the end of the season, the plastic can be stored for use next year. 

If  temperatures are in the 80's or above for several days in a row, plants (including shrubs) may need watering.

Fruit won't set when temperatures are below a mean of 60 degrees or above 90 degrees.   Too much or too little water or fertilizers can cause blight, blossom-end rot, or other disease. 

Floating row covers can protect against a late spring frost.  They may need securing against heavy winds.  In the summer, they can protect against cabbage worm moths and other flying insects. 

In the Woodland

Forest and woodland plants are neat.  They force you to use your eyes!  Trillium and Common Lady's Slipper hide behind larger leafy plants and shrubs.     

                     Trillium  Trillium     Lady Slipper   Lady's Slipper

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