Tasks & Tips in the Ornamental Garden

Tasks & Tips in the Ornamental Garden

  • By Cathy Caldwell
  • /
  • May 2019-Vol.5 No.5
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Fear of Freezing

If you’re like me, May is the month when you look forward to moving your indoor plants outside for their summer vacation.  That time in the outdoors always seems to do them a world of good.  But ever since my deutzia’s blossoms were ruined by a late freeze, I proceed with caution.  Since I’ve been wondering if that old Mother’s Day guideline still applies, I did a bit of research.  In addition to the usual sources — identified in this month’s Tasks & Tips In the Vegetable Garden — I came upon a new-to-me resource at the University of Virginia Office of Climatology, which focuses on the probability of several levels of low temperatures, in addition to that scary 32º mark.  This allows you to consider the cold sensitivity of your particular houseplants. It charts this information for a large number of Virginia locations.  Of course, the chance of frost is critical if you’re planting annuals, too.

Here’s a portion of the chart for Charlottesville:

90% 50% 10%
36º April 4 April 16 April 28
32º March 29 April 7 April 16
28º March 12 March 26 April 9

For other localities, see http://climate.virginia.edu/YourVAGrowingSeason.htm.  So it’s the beginning of May, and I wonder if I should take the risk of a late frost?  That would happen only 1 year in 10, right?  But I live outside Charlottesville at a higher elevation, so I think I’ll wait another couple weeks.  That old-fashioned Mother’s Day guideline is understandably popular.

Keep on weeding!

My garden has the largest weed population ever — and probably yours does, too. But weeding now, means less weeding later, so do a little bit every day or so.

Water your recent transplants

Don’t forget those transplants from last fall.  Regular water for a year is necessary for a plant to be well-established.

Add compost

Regular applications of compost seem to work miracles in my garden.  There are good scientific reasons for this, of course!  See “Backyard Composting With Practical Tips From the Pros,” https://piedmontmastergardeners.org/article/backyard-composting-with-practical-tips-from-the-pros/.

Sow seeds

Zinnias are easy to grow from seed and make a great cut flower. Photo: Cathy Caldwell

Once we reach mid-May, a gardener’s thoughts often turn to sowing seeds of annuals directly into the garden.  Some easy-to-grow-from-seed annuals are zinnia, cleome, cosmos, morning glory, and hyacinth bean vine.  If you’ve been dreaming of a cutting garden, you can start it now.  For detailed directions on preparing your bed and encouraging good seed germination, check out “Growing Annual Flowers,” from the North Carolina State Extension, https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/growing-annual-flowers.

More Tasks and Tips

Review the May Tasks and Tips from prior issues of “The Garden Shed” — and find out whether and how to prune lilacs and peonies, plus how to identify good bugs and bad bugs in your garden:  piedmontmastergardeners.org/the-ornamental-garden-in-may

Find out what your lawn needs in May:

Review the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s tasks and tips lists:

Be sure to take a break now and then and enjoy your garden’s gorgeous new foliage and especially those flowers.  Happy Gardening!



“When Does Your Growing Season Start?” http://climate.virginia.edu/YourVAGrowingSeason.htm

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