What to do in your garden in May


• Annuals. As the weather warms up, sow seeds or plant seedlings of sun lovers such as cosmos, marigolds, nasturtiums, pelargoniums, petunias, and zinnias. In shady places, set out begonias, coleus, impatiens, and violas.

• Fuchsias. Train red-and-white 'Swingtime' fuchsia on a trellis in a large pot and display on the front porch. Grow red-and-purple 'Bright Eyes' in a hanging basket or pink 'Southgate' in a window box. For large containers on a patio, combine orange-red 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' fuchsia with a bronze-leafed New Zealand flax. To create bushy plants, pinch fuchsias back every few weeks. Feed and water plants regularly through the summer.

• Groundcover. If you like blue star creeper (Pratia pedunculata), consider growing 'County Park', 'Dark Blue', or 'Kelsey Blue', which have brighter blue flowers than the species.

Herbs. Now is a good time to plant annual herbs such as basil, borage, and parsley, and perennial ones like chives, mint, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

• Spring perennials. Plant 'Color Flash' astilbe, bleeding heart, 'Origami' columbine, deer fern, and sweet woodruff in shade; and lady's-mantle, Russell hybrid lupine, and 'Fruit Punch' or 'Patty's Plum' Oriental poppies in sun.

• Trees and shrubs. Before you buy a tree or shrub for the garden, check out the grown-up version. You can view labeled mature specimens of crabapples, dogwoods, dove tree, empress tree, hawthorns, and many other plants at any arboretum.

• Vegetables. Grow beans and corn from seed, and eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes from seedlings. Start cucumbers, melons, and squash from seed ( Sunset climate zones 3a-3b, 6-7) or seedlings (zones A1-A3, 4-5).


• Control aphids. Whenever you notice aphids attacking plants, blast them off with a jet of water from the hose, and you probably won't need to use a pesticide. If water doesn't work and infestations build up to large numbers, spray with insecticidal soap.

• Deadhead wisterias. If you nip off Chinese wisteria flowers as they're fading, the plants will usually respond with a strong show of new blooms in July.

• Fertilize plants. With everything you plant this month, dig slow-release fertilizer into the backfill (excavated soil returned to the area), then water well.

• Prune. As soon as blooming is finished on azaleas, camellias, forsythias, lilacs, rhododendrons, and other spring-flowering plants, prune them for shape. If you prune later, you'll cut off next spring's buds.

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