New England Gardening Advice By the Month -May
By now, even the staunchest naysayer has to admit that Spring has arrived. The grass is about as green as it will be throughout the season, the crocus have come and gone and the daffodils are making an appearance from south to north on the heels of warmer and longer days.
If you followed our advice last month, you took an hour or two to clean out the planting beds to allow the spring flowering bulbs a chance to show their faces. Now is the time to examine these and all other locations and focus on what to do when the spring flowers die back in the next month or so. You have a great opportunity here, to plant either annuals or perennials in and around the daffodils and crocus so you have a non-stop display of color throughout the season. A lot of folks don't do this and end up with bare patches (or worse, patches of weeds) where their spring garden comes up each year. If you plan and plant now, you'll know exactly where the spring bulbs are so you can plant amongst the bulbs without disturbing them.
The pansy and the viola are great choices for May planting. Even in May, the unpredictable New England weather produces bursts of 80+ degree days and sometimes 25 degree nights. On occasion, even a snow flurry drops a healthy coating of snow on spring gardens. Dont' worry... these plants can take the cold and heat extremes better than most plants. It will tend to die back in the heat of the summer but often comes back full force in the fall, usually from the spring plants producing seed which lie dormant during the hot summer months. Add all this to the fact that they are available at virtually any garden center and you've got a real winner for your spring garden in May and June.
May is also the time you want to start conditioning your plants that have been indoors all winter to the outdoors if you plan on putting them on a patio (or your vegetables that you started from seed inside). "Hardening off" your plants like this does two things: first, it helps them develop stronger stems that they will need to stay upright during outdoor windy conditions. Secondly, it allows your plants to acclamate to the strong outdoor sun slowly. This is done by exposing your plants during short periods of time to the outdoors and then bringing them inside again, 1 or 2 hours at a time. If you were to put indoor plants outside full-time without this adjustment period, the leaves will most likely burn from the hot sun and the stems may break in the wind. If you do this four or five times, the plant becomes ready to handle the new light and wind conditions and will thrive once it is outdoors for the summer, be in a patio pot or the vegetable garden.