Fresh Dirt for May


You never know where a grand idea will come from. Daydream, look through magazines and books, go to lectures and gardens, and be aware of the landscapes around you. You may find that one day, the idea for your garden will suddenly fall into place.






So seeds in May?

Spring weather is securely in place. It is such a trance-inducing season. The soil has drained and warmed and trees are stretching and leafing out. The ornamental grasses have grown up past their old brown stubs; the hostas are unfurling, luxuriant as ever.

Many think that May is somehow already too late or behind schedule for the best planting possibilities. Now that temperatures are consistently in the 50's at night and daytime weather is warm and settled, it's the perfect time for sowing seeds right into the garden. Good choices are summertime kitchen garden staples like squash, beans, cucumbers and melons. Seeds sown directly into well-prepared warm soil will grow effortlessly now.

Extravagant Growth

Compost is the hero of water conservation. If you put organic matter into your soil, you won't have to water as much. It will also enrich and enhance your growing medium. Healthy happy roots are key to lush growth along with water on a regular basis. You can tell when to water by feeling the soil a couple of inches below the surface. If it feels cool and doesn't get your finger muddy, then it's the perfect time to water. Never let your soil become dry and dusty. Putting vegetable under water stress will greatly affect your harvest. Lettuce, with its shallow root system, will turn bitter. Cucumbers will just stop growing and snap beans will drop their blossoms.

Time Out

There are some wonderful new containers made out of materials like cold-resistant polyethylene as well as new designs in Italian terra cotta and cast stone. They come in wild and hot colors. Be imaginative. Paint your containers to match your front door or antique them using a new compound on the market that encourages mossy growth. A container garden can be changed every month. Why not try a new look this year? Perhaps use only one color scheme like gray plants one month and red-flowering types the next. If you love to cook with fresh herbs plant your favorite ones in a window box or pot near your kitchen. Herbs make beautiful arrangements and can be so fragrant.

Single focus

Since we've been experiencing very dry springs and summers it's time to think about using plants that are happy in this weather. There are a number of unusual succulents that need little attention once established. Some of the annuals that last and hold up well in containers are verbenas, lantanas especially the Patriot series, pentas especially the Galaxy series, gazanias, zinnias and 'Sorbet' violas. A pot planted completely with only one of these varieties is refreshing.

Patience rewarded

Whatever happens, don't be discouraged by failures. Figuring out the right plants for your containers and garden is a question of trial and error. Finding the right exposure is tricky. You may have to shift pots around. The road to this knowledge is lined with the sad remains of potted plants. Just know that all gardeners have had this experience.