Spring Garden Tips

Melinda's Gardening Tips for Late May

Whether you are hoping for a big harvest, a beautiful landscape, or a little stress relief, knowing the when and how of gardening will help you be a success. Use these timely garden tips to eliminate some of the guesswork. For more gardening tips, check out Melinda's gardening books.


Gently introduce plants started indoors to their summer home outdoors by hardening off. Start two weeks before planting outdoors. Stop fertilizing and reduce watering frequency. Move plants outdoors to a sheltered, shady location and increase the light by an hour or two each day. Move plants indoors or cover when temperatures dip.

Growing Green

Save money and add a little whimsy to your garden by reusing unconventional objects as containers in your garden. Get a new life from an old pair of work boots, an old bucket, washtub or crate. The sky's the limit on what you can recycle into a garden treasure. Provide drainage and your favorite plants and you're on your way to growing wonder this season.Click here for more Green Tips.

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Gardening Tips for Flowers

Northern gardeners may want to wait until late May or early June when the soil and air are warm to plant tender annuals such as petunias and coleus. I like to use ReeMay, Harvest Guard or other floating row covers to protect tender plants from cool temperatures. These materials allow air, light and water through, but capture the heat around the plants. Use them to get an earlier start or speed up plant growth early in the season.

Southern gardeners should consider replacing their spring annuals with more heat-tolerant African daisies, ageratum, cockscomb, pentas, annual vinca, petunia, portulacca and zinnia. Add a few begonias, coleus and impatiens to shady locations.

Once your bulbs finish blooming, leave the leaves in place. Interplant a few annuals to hide the declining leaves. I like to mix my bulbs with perennials. As the bulb foliage declines the perennials fill in and cover the leaves. It looks good and is less work for me. Remove the foliage once it yellows or dries.

A Fabulous Garden in 5 Easy Steps

Fall Landscape Care in 5 Easy Steps


Gardening Tips for Edibles

The planting season is gaining momentum. Plant seeds of Brussels sprouts, snap beans, late cabbage and sweet corn directly in the garden. Remember to mark and label the rows so it will be easier to distinguish the vegetables from the weeds.

Pull or cut the leaves of established rhubarb plants when they are 12 to 15 inches long. Remove the large leafy portion (it is toxic) and only use the stem for baking and cooking. Limit the harvest to one or two weeks on two-year-old plantings. You can keep harvesting established plants for eight to ten weeks.

Do not use home orchard sprays or other pesticides containing insecticides on flowering fruit trees. The insecticides can prevent fruit formation and also kill the bees needed for pollination and fruit production. Make sure you need an insecticide before spraying. Then read and follow all label direction carefully and wait until petal fall before applying insecticides.

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Trees, Shrubs and Roses

Evaluate the size and thickness of mulch rings around trees. Bigger is better in this case. A wide mulch ring, covering most of the area under the tree canopy, creates a good environment for the tree roots. Shredded bark and wood chips help conserve water, reduce weed growth, and add nutrients to the soil beneath. Get the most benefits from mulch by: mulching both new and established trees; maintaining a 3-inch layer around trees; keeping mulch away from the tree trunk because piling mulch around the trunk can lead to decay.

Do not use weed barriers under bark, woodchips, and other organic mulches. They are only a temporary solution for weed growth and can create a maintenance headache in the long run. As the mulch on top of the weed barrier decomposes, it creates a perfect place for weeds and grass to grow. It also prevents the organic matter from improving the soil beneath the barrier.

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Lawns and Groundcovers

Memorial Day is a great time to fertilize your lawn. A light application of fertilizer now replenishes nutrients used in spring and prepares the lawn for the stressful summer ahead. Use a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, like Milorganite. Small amounts of nutrients are released as the plants need them throughout the summer. It also prevents fertilizer burn if a drought sets in and you are unable to water in the summer.

Pull weeds as soon as they appear in your groundcover plantings. Mulch exposed soil to help keep annual weeds at bay. Then, fill in voids with new plants or divisions. Always add organic matter to the soil prior to planting. Check new plantings often to make sure they have sufficient moisture. Once started, most groundcovers are able to exist on normal rainfall. All plants may need a bit of attention during extended dry periods.

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Tips for Indoor Plants

Don't let all the outdoor activity distract you from your indoor gardening chores. Consider giving your plants a shower. Give plants a shower indoors or out. A light spray of water can eliminate dust, aphids, and mites. Follow up with a treatment of insecticidal soap if insects are found. Several weekly treatments may be needed to keep aphid and mite populations under control.

Now is also a good time to fertilize. Even plants spending the summer indoors will benefit from the extra sunshine and be able to better utilize the nutrients. Use a dilute solution of any indoor plant fertilizer to give stunted or lackluster plants a boost. Monitor your plant's growth and health before fertilizing again. Plants with full-size leaves and desired growth rate do not need routine fertilization.

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