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Don Davis: Time to take advantage of spring’s ideal growing conditions
Gardening activity gets into high gear in May. There is much to be done to take advantage of spring’s ideal growing conditions.We need to consider the chance for a cold snap with temperatures below freezing. Last May, gardeners had to cover their tender plants, such as tomatoes, on two frigid nights and that could happen again.Roses will perfume the air this month. Most kinds of roses are going to come into full bloom.Potted roses are the best ones to plant in May and a wide variety of them can be found at garden centers, nurseries and other retailers. May is too late to start with mail order bare root rose plants, unless the weather turns unusually cool and wet.Other timely plantings include a wide variety of fruits, herbs, vegetables, annuals and perennials, plus woody ornamentals such as shrubbery and trees. Grass seed sown this month will germinate and produce seedlings, though they may not survive the stresses of hot weather, drought and fungal disease.Tomato planting season starts this month and continues to the end of June. The vines will grow for 65 to 90 days before the first tomatoes ripen.To succeed with tomatoes, you need to meet their needs for fertilizer, water, mulch, support and spacing. When grown too close together they have less air circulation to help their leaves dry after a rain or dew, and the inevitable result is leaf blight disease.Full-size tomato plants, such as Better Boy, Big Beef and Juliet that grow seven feet tall, need a wide spacing of four to six feet between plants. Shorter tomato varieties grow well under more crowded conditions.Tomatoes and any other potted plants you buy can be root bound if they have been growing too long in the same pot. The roots become densely packed in the pot and establish a circular growth pattern that can inhibit the roots’ ability to branch out into garden soil after planting.To correct this situation you may be able to disrupt the circling roots using your fingers. Otherwise you can use a knife to slice the root ball from top to bottom in several places.Fertilization and spring go hand in hand. As new growth begins, it seems natural to fertilize the plants in your yard.This approach works well with flowers, shrubbery, trees, vegetables and herbs. Fertilizer is not good for lawns, unless you apply it sparingly.Pruning can keep you busy this month. The list of shrubbery to trim, clip and prune in May ranges from holly, boxwood, juniper to forsythia, winter jasmine and other early spring bloomers.Weeds are poised to take over. The best way to prevent them in gardens is to cover the ground with mulch.It can be a layer of inorganic mulch, such as stone or a covering of organic mulch made of pine needles, pine bark nuggets or shredded wood. Mulch stops weed seeds from germinating by blocking out the light they need to develop.Don Davis is a retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. He can be reached at [email protected] Davis is a retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. He can be reached at [email protected]
Don Davis is a retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. He can be reached at [email protected]
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