Oh my—that frost nipped quite a few things. We heard about it at the Garden Center. Sadly, many new leaves were blackened (not in a good Cajun spice way) last week and we may get pretty chilly again on Thursday May 25 to Friday May 26—though not as harsh. If your hydrangea, winterberry, bleeding-heart, rose, etc. have blackened and curled leaves, these were damaged by last week’s frost. At this point those leaves will not recover and you can remove them. Your plants are not dead and should push out new growth. The growth adds stress to the plant, so be sure to keep them watered regularly and, when leaves do flush out, apply a slow-release fertilizer to help them regain their strength.
Quick note on fertilizer. A slow-release organic fertilizer helps restore nutrients to your soil and ultimately plant roots but only if the pH is right for your plants. An organic fertilizer does this over time and is not a quick fix. The right pH for most vegetable gardens is around 6-6.5, slightly acidic. Your fertilizer needs moisture and the correct molecular ion exchange (preferred pH) for your plants to do any good. You can affect pH by adding either sulfur or lime. Get a soil test kit or bring soil to local Farmer’s Markets where soil testing is scheduled and determine how much sulfur or lime you might need if any. More can be learned about Soil Testing at the UMass Extension
Compost is not fertilizer; it helps keep the soil alive with microorganisms, holds moisture but also provides air pockets for drainage and root growth. Those microorganisms also help break down the fertilizer and make it available to your plants.
Back to the weather. Yes, frosty mornings are a feature of May weather. Keep your eyes tuned to the forecast. Still, this is the time to pot up your annual containers and start putting annuals in your perennial borders. I used to hate the idea of spending money every year on annuals. I guess that’s why I try to start annuals from seed. But even with my good advice, my annual starts look pitiful and weak. I will still put them in the garden, but I have chosen to augment with the amazing greenhouse-grown additions of zinnia, salvia and marigold.
By now, I have embraced annuals for their consistent color and background punch for my perennials that come and go through the growing season. When your goal is to keep something blooming from March through October, annual flowers will definitely help fill the gaps.
I have purchased my annuals, keeping in mind a plan of color combinations and the goal of attracting hummingbirds. I won’t be planting these in hanging baskets or containers just yet. The daytime temperatures are fine, but the nights are too cool. Cool weather won’t kill the plants but it will slow their growth. For now, they sit under my covered porch facing east where they get great sunlight but avoid cold winds and the coldest temperatures. I’ll put them in containers around Memorial Day, May 29 this year.
Here’s where the lazy gardener reminds you to “Wait on tomatoes”. You may think I wait because I’m too busy or not a tomato lover. Well, I don’t share the enthusiasm for owning the first tomato of the season but I want tasty tomatoes for as long as possible. If we plant our tomatoes in the garden too early, we risk slowing their growth. Rather than getting a jump on the season, we end up with later ripening. Be patient and your strong tomato plants will jump fast out of the gate in the warm soils of early June.
I haven’t planted my beet seeds. In fact, I decided my beet seeds were too old. I’ve punted and purchased a flat of beets that are pre-sprouted. I’ll put these in as soon as possible and keep them watered. As a fall crop, the beets have plenty of time to grow and I’m not too concerned about being late.
I will carefully pull apart the seedlings and place them into the garden bed at the same depth as the growing cell. Some will not transplant successfully but the Lazy Gardener had great luck with pre-sprouted seedlings before. Yum!
I’ll sow beans right after Memorial Day alongside my peas (legumes hang together). I choose to grow purple bush beans and yellow climbing beans primarily because it’s easiest to pick the ripe beans that are not the same color as the leaves! While farmers markets have lovely tomatoes, squash and greens, I always find the beans from my garden are the sweetest and freshest by far. After planting beans and corn, loosely cover the area with spun polyester or similar netting to keep insect pest from laying eggs on the newly sprouted seedlings. Rain and sunshine will get through. Remove the netting only when you have flowers forming ready for pollination. Hopefully by then the pests, will have moved on.
Continue to weed your perennial beds and monitor moisture in your vegetable garden. Watering is probably the most important part of your gardening routine. This lazy gardener always tries to enlist the help of an assistant. Hint, hint. A morning walk in the garden listening to the birds with a watering can or a directed hose can be even more pleasant when shared. Sell it!
I call myself the Lazy Berkshire Gardener because I don’t want to work too hard in my gardens. I want to enjoy them. I find it easier to observe my landscape and let the compost happen, the water pool up or daisies to self-sow. I look for ways to do the minimum task for the biggest impact. For example, mulching is better than spraying and much better than weeding all season. I look for beautiful low-maintenance plants that thrive in or at least tolerate my garden conditions. Plus, I’m willing to live with the consequences if I miss something.