May – Northern Planting and Garden Making Month

May is the main planting and garden making month of the year for those in the North. It is the time to start a new garden, and to work with an established one. Although planting of dormant trees and shrubs can be started in April, most of the planting is done in May. A late spring, or unfavorable weather in April, often delays the planting or transplanting of woody ornamentals until May. This of course, is the time to plant dormant fruit trees and flowering crabapples. Fall planting is too risky for them, but it is safe for all other woody, deciduous plants when properly handled and given winter protection.

The rosy blossomed varieties of ornamental crabapples are the most colorful of the small trees that will grow in the North. Their popularity, however, overshadows another very floriferous white and pink variety that would be rated very high if it were better known. The lovely flowering crabapple, is a beautiful, small tree that never fails to produce a bountiful crop of blooms, year after year.

These small fruits are very popular with all the birds that nest on the home grounds, and those that migrate to the South from far northern lands in fall. The fruits cling firmly to the tree, and those that are not feasted upon in fall, are relished by the birds that remain over winter. Those who are interested in attracting birds to the home landscape should lose no time in acquiring one or more of these trees. Planted along the borderline of the property, they also provide cover and protection so essential in attracting birds.

Attention also should be directed to the planting of the sugar maple as an ornamental and shade tree. Few trees can rival it for autumn color, good growth habit and hardiness. Too often it is not selected because it does not grow as fast as the soft maple, American elm and other shade trees, but none of these can compare to the sugar maple for beauty and durability. It is not at all too slow growing to prohibit its use as a shade tree, and it’s certainly worth waiting for.

If not done in April, all small fruits such as plums, cherries, cherryplums, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, grapes and strawberries should be planted as early in May as possible. Plants should be purchased from reliable local sources. Vegetables should be planted from seeds or seedlings as early as possible with the exception of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Plants of these should not be set out until the end of May.

The planting of evergreens such as the Chinese evergreen should be done before they start to grow, for when new growth starts there is more risk in transplanting them. Nurserymen in the North, however, are able to transplant successfully specimens that were balled and burlapped or grown in containers before the new growth started. Plants are handled with greater care and given protection against sun and winds that might be hard on the tender, new growth. VV hen spruce, pine and fir are in an advanced stage of new growth, they are not planted.

Early in the month, if not already done in April, garden beds are cultivated and prepared for seeding and the planting of transplants. Tender plants may be set out when all danger of frost is past. This generally is not until the middle of May or even later in the far North.

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Author: Keith Markensen
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