Monday, May 9, 2011

May I? What to plant when

     Here we are, the April showers have passed and now it is May flowers. I, like many others, enjoyed the gorgeous weekend outdoors, in my garden. I even broke my cardinal gardening rule, I bought plants before the May 24th weekend.

     I went to my local garden centre, just to look. I usually make quite a few trips during the season as the plan for my garden evolves. I was surprised by how much and many things were already available and I caved. The first time ever and it was silly really. I won't actually plant anything, there is still a danger of a hard frost. Remember last year? We got frost just before May 24 and it killed the flowers on my roses and peonies. I heard a lot of moaning about premature planting last spring.

     What is safe to put in the ground right now? There are actually quite a few options.

     As far as annuals go, pansies can stand just about anything this time of year can throw at them. They do not thrive in the heat of the summer. Unless you are doing pots of daffodils, tulips etc, it really is best to wait for all of your other flowers. I don't know of many that can survive a big drop in temperature. If you want to take a chance or are willing to cover or bring them inside, go crazy. I don't plant a lot of annual flowers so my knowledge is quite limited.

     Now is the time for bulbs and tubers. Lilies, dahlias and gladiolus can all go in the ground. The chance of an actual freeze is pretty much passed so all of these can be planted. You can also plant tulips, daffodils and crocuses. They won't flower this year and you don't have to plant them this early but many garden centres will have the bulbs on sale, it's the wrong time of year so no demand. Gardening is all about planning for next year.

     There are quite a few things that like the cool weather in the vegetable patch. Radishes, beets, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, onions and carrots, all can go in the ground now. Most root crops prefer cooler weather and do best if planted early. A really hard frost might kill the tops but most will survive and re sprout. None of these plants like extreme heat and can be very problematic for the urban gardener.

     A little potato growing tip, plant your potatoes in a hole about 8-12" deep. As they sprout, cover them with more soil. Repeat until you have a hill about 6" high. You will have a bigger hill of potatoes with a higher yield in the same amount of space. My father swears by this and always has a good potato crop.

     Swiss chard, kale, brussel sprouts and cabbage are also very hardy but will not survive a hard frost without a lot of damage so wait. I know it's hard by why waste all your hard work.

     The only root vegetable I know of that is not safe to plant this time of year is sweet potato. The reason is, they aren't potatoes, they are a species of morning glory and do not like any kind of cold. They are slow growing, slow maturing and need a really long growing season.

     There are quite a few perennial herbs, mint, tarragon, oregano, sage, lemon balm and thyme to name a few. Although they are all quite resilient, new plantings are not. They haven't had time to establish themselves.

     What should you be doing, besides waiting. Now is the time to add compost, work your soil, check to see what has changed in your garden from last year or plan a new spot and as always, pull those weeds. I know it is hard not to get out there and get going but a little patience now will pay off later and avoid a lot of disappointment and frustration.

     What is going on in your garden right now? Drop me a line or leave a comment and share what you are doing to prepare for the gardening season ahead.

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Thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoyed your time in the "Kitchen".