VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

May Growing Tips

by Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association

Welcome to Milner Gardens' 2022 Monthly Growing Tips: Some short-cuts and tricks to help make lighter work of your gardening chores.

May Growing Tips

Early this month, rein in your enthusiasm to get warm season transplants into the garden. Tender plants suffer when planted into cold soil, and never really catch up no matter what you do for them during the rest of the growing season. Soon though, soon.

Soil Temperature is the Key
When the soil is 10ºC /50 ºF, cool season food crops, herbaceous perennials, young trees and summer bulbs start well, but wait until the soil is 15.5 ºC /65 ºF for squash, cukes, peppers, coleus and canna bulbs.

Pot up tomatoes one more time. Snip off the bottom row of leaves and bury those leaf nodes below the soil line in the larger pot. Tomatoes form more roots along the stem if buried deeply – which means bigger, earlier harvests – but if the plants have already formed branches, keep those above the soil line.

When your soil reaches 21ºC /70ºF it is safe to plant the tender group like Begonia and Gazania. And yes, finally, plant the tomatoes!

Start Them Right
While seedlings are hardening off in a warm spot, run your hand gently across their top leaves to mimic the wind. It helps them develop more robust stalks.

Allow at least twice the diameter around the planting hole of new perennial transplants that the root balls had in the commercial pots. Sink pots of annuals to fill the bare area with instant colour and texture. The potted annuals won’t compete for nutrients with the young perennial. In autumn, compost in place by chopping finished annual greens and roots finely, mix with the potting medium then scratch it all into the area around the perennial’s drip line. It will reward you with healthier growth next year.

Container Time
Lawn moss is the eco-friendly alternative to destroying endangered peat moss ecosystems. Just rake moss out of the lawn, moisten, and line the wire basket as usual.

Make sure container soil is evenly dampened each time you water. When only the middle gets wet, feeder roots around the pot edge die back and the plants will not give you their best.

Managing Florescence
Spring-blooming shrubs flower on old (last year’s) wood. Prune these after blooms fade. Summer-bloomers flower on new (this year's) wood and are usually pruned in late winter. For pruning dates that allow enough time to grow and set new buds, count backwards three months from the usual bloom time. Dormant months (October through February) don’t count, so skip them and keep counting.

Roses will be treating us with major eye candy by next month. Repeat blooming roses average 49 days until their next bloom cycle while double cultivars can take up to 60 days. Dead heading speeds new blossom set so removing spent blooms diligently is the key to a good second flush.

Green Groaner Dictionary

Garden hose = what we wear inside our boots
Chrysanthemum = the flower you give the Mater
Cactus = the sum of cacti + cactyou
Beet = what you dance to at the garden party