May 2nd, 2020

May Garden Tips

May is one of the busiest months for working in the garden. But if you prioritize carefully and take advantage of the many devices and tools available, you can get the work done and stop to smell the roses!

Pink Rose, Image by Tom Hennessy

Roses peak in May and then again later in October. Image by Tom Hennessy


By May it is too late to use a pre-emergent herbicide to suppress weeds because these herbicides must be used on bare soils before seeds germinate. Mulch is a better alternative because in addition to keeping down weeds, it retains moisture and helps build organic matter into the soil.


Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as forsythia, azaleas and lilac now before new flower buds are set for next spring. Any plant that has not bloomed yet, such as spirea, Rose-of-Sharon and viburnum, should be pruned after flowering. Be especially careful when pruning rose family members. It is fireblight season and this disease can be easily spread on pruning tools during wet early summer weather. Be sure to use alcohol on your pruning shears between plants to avoid the spread of disease.


Almost all plants can be added this month. Before you purchase plants, examine them carefully to make sure they are not root-bound or overgrown. Just to be safe, wait until after May 15 to plant herbs like basil and caladiums because the roots can languish in cold soils.

Thinking Ahead

Planning next year’s spring garden seems impossible in the middle of all this activity, but now is the best time when everything is still fresh in our minds. Take a few moments to make notes of what bloomed best and where to add new plants for attractive flowering compositions.

About Lynn Kirk

Lynn Kirk, a freelance writer and marketing consultant, has collaborated with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden since 2002. She considers it a joy and privilege to write newspaper articles and member newsletters for such a top-rated (and utterly gorgeous!) public garden.

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