BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: The Merry, Mary month of May
By Kerry Peetz
This time of year, gardeners are busy preparing for new growing season. There is much work to be done.
May is also dedicated to honoring our Blessed Mother. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reflected in “Deus Caritas Est,” “Outstanding among the saints is Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself. She is lowly: her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:38, 48).”
With May right around the corner, here are a few suggestions to help dig into the new gardening season. Of course, praying a few Hail Marys will certainly add to a successful yield.
Clean and sharpen garden tools.
Tune up the lawnmower, sharpen the blade, change the oil and filter, if needed.
Mugo pines might be the first prune of the season. Pinch or cut out 2/3 the length of the “candles” of new growth. Use this pinch method with other pines if controlling their shape is desired.
Lawn: apply fertilizer with high nitrogen content for a quick boost. Select one where the first number, representing nitrogen, is the highest. Always read the label carefully and follow the directions when applying herbicides.
Plant perennials, raspberries, container grown and balled and burlap trees and shrubs. Seek perennials marked “Plant Select” at local nurseries. These plants are grown for our region and will thrive in our challenging climate. If labeled drought tolerant, remember all new plants will require water until they are established.
Thin seedlings of early planted crops such as carrots, lettuce, spinach and beets.
Stake peonies and delphinium.
After early spring bulbs have bloomed remove the faded flowers. Remember not to cut the leaves until they have yellowed as they are providing energy for next year’s blooms.
Check containers and prepare for planting. If disease was present last year, don’t reuse last year’s soil. Clean containers with a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
Start planting annuals. In many parts of our diocese, mid-May is the time it’s safe to begin planting tender annuals. Check the weather and your elevation. It’s not unusual to have a hard freeze in late May. In Colorado Springs, the last frost usually falls between May 10 and May 15.
Begin planting gladiolus every two weeks through June for a continual series of blooms throughout the season.
Harvest asparagus stalks larger than 3/8-inch until about the end of June. Cut just at soil level.
If weather remains warm, transfer seedlings outside but harden them off in a sheltered location for a week before planting into the ground.
Transplant tomatoes. Plant the stem one inch deeper than in the seedling pot.
Plant corn, bean, pumpkin, squash, cucumber, and early-maturing melon seeds now if the soil is warm enough.
Plant eggplant and pepper plants when the soil has reached at least 50 degrees.
Prune early spring-flowering trees and shrubs such as lilacs and forsythia after flowers fade.
Plant annual seeds outdoors the last week of May. Some suggested flowers are zinnias, salvia and nasturtiums. Annual vines to try might be Hyacinth Bean vine (Lablab purpureus), one of the Plant Select plants with striking purple flowers and deep purple seed pods. Another good choice is the Cardinal Flower vine (this must be a Catholic plant — and yes, the flowers are red). Its trumpet-shaped flowers and feathery, deep green foliage are a favorite of hummingbirds.
Easter celebrations have been celebrated, winter weather has been endured, spring temps are on the way and our Blessed Mother Mary is standing by, watching over us, ever at our side.