The promising warm weather of May is nipping at our heels; the gentle buzz of bees is among us and the buds of trees will soon be full-fledged leaves.
In a matter of time, gardening season will be in full bloom.
Here are some helpful tips to growing a successful garden.
If your azaleas, rhododendrons and other spring flowering shrubs are growing too large prune them after they bloom.
Lace bug feeding may be seen on rhododendrons, azaleas, andromeda (Pieris japonica) and mountain laurel.
Look for small white or yellow spots on the upper sides of leaves. On the underside of leaves, you may notice small black fecal spots, nymphs and adults. Damage on new growth indicates overwintering eggs have hatched and the new generation has started to feed. There are multiple generations per growing season.
Lace bugs are more of a problem on stressed plants growing on exposed, hot and sunny sites.
Looking at your boxwoods, thin out interior branches to improve air circulation and reduce disease problems such as volutella canker. Also, look out for boxwood blight.
The older leaves of holly and magnolia trees may begin to yellow and drop. This is a natural process of regeneration and does not indicate a problem with the trees.
Rose Rosette, a relatively new disease of roses caused by a systemic virus and spread by small eriophyid mites, can kill landscape roses — including the more disease-resistant roses such as the knockout cultivars.
Summer annual bulbs like gladiolus, tuberous begonias, cannas, caladium and dahlias can be planted now.
Attract pollinators and natural enemies to your landscape by planting a wide variety of flowering annuals and perennials, including native plants that will bloom over the entire growing season.
Did your garden get overtaken by weeds last year? Start spreading mulch around plants and between rows. Use dried grass clippings, leaves collected from last fall, sections of newspaper covered with straw or black landscape fabric.
Cover strawberry plants with bird netting, tulle that can be found in fabric stores or floating row cover before the berries become ripe to exclude birds, squirrels and other hungry critters.
Leave grass clippings where they lay. Grasscycling eliminates bagging labor and costs, adds organic matter and nitrogen to your soil and does not contribute to thatch build-up.
Carpenter bees cause concern at this time of year. They make clean, round holes about a ½ inch in diameter but usually will not bother wood that is freshly painted or stained.
Ticks are active when the temperature is above freezing. Wear light-colored clothing and get in the habit of checking yourself, your loved ones and pets closely for ticks after spending time outdoors. Repellents are also an effective tool to keep ticks away.
Heading over to the vegetable garden, pinch the blooms off tomato, pepper and other plants before setting them out in the garden; this will encourage root and stem growth. Continue to pinch off pepper blossoms for two to three weeks to establish a stronger, higher yielding plant.
Plant warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers only after the danger of frost is past. Mix half a cup of ground lime with soil in the planting hole to prevent blossom-end rot. Water each transplant with a soluble fertilizer, like compost tea or kelp extract to get them off to a good start.
Pound in stakes or install tomato cages at planting time to prevent plant damage later.
Keep cutworms away from cabbage, broccoli and other susceptible plants by putting a cardboard or plastic collar around each plant or sprinkle ground up oyster shells, cat litter, sharp sand or other gritty material around each one.
Keep weeding and thinning plants. To keep down weeds, mulch plants with dried grass clippings, sections of newspaper covered with straw, black landscape fabric or black plastic. Do not mulch with wood chips or bark, which takes nitrogen out of the soil as it decomposes.
As peas ripen, pick pods when tender, to keep plants producing.
Don’t let transplants or young seedlings dry out. Use a drip irrigation system, soaker hose, sprinkler or hand-held hose with a water breaker like a shower head to keep beds evenly moist, but not too wet.
Set out herbs in pots or plant in garden beds.
Inspect plants daily for cucumber beetles, cabbageworms, vine borers and flea beetles, which can be excluded with row covers. For plants requiring cross-pollination — cucumber, squash, melon, pumpkin — take covers off when plants are flowering, to let in pollinators.
Hand pick cabbage worms from broccoli and other members of the cabbage family, or spray with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). Bt may injure non-pest butterfly larvae, though, so use judiciously.
Looking inside, fleas are sometimes observed in homes where there are no pets. The most likely source is a wild animal such as a raccoon living in the attic, crawl space, chimney or some other sheltered area connected to the inside of the home.
If you have pets that have a flea problem, contact your veterinarian for the safest and most effective flea control products.
Clover mites are usually most noticeable in the spring when temperatures are between 45° and 80° and the humidity is high. On warm days they cross the grass and crawl up the sunny sides of buildings and will possibly enter into homes.
Rachel J. Rhodes, email@example.com, is the horticulture educator and Master Gardener coordinator for the University of Maryland Extension in Queen Anne’s County. She is one third of “The Garden Thyme Podcast,” a monthly podcast with University of Maryland Extension Educators, helping you get down and dirty in your garden with timely gardening tips, information about native plants and more.