Warmer weather is arriving, and May is a busy month for gardeners. I am carefully watching the forecasts on weather.com for the upcoming 10 days. I believe we are done with freezing weather, but frost continues to be a possibility through at least the middle of this month.
On the last weekend of April I already noticed roadside stands offering tender flower baskets and tomato plants. It’s nice to buy early for the best selection, but only if you have a safe place to store these plants when temperatures drop. My unheated garage serves this purpose, since it’s usually 10 degrees warmer than outdoors at this time of year. Using sheets to cover in-ground plants is also an option, securing the edges to contain the warmth of the ground.
Once you bring home tender plants, it is best to gradually accustom them to outdoor conditions. Perhaps you purchased them straight from the greenhouse, or they may have been just moved to a covered area the day of your purchase. They need to be gradually “hardened off” to outdoor conditions including fluctuating temperatures, sun, and wind.
I usually put new tender plants in my garage for a couple of days, with the garage door open in the daytime unless temperatures will stay in the 40s. I then move them out into shade right next to my house, and a couple days later move them further away from the house, gradually into more sun. I spread this process over a couple of weeks.
There are some plants that do fine in cooler weather, and will even tolerate frost and/or freeze. I bought a basket of pansies about April 1, and they have done just fine on my patio in below-freezing temperatures. The much bigger problem for me are the squirrels and chipmunks that love digging in the soft potting soil.
May is the perfect time to plant perennials, which will tolerate a frost or freeze. Garden centers have opened, and the spring weather is perfect for getting plants established in the garden, before it gets too hot. The soil is generally dry enough to work, though individual sites do vary. It is also time to take photos of your gardens than may be enhanced with more spring bulbs. Refer to these photos when you place your bulb order this summer.
I have made a few purchases, but the Geneseo Garden Club plant sale is coming up, so I have been busy potting up plants for this event. We had to cancel last year, but this year we will again be offering bargain-price perennials. It will be held on May 22, in Gateway Park, across from Wegmans. It starts at 9 a.m., and goes until 11 a.m. or plants sell out. Please wear a mask and stay distant from other shoppers.
Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County since 2002. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks. She will answer gardening questions by email: JulieBW48@gmail.com.