May Chores Reminder For 2014


Spring came late, but now it is finally fully arrived. May sees the last of frost, usually, so it is safe to plant the tender annuals and vegetables. I have been sowing wildflower seeds, and look forward to the color this will bring over summer. This month is the main time to be planting annuals, seeds, and tender vegetables for the summer season.

Lilacs are getting ready to bloom and the viburnum buds have swollen to the bursting point- which releases delicious smells all through the garden. Last years tulips are blooming and everyone in the house loves to see them as they pass to and fro from jobs and school. I am SO glad I planted that area last autumn.

Are you ready to tackle this month’s chores? Here is my reminder list for Ohio Zone 5, and other parts of the country with similar climate and conditions.

The featured photo is of Dicentra Spectabilis, the old fashioned flower “Bleeding Heart” which is a beautiful, though ephemeral, May blooming perennial.

May Tasks

  • Hurry up and finish garden bed prep if you haven’t already
  • Plant Plant Plant
  • Get ready to summer mulch, because the weeds are coming en force
  • In cold climates, we can freely bring houseplants outside and plant frost tender annuals.
  • Fertilize plants in their early growth
  • Deadhead spent tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths- leave the minor bulbs to seed themselves.
  • Buying annuals! Bypass fully flowering plants for sturdy and strong growing foliage. They will have more flower power later.
  • Planting flats of annuals, here’s the lowdown.
  • Mowers ready? Start mowing!
  • Pull out those container pots, hoses, garden furniture.
  • S-l-o-w-l-y uncover your roses and prune to live wood if they show signs of winterkill. Begin to fertilize.

This year everything was late, and my Darwin tulips are just blooming now.

Divide crowded Daffodils, lift tulips that have run out as soon as they have had time to grow their leaves and start to look withered (near the end of the month). My mom used old fruit net bags to store bulbs over the summer. Old pantyhose might work, too.

Planting Bed Prep

This is something we can do any time the ground isn’t frozen, but we are in a hurry to get it done in May. Why? This is prime time to get all our perennials in so they can root before the heat of summer; plant up containers and beds with tender annuals for the summer show; put in tomatoes and other warmth seeking veggies.

Try raised beds

Remove weeds as they spring up

Add soil amendments

Don’t dig clay when wet

Keep flower beds edged- first line of defense against creeping grasses and weeds

Start some “Lasagna” or permaculture beds. Ready for planting later in the season.

Edge Beds

Take Notes In Your Garden Journal

Tulipa 'Renown' has returned well for several years.

Tulipa ‘Renown’ has returned well for several years.

I know it is super busy in May, with the Mother’s Day holiday, and a crush of planting and other tasks to get done, but hear me out. There are so many uses for a journal that tracks what you put where in the garden, the Latin names, cultivar names that you are sure you will remember, etc. In years to come you will be glad you took the time to record your garden information.

Annual Flowers

Larkspur seed packet

Grow from seed

Read the how to on planting annuals? Good. but this is also a great time to plant fast growers in situ. Seeds like zinnias, annual candytuft, alyssum, marigolds, etc.

Tough-coated seeds like morning glory and nasturtiums.. give them a little soak before planting. 12 hours in a bowl of water or you can nick the morning glory for quicker results, too.

Get to know the look of your seedlings. Usually there is an illustration on the packet to help differentiate from the weeds that jostle for space in the spring.

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Cut Flowers

This is a good month for making bouquets for your house, or to give to a friend. If cutting flowering bulbs remember that removing stems and foliage deplete a little of the next years strength, but they are so pretty in vases!

Many shrubs have fragrant and colorful flowers in spring- they are lovely singly or mixed with other blooms. Quince, Lilacs, Viburnums to name just a few.

Lily of the Valley bloom this month and are the May Birthday Flower. Cut a bunch for a tiny vase- their scent is legendary and beloved.

If you don’t have any Convallaria majalis (the proper Latin name for the Lily of the Valley), pips can be planted in the garden. They are a groundcover plant, which means vigorous to the point of invasive in some gardens, but any old fashioned landscape in east of the Mississippi had a bed of these sweetly scented, demure flowers.

Speaking of Shrubs

They are at their height of bloom, and Viburnums are among my favorites. Take a trip to an Arboretum to see which ones grow best in your area. My favorite just because of the way it smells and the beauty of the flower clusters is Viburnum carlesii: read up about it.


viburnums in my garden

Other viburnums are just as garden worthy, and I don’t think you can go wrong planting any of them. They will grow rather large. The V. burkwoodii is almost as big as a lilac bush and both those May blooming, fragrant shrubs are like wide spreading ornamental trees in my yard. Viburnums always have the edge on many other shrubs because they provide beauty for more than just the spring bloom times.

Chores are cyclical and change little from year to year. Be sure to gain additional tips from the May monthly tasks posted in other years. The flowering of seasonal plants can more of a variation. I like to keep track of springs progression by noting when certain trees bloom, or spring flowers appear.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author


I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of "Ilona's Reflecting Pool". Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. The work on "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.