The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

May is the season of the fireflies: May opens with a flare in the form of the firefly or lightning bug. We certainly hope this will be an abundant year from them. An old wives tale says that when you see fireflies in abundance, fair weather can be expected. As a boy, the place to enjoy catching fireflies was on the huge sawdust pile in front of her Northampton County home. At dusk, the sawdust pile would almost glow with fireflies and it would not take long to fill a pint mason jar with the glowing fireflies. We don’t think there are as many today, maybe global warming or air pollution or even too many insect sprays.

The hummingbirds are active as May begins: Make sure to keep the hummingbird feeders filled as the days of May warm up. There are some May flowers, but they still need a supply of nectar from the feeders. The honeysuckles will soon be blooming and increase their food supply, but they will still depend upon your feeders for a food source. Change the nectar in the feeders once a week. You can purchase ready-mixed nectar in bottles or powdered form in a packet that can be mixed with proper amount of water. You can make your own nectar with a mixture of half sugar and half water and a few drops of red food coloring.

A lawn full of eating, nesting and courting birds: The birds of spring are active at the feeders and birdbaths as well as all over the lawn searching for nesting materials and making themselves at home at the feeders and birdbaths. Remember to keep birdbaths and feeders filled and change water in the birdbaths every morning.

Moving the Christmas cactus to the front porch: With nights getting warmer, we have moved the four Christmas cactus plants to the porch for spring, summer and early autumn. Their exposure to a semi-sunny location in warm months is the secret of blooms in late November and early December. They need a drink of water once a week and a drink of liquid fertilizer once a month.

Getting the hanging baskets of annuals ready for summer color: The first week of May is the very best time to start hanging baskets, containers and pots of annuals such as begonias, impatiens, petunias, vinca, verbena, Boston fern and portaluca in hanging baskets and heather, marigold, clown flower, salvia, coleus, poppies, wave petunias, Chinese lanterns, bachelor buttons, dahlia’s, rose moss in pots and containers. Start your annuals in a good flower potting medium that is not lumpy or filled with chips and bark. Feel the medium and if you “feel” chips or lumps or if it is dried out, don’t buy it! You can also recycle old potting medium by missing the old with a 50% addition of new medium stirred into the old medium and adding proper amount of water for consistency.

Start your warm weather vegetables with a row or two of Strike Beans: The soil temperature is warm enough to sow green beans such as “Strike” which is the very best bush bean variety that produces beans in 65 to 75 days.

Careful with tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and corn: Wait a couple of weeks before setting out huge crops of these very warm weather vegetables because there are a few cool nights remaining even though the danger of frost is past. You can start a few tomatoes but not the whole crop. When mid-May comes, all warm weather vegetables can be planted with a much better success rate.

Enjoying a large container of coleus: A beautiful display of color all the way until frost can be enjoyed when you set out a six or nine pack of coleus or Joseph’s Coat in a large container. Coleus comes in mixed shades of red, lavender, pink, purple, mint green, cream yellow and white. The secret to have blooms all summer long is to pinch off seed shoots when they first appear. Coleus also have another plus and that is they can winter over inside if you have space for them. If you would like to winter them over, consider smaller containers.

Dark green foliage in Irish potato patch: The early spring Irish potatoes now have pretty green leaves and soon will have white flowers. Enjoy their greenery!

The Almanac for the Month of May, 2017: The moon reaches its first quarter on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on Friday, May 5, 2017. There will be a “Full Flower Moon” on the night of Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The moon reaches its last quarter on Thursday, May 18, 2017. Armed Forces Day is Saturday, May 20, 2017. There will be a new moon on the evening of Thursday, May 25, 2017. Memorial Day is observed on Monday, May 29, 2017.

The end of dogwood winter and beginning of blackberry winter: Dogwood winter ended during the last few days of April and at its end, it brought us almost six inches of rain before the month closed out. We did have a few April Showers during the month and ended with a six-inch deluge. Dogwood is that period of late April when the wild dogwoods shed their white petals.

An early blackberry winter: Blackberry winter is earlier this year and the first blackberry blooms were sighted on Saturday, April 22, 2017. Usually they show up around the first week of May. When the blackberries bloom, we can expect some cooler days. With earlier blooms this year, we hope it doesn’t mean a longer cool spell. It’s too early to know, but one thing is for sure, wait until warm nights begin before setting out very many tomato and pepper plants.

The debut of the Tiger Swallow Tails: With the arrival of May comes the maiden flight of the swallow tail butterflies. We are prepared for them as the columbine, forget-me-nots, dianthus and candy tuft plus the Sweet William is in bloom. They are also attracted to the rose moss and impatiens. Their black and yellow wings add extra color to spring.

Ray Baird

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