May is the busiest gardening month until September. There is lots of planting to do, along with other gardening chores, so let’s get started.
If you didn’t plant your summer flowering bulbs in April, you can plant them now along with your annuals. Plant all your warm season vegetables, grass seed and shrubbery, which requires plenty of water. Fertilize shrubbery, and remove suckers on trees. Tree suckers sap the energy away from the tree, so remove them as quickly as possible. Thin fruit on your fruit trees.
Thinning fruit is the process of removing fruit from the tree when it has not fully ripened. Some trees require more thinning than others. How much you thin will depend on your type of fruit tree.
On an average, fruit trees usually produce more fruit than the tree can handle. Fruits on a tree compete with each other for nutrients and space. Once the fruit tree is thinned the remaining fruits have more space to grow larger fruit with a much better fruit flavor.
Fertilize your roses now, and prune climbing roses after they bloom. Pruning keeps plants healthy, promotes new growth, and keeps some varieties of roses blooming all summer long. Repeat blooming roses need a heavy annual pruning in the spring. When buds begin to swell it is time to prune. Roses that bloom only once a year, like old-fashioned roses and climbers, should be pruned immediately after blooming.
First, remove all dead, damaged, or weak stems leaving the healthiest canes. The center of the rose stems should be white and plump. If they appear diseased, cut farther down into healthy wood. Next, to increase air circulation and help prevent disease, prune the bush to make it more open in the center. If two canes cross each other, one can be removed.
Deadhead (cut off) faded flowers so that the plant will put its energy into flowering. When deadheading, remove the flower by making a diagonal cut just above the next five- or seven-leaf branches down on the stem. If the stem is larger than the thickness of a pencil it should be sealed with nail polish or wood glue to prevent cane borers from entering the plant. Occasionally dip your pruning shears in a 70 percent alcohol solution to avoid spreading diseases.
When pruning overgrown hydrangea bushes, you can cut the stems to the ground. Even though this will delay blooming the following season, it helps the plant revitalize itself. Hydrangeas respond well to occasional pruning, but pruning varies according to the variety of your hydrangea.
The big leaf hydrangea includes the mophead and lacecap varieties. Prune weak stems to the ground and deadhead spent flowers and stems to the last bud. The oakleaf hydrangeas are usually pruned in early spring. The climbing hydrangea does not require pruning often. It produces flowers from side shoots that can be pruned in fall after blooming. Shoots are cut back to the last healthy bud. Annabelle hydrangeas are usually pruned in the summer following their spring blooming. The pee gee hydrangeas are usually pruned in late winter or early spring before summer blooming. They may also be pruned in the fall, and may be pruned into a tree form.
Remember, pruning is not necessary. Removing spent blooms and dead stems should be enough to maintain your hydrangeas and keep them healthy.
For assistance with hydrangeas, call Clemson University Home Gardening Information Center at (888) 656-9988 or visit hgic.clemson.edu.