University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring Article

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
Lisa Halvorsen. Garden Writer

From May to Memorial Day, May is a month for planting. By the end of this month, most crops, even tender tomatoes and
peppers, can be planted, except in the very coldest parts of Vermont and northern New York and New England.

If you are new to gardening, it's best to follow the instructions on the seed packages or in gardening guides carefully. The
general rule of thumb is to plant each seed about two times deeper than its width or diameter.

Plant root crops (carrots, beets, parsnips, onions), Cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), lettuce,
spinach, and herbs early in the month. Wait until Memorial Day or later to set out transplants and plant the rest of your
vegetables and annuals. Have hot caps or plastic tarps ready in case of late frost.

Arbor Day falls on the first Friday of the month, but you don't really need a reason to plant a few trees in your yard. Just be
sure to select varieties that do well in your locale.

First, dig the hole. Do this prior to unwrapping or uncovering the roots to prevent them from drying out. For balled, burlapped,
and container plants, dig the hole twice as wide as the container or root ball and no deeper than the tree was grown at the

To prepare a good planting soil for backfill around the roots, remove any large clumps that will not break apart into a loose,
friable soil. It's best not to amend the backfill soil too heavily. Choose the plant to fit the site rather than amend the site for the

Add a source of phosphorus for root growth, such as rock phosphate or superphosphate. If using bone meal, be aware that it
will attract skunks and rodents.

For container plants, carefully remove the container before planting. For balled and burlapped plants, place the root ball in the
hole before unwrapping. The top of the root ball should be level with the soil surface. Refill the hole, gently tamping the soil
around the plant. Water thoroughly, then mulch with two or three inches of straw, bark chips, or other organic matter.

To attract birds to your property, landscape with trees that meet one or more of the basic needs of birds--food, cover, or
nesting site. Crabapples, especially small-fruited varieties, offer both protection and nesting spots. Their fruit is a favorite winter

Several species of evergreens also provide good cover year-round and food (from the cones) in winter. The whitish fruits of the
red-stemmed dogwood have been found to attract more than 100 species of song and game birds. The latter is a medium-sized
shrub that is often used in mass plantings. For other ideas, ask the experts at your local nursery.

Early May is a good time to fertilize lawns and reseed bare patches. To determine how much fertilizer and lime to apply, have
your soil tested. Kits are available from your local University of Vermont Extension office and the Vermont Agricultural and
Environmental Testing Laboratory, third floor, Hills Building on the university campus. A soil test costs $10, payable when you
submit the sample.

Buy a fertilizer that's specifically mixed for use on lawns. These generally have a higher ratio of nitrogen than other types of
garden fertilizers.

To reseed bare spots, choose a grass seed mix suitable for northern climates, one containing Kentucky bluegrass, red fescue,
and perennial ryegrass, for example. Don't be taken in by those ads for zoysia grass that promise a thick, lush lawn. Zoysia and
other warm season grasses just don't grow well here.

Other activities for May: take a hike to enjoy the spring wildflowers, prune lilacs and crabapples after bloom; design a rock

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