University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article

Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist

Proper flowers and feeding for hummingbirds, proper watering of new transplants, and working on lawns are some of the many garden activities for this month.

Hummingbirds arrive back in our area usually in late April in southern locations, early May in the north.  After their incredibly long journey northward, they're ready for food.  Hang a hummingbird feeder or two this time of the year, and either use hummingbird food you can buy (a powder to mix with water), or make your own. 
To make your own food for “hummers”, add one cup of white sugar to a quart of water, heat to dissolve, then allow to cool before placing out.  Don't use any other additives such as food coloring.  Refrigerate what you don't use, and replace the feeder food every few days.  If your feeder hangs from a pole, and ants find it, put grease on a section of the pole to deter the ants.
Even if you put up hummingbird feeders, also plant some of their favorite flowers, such as fuchsias, salvias, columbines, nicotiana, trumpet vine, bleeding hearts, foxgloves, and others that have trumpet-shaped blooms. They are attracted to the color red but they visit flowers of other colors, too, as long as they are the right shape.
To encourage good rooting of new plants in the ground, make sure you water enough to moisten the soil around the root zone of the plant. Sprinkling a little water on plants every day can do more harm than good by encouraging the roots to stay close to the surface where they are susceptible to drying out faster. Stick your finger into the soil and if it's dry two inches deep, it's time to water. Apply enough water to moisten the soil a bit deeper than the root zone.
Brace plants that tend to flop over now, while they're still small. Use wire rings and supports, or make your own by placing sturdy branches in the ground in a ring around the plant. If staking, place 3 or 4 around plants, then loop twine from stake to stake to encircle the plant. If you set wire cages in place now, the foliage will soon hide them. In contrast to supporting now, trying to tie up toppled plants later is frustrating and usually ends up looking ridiculous.
May is a good month to work on your lawn.  If you haven’t done so already, rake to remove dead grass and, if you have a gravel drive, rake out any stones that may have gotten plowed into the lawn over winter.  Top dress bare areas with a mix of topsoil and compost, then reseed.  Use a good quality grass seed mix containing Kentucky bluegrass, red fescue, and perennial ryegrass.  Avoid zoysia and other warm-climate grasses as they will not grow well in Vermont.  Water seeded areas, keeping them moist as the grass starts to grow. 
Plant cool vegetable crops early, such as carrots, lettuce, peas, spinach, broccoli and cabbage.  Wait until the usual last frost is past for warm crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, and for sowing seeds of melons, squash, and corn.  Have frost protection fabric, such as you can buy at garden stores, ready for your transplants, or even use sheets or “hot caps”.  Liquid starter fertilizer, higher in phosphorus than other elements (the middle number of the three in a fertilizer analysis), will help get transplants off to a good start.

(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; 

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles uvmext logo