After a cool, wet start to spring, pleasant weather has finally arrived, and with it, the opportunity to once again plant a garden and watch your flowers grow. As you enjoy time spent outside this month, here are a couple of my favorite plants to find a spot for this year as well as some tips to keep your garden growing and healthy.
First, May is the best time to start planting annuals in your pots and flowerbeds for color all summer. Each year, I enjoy the hunt for something new for my garden, often a new color of a favorite plant or an improved version of an old standby.
One plant I’m particularly excited about this spring is the Calliope family of geraniums. For ages, geraniums have been one of gardeners’ most-loved plants—and for good reason. They’re easy to grow, bloom all summer and have few issues with pests or diseases. Calliope, however, takes geraniums to the next level.
Calliope geraniums are a cross between a traditional (zonal) geranium and a trailing ivy geranium. By crossing the two types, breeders were able to create a new type of geranium with the look of a zonal geranium but a semi-trailing or spreading growth habit perfect for containers or filling up more space in a flowerbed.
Originally introduced in red, Calliope has now expanded to several colors, my favorite of which is Calliope Medium Burgundy. Slightly less aggressive than the original Calliope, Calliope Medium geraniums will still quickly fill a pot or flowerbed. Medium Burgundy has a rich dark red color and velvety appearance, lending extra depth of color most red geraniums can’t match.
Another great new plant I’m looking forward to finding space for in my pots this year is Tangerine Slice A-Peel thunbergia, or black-eyed susan vine. Like its yellow counterpart, Tangerine Slice is a fast-growing climber perfectly suited for a trellis or arbor in a sunny spot in your yard, but with a striking two-tone orange flower. This climber will bloom from now through early November; try to find any perennial vine that will do that!
After you plant your flowers, don’t forget the most important ingredients for success: water and fertilizer! Plan to water your containers and hanging baskets once a day until the water runs through, and fertilize once a week with a high-quality water-soluble fertilizer like Jack’s Classic. Unfortunately, lower-quality fertilizers like Miracle-Gro can cause more harm than good, as the undissolved fertilizer salts build up in soil and can burn your plants, leaving them looking wilted and eventually killing them. Slow-release fertilizers are another good option, although for hungry annuals they may not release plant food fast enough to keep up with plants’ needs.
May is also the perfect time to start planting your vegetable garden. Whether you grow in pots on your patio or have a large garden plot in the backyard, nothing beats the fresh taste of homegrown produce. However, growing your own garden can be a letdown if bugs beat you to the harvest.
To prevent insects from spoiling my garden, I sprinkle Eight insect dust around my veggie starts and seeds when planting. Depending on what you grow, Bonide Eight is safe to apply up to within just days of harvest, and kills a wide range of insects, including aphids, cutworms, weevils and others. A great organic alternative is Captain Jack’s insect dust, which also kills many insects and can be used throughout the growing season.
Spring is a delightful time of year full of promise. As you begin to fill your garden, enjoy the fresh colors and tastes the season has to offer!