May is the perfect time to make sure your vegetable garden and flower beds are ready for summer. Get started by inspecting your garden tools, cleaning and sharpening them as needed. You may already need to mow grass and your mower should be in top form.
Do a Soil Test
If you’re not sure what nutrients your soil may need, do a soil test. Many cooperative extension services will test the soil for a small fee. To gather soil for the test, take a plastic bag or container and gather samples from several places in your garden. Mix together and take this to the extension office, nursery, or lab and you will receive a report on your soil’s pH and present or missing nutrients, mainly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K). With this report, you will know what amendments may be needed to best nourish your plants.
Even though you mulched well in the fall, there may still be some weeds that will give you problems now. Get all those pesky nutrient robbers out of your garden and flower beds now before they start to take over. If they’ve already had a good start, you’ll need to jump on this task now. Avoid tilling the garden whenever possible, as tilling only brings up more weed seeds. If it will be a while before the ground is warm enough to plant vegetables, put a deep layer of straw over the clean soil. This will discourage new weeds from coming up. At planting time, you can plant right through the straw and have instant mulch.
Prune fruit trees, vineing fruit, flowers, and shrubs that bloom on new wood. Many shrubs such as some hydrangeas bloom on old wood and should only be trimmed for form. Lilac and Forsythia should be finished blooming before pruning.
Check on how your perennials fared through the winter. Some will be showing growth now, some are late coming awake. Remove any damaged stems or leaves, remove the old mulch, give them a good dose of manure or compost, and add fresh mulch, being careful to keep mulch away from the stems.