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The Latest from the UMASS extension for landscaping


May is the month to . . . .

  • Leave the foliage of spring flowering bulbs like daffodil, hyacinth, tulip and others until the foliage yellows. Premature removal of the foliage will reduce overall photosynthesis and food production that the bulbs need to remain vigorous and continue to bloom.

  • Direct seed cool season crops. May is a good time to sow beets, carrots, greens, lettuces and radishes. For transplants grown indoors or in a greenhouse, acclimate or harden off before planting. Hardening off can be done by providing slight water stress, reducing fertilization and exposing plants slowly to outdoor conditions over several days.

  • Warm season crops like cucumber, eggplant, melon, pepper, squash and tomato can be planted when soil temperatures reach 60 F. Watch the forecast and plant ahead of several favorable days. Avoid planting too early and exposing plants to cold conditions that may result in stunting and delayed growth. 

  • Mulch garden beds. Bark mulch, chopped leaves, leaves, pine needles, straw and wood chips all make decent organic mulches. When mulching, mulch to a depth of 2-4 inches over the root zone and avoid piling mulches at the base of shrub's stems and trees (volcano mulching). Mulches help prevent evaporative loss of soil moisture, moderate root zone temperature, and over time will break down and contribute to soil organic matter. Mulches applied in spring will reduce occurrence of summer annual weeds. Make sure perennial weeds are controlled before mulching.

  • Keep turf vigorous. Vigorous turf will be better able to handle the stress of summer, outcompete weeds and reduce the impact of some pests. Mow using the 1/3 rule: no more than 1/3 of grass shoots should be removed during mowing. Leave grass clippings on the lawn; lawn clippings can be an important source of nutrients and contribute to organic matter.

  • Spring flowering trees and shrubs like azalea, forsythia, lilac and serviceberry that were not pruned during the dormant season should be pruned immediately following bloom.

  • The end of May is a good time to have houseplants take up residence outside. Gradually expose houseplants to the outdoors and avoid immediate direct sun that can result in leaf burn. Now is also a good time to re-pot houseplants that have outgrown their current pot or become root bound.

  • Get a soil test!  The Routine Soil Analysis from the UMass Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Lab tests for pH, major and micro nutrients, lead, and cation exchange capacity, and provides crop-specific lime and nutrient recommendations. For an order form and info on how to take and send a sample, go to soiltest.umass.edu.


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