University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Spring News Article


MOVING SPRING BULBS AND OTHER MAY GARDENING TIPS

 
Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
 
             
Moving spring-blooming bulbs, using coffee grounds in the garden, and planting dahlias are some of the gardening tips for this month.

If you want to move some spring-blooming bulbs to another spot, or thin thick clumps of daffodils, wait until the foliage has turned yellow later in summer, then carefully dig them up and let them dry in a shady spot for a few days. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place for the summer until it's time to plant them in fall.

Coffee grounds contain some major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) as well as some micronutrients, so put them to work in your garden. Allow them to dry and then spread them around the base of plants. Lettuce, especially, seems to benefit, and the grounds may benefit acid-loving plants since the grounds are slightly acidic.  Coffee grounds also will deter slugs.  Slit coffee filters and place them around the base of hosta stems if slugs are a problem.

Patience is the key to setting out many tender transplants, whether flowers or warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers.  Otherwise, have some frost protection ready!  Keep some of the inexpensive frost protection cloth, as available online and at many garden stores, handy.  Even if frost isn’t a problem, warm season crops including squash and corn wont grow well in cool temperatures and soils.  If tomato plant leaves turn purplish, that’s a sign temperatures are too cool and they aren’t absorbing the needed phosphorus. 
 
Vines such as clematis will grow through trees and shrubs if you give them the support they need to get started. Surround the lower portion of a tree with a cylinder of fencing to give the vine something to cling to until it reaches the branches. Or attach some twine to a lower branch and anchor it in the ground with a U-shaped stake.

If you overwintered dahlias from last year in a large clump, use a sharp knife to divide them into pieces with at least two sprouts each. Dig holes 12 inches deep for the tall varieties, and about 8 inches deep for the shorter types. Lay one tuber at the bottom of each hole and cover with about 3 inches of soil. As the shoots grow, fill in around the stem with more soil until the hole is filled up.

After lilacs finish flowering, prune off the old blossoms to increase the number of flowers next year. Do this soon because the plants will begin setting buds for next year's flowers. To reduce the height of the shrub, prune the old stems to the ground and allow new shoots to grow. Prune all at once, or gradually remove one-third of the old stems over a three-year period for a less drastic effect.

When gardening, especially around weeds and grassy areas and as plants grow taller, be on the watch for ticks.  Three types of ticks, but particularly deer ticks, can transmit the serious lyme disease.  Although rarely fatal, it can be quite debilitating unless treated early.  Tick bites that don’t disappear in a few days, that develop a “bull’s eye” appearance, and expand, should be checked out at once by a doctor.  While no vaccines prevent this disease, it can be treated with antibiotics during early stages of infection.  Wear long pants and sleeves if ticks are about.

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

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