It’s prime time for planting trees, shrubs, and perennials. Stock availability is at its peak in garden centers. Don’t forget to use soil amendments (compost, humus, peat) as needed to prepare an acceptable growing environment for new additions to the garden. Root stimulants such as Espoma Bio-tone should be introduced into the soil at planting time to promote quick establishment and to minimize transplant shock. Contains beneficial microbes (mycorrhizae and helpful bacteria) that foster root growth and the efficient use of nutrients.
Clean up and edge planting beds. Apply fresh mulch once the ground has warmed and soil is workable. Mulches conserve moisture, prevent weeds, and protect fragile plant roots. For larger projects consider bulk delivery to save time and money.
Crabgrass germination is ongoing, so applying pre-emergent grass controls still makes sense. Use a product that can control crabgrass post germination, all the way up to the three leaf stage such as Jonathan Green Green-Up plus weed control with the herbicide Dimension.
Direct seed the vegetable garden with both cool season crops (lettuce, spinach) and warm soil standards such as beans and corn. Tomato, pepper, and cucumber sets can go out after the middle of May in most areas. Keep row cover handy just in case.
Follow a spray schedule for fruit trees with a combination insecticide/fungicide application. There are both standard synthetic (Sevin + Malation + Captan) and organic (Pyrethrins + Sulfur) materials available. Avoid spraying when pollinators are active. Other less toxic organic alternatives include all season horticultural oil and Neem
Fertilize spring flowering bulbs post bloom, remove flower spikes but leave basal foliage until it naturally dies down to encourage reblooming next spring.
Finish cleaning winter debris from perennial beds, re-mulch, and get stakes and other plant supports in position.
Begin to monitor for aphids, various caterpillars (especially on. Prunus and Malus) and other cyclical insect populations that can damage plants. Eastern tent caterpillar, various cankerworms, European pine sawfly larvae and even late stage winter moth are all voracious defoliators that need to be controlled. Bio-controls such as Spinosad and BT (bacillus thuringiensis) are effective at certain stages of insect development. A synthetic systemic such as Orthene can also be highly effective, especially against more mature caterpillars.
Pay attention to the mowing requirements of your lawn. Rapid spring greening results from vigorous new shoot growth that needs to be removed on a regular basis. Never remove more than one third of top growth in a single mowing. Mow the typical blue grass/fescue lawn at 2.5/3” this time of year.
Prune spring blooming shrubs right after they flower. Remember to deadhead rhododendrons, lilacs, and others with conspicuous flower clusters.
Fertilize trees, shrubs, and perennials as needed. Consider a second lawn fertilization as long as it is 4-6 weeks removed from the “Step One” application done in April.
Plant summer blooming bulbs (Dahlia, Begonia, Glads,etc.). Be sure to stagger planting for continuous, sequential blooming in July and August.
It is still an excellent time for de-thatching, aerating, topdressing and over-seeding lawns. New seedlings need to be up and reasonably well rooted before the heat of summer arrives. Try to complete this task before mid June at the latest. Remember that broadleaf weed controls for dandelions, clover and plantain will kill newly emerged grass seedlings. It’s best to concentrate on either weed control or re-seeding – you can’t simultaneously address both. Bonide’s Weed Beater Ultra is a new formulation that allows for a new seeding in as little as 2 weeks after application, or to treat newly established lawns after at least two mowings. Read all label directions carefully. For granular weed control Step Two applications work best when the turf is wet, enabling the herbicide to stick to its target.
Check your property, particularly at the wooded perimeter for ticks, poison ivy, burrowing rodents other potential hazards and pests to protect children at play. Ticks can be controlled with granular products containing permethrin or with diatomaceous earth. A very popular product called the tick tube combines an insecticide with the nesting material that field mice, which act as vectors for the tick problem, carry back to their burrows.
Cool wet weather can encourage the development of several diseases of turf, including leaf spot, fusarium patch, dollar spot and rust. Lawns that have a history of disease or that are under stress are most prone to new damage from fungal problems.
Continue to look for signs of white grub infestation, such as birds feeding on the lawn. Sample in the lawn by cutting flaps in the turf to reveal the insects as they feed on the roots several inches down in the soil. Apply products such as Bayer Season Long grub control (Imidacloprid) or Bayer 24 Hour (Dylox) to reduce grub populations. Both of these products need to be watered in well. A more long term approach could involve applications of the beneficial disease organism known as Milky Spore. These microbes multiply in soils with high grub populations as the larvae become infected, but the material is completely safe to use around kids and pets.
Weeds, both grassy and broadleaf, are actively growing, so it is a good time for contact herbicides to be effective in their control. Roundup and the various brush killers need to be applied carefully, avoiding windy days where drift can be a problem.
Insect pest populations begin to explode as the warmer weather arrives. The challenge has always been to find a way to control damaging outbreaks without having to resort to more toxic synthetic chemicals. A new product released by Jonathan Green, “Organic Insect Control, ” has demonstrated the ability to both knock down existing populations of more than 100 of the more troublesome surface feeding insects, and to repel future infestation. This product utilizes an extract of organic oils that the plant employs as a natural defense system, so it qualifies as a true botanical insecticide. By blocking an organism’s neural pathways (its “electrical system”), the product effectively shuts down the nervous system and the insect’s ability to function and do damage. At the same time, it is completely safe to use around children and pets. The chemical processes involved specifically target insect pests and have no unintended effects.