At last we can indulge in all our pent-up desires to work with warm soil and tender seedlings. In May the song of the universe really begins for us because mid-May signals the end of our cold weather …
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At last we can indulge in all our pent-up desires to work with warm soil and tender seedlings. In May the song of the universe really begins for us because mid-May signals the end of our cold weather – usually.
Although it’s full-steam ahead for planting, caution is still the word for tomatoes, peppers and squash. Plant these on Memorial Day when the soil and air temperatures are consistently warm, unless you are using Walls-O’-Water, the miniature plant greenhouses.
This is Colorado though, and early May can still be unpredictable, so keep tuned to daily weather reports. July temperatures can abruptly change and “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.” (Shakespeare).
Therefore, be certain you’ve hardened off all seedlings before planting. This simply means having them outdoors in a sheltered location for a few hours each day before plunging them into the soil to fend for themselves in a harsh world of insects, chilly rain, brutal sun and desiccating winds. Buy inexpensive floating row cover at any nursery and have it available to protect young plants when nature turns hostile.
Now a word about flowers. It’s natural to want instant color, but your color will be more robust and long-lasting if you pinch off the buds of young annual plants and also of perennial mums. This enables the plant to focus its energies into developing a strong root system that will reap rewards all season.
Q. It seems that seed packets have fewer seeds every year, but the prices never go down. What’s going on?
A. Part of it is the ever-increasing cost of doing business, especially if you are buying organic seeds. Have you ever tried to save seeds? If so, you know how labor intensive it is and how subject to failure the process is.
Commercial growers of plants and seeds have huge labor costs, plus the cost of electricity for greenhouses, site maintenance, fuel, water, taxes etc. Then there are the shipping and delivery costs etc. etc. etc. Then too, most of us have gardens far smaller than those of the World War II generation’s victory gardens, thus requiring fewer seeds.
Q. What is the last frost date for Denver? Everyone seems to have a different date.
A. Climate change and various micro-climates within the city can shift the date, but I generally use May 10 as my safe date, always keeping an eye on the forecasts, however. Believing in an arbitrary frost-free date can create problems here because our weather is so unpredictable.
Most vegetables can be planted by mid-May if the soil is warm. Plant heat-lovers such as tomatoes, peppers and squash around Memorial Day when the weather usually settles down. Yes, I do hear some of you saying you remember snow on Memorial Day. I do also, but then this IS Colorado, and we have to get on with planting.
Q. I live in a condo with an east-facing balcony and I’d like to grow a few vegetables such as lettuce, kale, beans and tomatoes. Am I dreaming, or is this possible?
A. It’s possible, but balcony gardening has its own challenges. First of all, check on weight restrictions since soil-filled containers are heavy. In addition, check out the small rectangular containers that nurseries now carry. These will be perfect for most vegetables and herbs, but tomatoes will require deeper containers. Container plants require watering at least twice daily and slow-release fertilizer, but you’ll do fine and enjoy your own succulent, really fresh vegetables. Enjoy!
May is a crazy, busy, racing month demanding much from us, even though poets call it a merry month. Slow down to become truly aware of the process of gardening and the miraculous tiny seeds you are planting. Feel a connection to the soil as human beings have done for centuries. Nourish your soil naturally, ban chemicals, plant native flowers to lure bees and butterflies to your plot of paradise. Add sweet alyssum to lure benign wasps that control aphids, native milkweeds for monarch butterflies and red tubular plants for hummingbirds. Remember though how depleted your energy becomes in July and plant accordingly. Leave time and space for the garden spirits to laugh and dance.
To the dance of May!
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