As May begins, perennial plants, trees and shrubs are coming out of dormancy and most lawns have already had their first mowing. With the growing season underway, our Master Gardeners have already heard from many of you. So far, soil testing, composting, tree problems, growing tomatoes, lawn management, garden site selection, snakes, birds and structural insect pests have been top call categories. We are always happy to be able to provide callers with reliable, unbiased information that can help them address problems and create more sustainable home landscapes and gardens.

We hope the information in our e-newsletter encourages you to try something new or helps you be more successful with what you are growing. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions as we can never learn too much about the plants we grow or ways to manage them. If you would like more information on any of our tip topics or other horticultural topics we would love to hear from you.

Below you’ll find information about our upcoming garden and landscape events, an article from one of our Master Gardeners and tips for May.

Monthly tips

General: If you haven’t done so already, remove dead plant debris from gardens. This helps remove sources of inoculum that can infect new growth. If you think you have a plant disease or insect pest problem, it’s important to have it identified and get recommendations on the best time to treat and options for control. Contact us for information. Weeds are thieves! In addition to sheltering insect pests, they rob water and nutrients from the plants we want to grow. With use of the proper materials, weeds, including perennial weeds, can be controlled while adding to and improving soil creating more productive plants, better disease and insect resistance and more sustainable gardens. Pond weed questions can be directed to Laurie at CCE Wayne County, 331-8415, ext. 107, or mgwayne@cornell.edu.

Vegetables and Fruits: Don’t overcrowd vegetable plants. Planting too close together creates competition for nutrients, doesn’t allow room for maximum growth and can increase chances of fungal diseases. Follow seed package instructions for spacing. For best pollination, corn should be planted in several short rows rather than one long one. Grow more in less space. Planting seeds/plants in a diamond-shaped pattern in wide rows (make sure you can easily reach the center) will give you more plants in the same amount of space as single row plantings with walkways between each row (this works well for many non-vining vegetables). Consider gardening up, use a trellis for cucumbers or pole beans. Visit our vegetable trial garden to see an example! When planting, rotate vegetable families to help decrease plant disease and insect pest issues. Create a garden map to help you remember what you planted where each year. Vegetable Garden Weed Control: Mulching with weed free straw (not hay), mushroom compost, finished garden compost that has been through a complete heating cycle, can provide excellent weed control when combined with long-standing best management practices, such as cover crops, “green” crop mulches and beginning the season with weed-free beds.

Best time to plant: each year is different, but here are some general guidelines for some popular veggies (some are listed two time for two harvests, some will be fall crops):


Late April to early May (when soil has reached 45-50 degrees): peas, onions, lettuce, radish, spinach, turnip, endive, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, brussels sprout and early potatoes.
Mid-May to early June (after last spring frost and soil has warmed): snap beans, sweet corn, Swiss chard, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, parsnips, winter and summer squash, dill, fall potatoes and melons.
Mid-June to early July: snap beans, sweet corn, chinese cabbage, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, parsley, rutabaga, broccoli, cauliflower, beets and kale.
Early August: head lettuce, beets, peas, collards, endive-leaf lettuce, spinach, mustard and radish.

Source: New York State Cooperative Extension fact sheet

Tomato varieties resistant to late blight include: defiant, iron lady, jasper, lemon drop, Matt’s wild cherry, mountain magic, mountain merit and Mr. Stripey. The following are varieties that are still being trialed to determine level of late blight resistance: legend, plum regal, Aunt Ruby’s German green, black krim, black plum, New Hampshire surecrop, pruden’s purple, red currant, wapsipinicon peach, yellow currant and yellow pear.

For a selected list of 2016 vegetable varieties for New York state gardeners, visit blogs.cornell.edu/horticulture/files/2011/11/Vegetable-Varieties-list-2016-2buhimc.pdf

Apple Scab should be treated preventatively if you’ve had problems in the past. Protectant fungicides must be applied before infection occurs, typically at pink bud and petal fall with two more additional applications (treatment times for last two applications vary depending on fungicide used so follow label instructions). Make sure you also remove and destroy infected leaves and fruit. Mulching blueberries with sawdust (from non-treated lumber) can help acidify the soil as it decomposes. If you use sawdust it should be fluffed up each season to eliminate compaction — word of caution, sawdust can rob soil of nitrogen as it decomposes so keep an eye on plant growth. Blueberries require soil pH of around 4.5 If you don’t know the soil pH, we can test it at our office for $3 per sample. To harvest rhubarb, pull the stalks from the plant rather than cutting them. Leaves should be discarded and not eaten.

Trees and shrubs: Don’t plant monocultures. Planting a variety of tree types that are suited to your site decreases the likelihood of widespread tree loss from insect pests and diseases. To help control size of needled evergreen shrubs, remove ½ of the new candle growth. This should be done when the candles easily break when bent with fingers. Be sure to use your fingers and not pruning tools for this task so you don’t damage remaining needle tips. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch around, but not against, tree trunks can help protect them from mower and string trimmer damage. It also helps decrease soil moisture loss that can impact newly planted trees and shrubs. No volcano mulching. When trees are mulched in this way, mulch remains against the trunk where it can create moist conditions that cause infection/decay.

Lawns: Keep your mower blades sharp. If lawn is thin, fertilize to improve density in late spring around Memorial Day, but first, “test, don’t guess.” A soil nutrient analysis can be completed to determine what is needed and includes soil pH test. You can pick up at soil mailer box and soil lab submission form and instructions from our office. Are moles digging in your yard? If so, commercial traps are your best option. Traps are placed in active tunnels. To determine which tunnels are active, press soil over tunnels down with your foot and wait to see which ones are raised back up — this indicates that they are being used.

Soil/flowers/houseplants/other: Pull weeds before they go to seed. A weed in hand removes hundreds in the garden! Apply mulch to reduce weed germination in perennial beds. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch around plants reduces weed germination, helps conserve water and makes weeds easier to pull if they do happen to grow. Stake tall/floppy perennials as they grow and put peony hoops in place. Leave spring flowering bulb foliage in place until it has died/yellowed. Removing it before that time decreases bulb size/blooms the following year. Perennial plants can be used to hide the bulbs browning foliage until the time comes to remove it.

Laurie VanNostrand and the CCE Wayne Co. Master Gardeners