May FAQs


Q – Can I plant my marigolds and geraniums yet?
A– At the end of the month, but not before, unless you pre-warm the soil and provide special protection. But most annual seeds can be planted after the middle of the month, like nasturtium seeds. Wait till the end of the month to direct-seed basil. Plant summer-flowering bulbs like glads and cannas in mid-May, later for tender ones like dahlias. Start fertilizing on a regular schedule.

Q– Should I fertilize now?
A– First, make sure the soil you are using, whether in flower beds or in containers, is a good quality, enriched soil. Fertilize new transplants with a starter solution like MiracleGro. Continue to fertilize annuals on a regular schedule. Those that grow in full sun require feeding every couple of weeks for best results, more often for containers. Very vigorous plants in full sun, like trailing petunias, benefit from once a week or more often. Plants in partial shade, especially compact ones, need fertilizer less often. Containers in full sun do best with slow-release fertilizer (Osmocote pellets) at time of planting and again in mid-summer, in addition to regular liquid feed.


Q– When can I buy or plant my containers, or put out my moss basket?
A– Anytime the days are nice – but only those planters that are light enough for you to move inside if frost threatens. Moss baskets may be difficult for some people to manage moving. Containers received as Mother’s Day gifts may contain cold-tolerant plants, like pansies or osteospermum; but do not consider them freeze-proof. Impatiens, begonias, and other warm-weather plants cannot tolerate cold nights at all. Start fertilizing weekly with liquid feed for full sun plantings, every other week for low sun or slow-growing plantings.


Q– Last year I had Lily Leaf Beetles that destroyed my Asiatic & Oriental Lilies. What can I do now?
A– Start looking for the red eggs on the undersides of leaves, and squish the eggs, or pinch off the affected leaf and destroy it.

Q– How should I fertilize?
A– We do not recommend fertilizing newly-planted perennials. Fertilize established plantings with organic fertilizer, aged manure, compost or synthetic 5-10-5 or 5-10-10. If soil is rich, additional fertilizer is not advised for perennials.

Q– What should I do for my roses now?
A– As they begin to leaf out, prune away any dead material. Start a regular fertilizer program and, when leaves appear, a regular spray program for diseases and pests. Consider buying roses that are disease-resistant. Our nursery staff can help with these selections.

Q– What other chores should I do now?
A– Support tall or floppy perennials with peony rings or tomato cages or install stakes to which plants can be tied as they grow. Tie loosely, so that stems are not strangled as they grow.

Spring-Flowering Bulbs:

Q – I can see lots of areas where I want more spring bulbs. Can I buy them now?
A– Bulbs are sold and best planted in fall. If you already purchased forced bulbs like tulips and daffodils in pots, you cant fertilize and water them, wait till the leaves die back, and plant them at a proper depth in the garden (see April entry). The best planning is done in spring, however, so make notes of exact locations where you want to plant more bulbs in the fall. Now is the time to fertilize spring-flowering bulbs to ensure good bloom next year.                     

Q – How can I ensure a great display of flowers next year?                         

 A – Now is the time to fertilize spring-flowering bulbs to ensure good blooms next year. Bulb-tone or Bloom Booster are great fertilizers for bulbs.


Q -Can I plant the rest of my vegetable garden yet?
A– Even cold-tolerant vegetables should not go into the ground until the first of May in most gardens in Central Maine. Around mid-May, plant corn. Beans should wait till the end of the month. At last, after Memorial Day, you can plant warm-weather vegetable seedlings outside without much worry. Basil is about the last to go into the ground; June 1 is a safe time for basil. Start a regular fertilizing schedule.


Q- What should I do to care for my lawn?
A– Apply crabgrass preventative two weeks before the last frost.
Fertilize with lawn fertilizer such as 4-1-2 (high in nitrogen) at 1 lb. nitrogen per 1000 square feet.
Replant dead areas of the lawn, rake the seeds in well, cover with loose hay or pine needles, and water until the seedling grasses are established. Small dug-out sections of lawns are caused by skunks looking for grubs, so use a grub control. Keep it watered (especially new lawns) and healthy to avoid disease and insect problems. Compost lawn clippings after mowing, only if no herbicide has been applied to the lawn; or leave them in place on the lawn.

Garden Soil and Garden Locations:

Q– How can I get the best soil for my gardening needs?
A– See our many handouts on soil preparation, composting, etc. Also see our Retail staff for soil test kits and the University of Maine kit. Add as much weed-free, herbicide-free, plant-based, organic material as possible and dig it in as deep as you can. For containers, use a light, soil-less mix such as Pro-Mix. Use an organic mulch that does not have weed seeds in it and was not sprayed with herbicide.

Q– I have a very wet or dry area or other specific needs. What can I plant there?
A– See the related sections of our Plant Guide. Also see information sheets Landscape Plants for Moist to Wet Location and Landscape Plants for Dry Locations.

Q- How can I keep dogs and cats out of my garden?
A- Aside from fences, we recommend a product called Dog & Cat Repellent, for outdoor use only.

Trees, Shrubs and Vines:

Q– Should I apply lime or wood ashes to plants that love sweet soil?
A- Some plants, like lilacs, delphiniums, and clematis, do prefer a sweeter soil. However, continually adding sweetening agents can create a problem over time. Have the soil tested periodically to see if more lime should be added .

Q– Why is my forsythia only blooming on the bottom?
A – The bottom part was probably insulated by snow, and cold winter temperatures killed the top buds. Consider planting more modern, hardy varieties that are now on the market. Consult with our nursery staff.

Q– How do I plant my new tree or shrub?
A– Remove the plastic wrapping, netting, burlap or pot. Loosen any roots that may have become tightly wound around the rootball. Water well throughout the first spring, summer and fall. Do not fertilize the first year. (See our detailed handout.)

Q– What should I do for trees and shrubs now?
A – Apply appropriate fertilizer. Rhododendrons and azaleas should be fertilized with an acid fertilizer such as Holy-tone™  (if a soil test indicates that the soil is not becoming too acid) after flowering. We do not recommend fertilizing any newly-planted trees or shrubs until they have been in the ground for a year.

Timely tips:
• Now is the time to plant bareroot stock like asparagus. Soak roots in tepid water for several hours before planting. (Plants that are growing in pots are not limited to early spring planting.) Soak roots in tepid water for several hours before planting.
• Finish cleaning perennial beds of old debris. Replace worn-out mulch but keep it away from bases of plants.
• Prune any trees and shrubs that are not going to be flowering in the next few weeks. Remove branches damaged by winter.
• Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs.                                                                              • Photograph your gardens now so you will know where to plant spring flowering bulbs this fall.