Spring has sprung and it’s time to hop in the garden and get your hands dirty. We spoke with an expert green thumb — Dirk Jonker, owner of Jonker’s Garden in Holland — and he shared a handful of useful tips and tricks to get you started on cultivating a luscious garden this season.
Weather in May can be a bit tricky when it comes to gardening in Michigan if you jump the gun and plant frost-sensitive plants! When planting in May, remember that the average frost-free date falls between May 21–31.
When purchasing your plants, be aware if your plants are hardened off. Hardening off plants is the process of preparing plants started from seeds indoors for the change in environmental conditions they’ll encounter when permanently moved outdoors. Ask your local nursery if the product has already been hardened off, or if it is being sold directly from a warm greenhouse.
Forecast for frost
Plants sold directly from a warm greenhouse can be damaged or killed during a cold snap. Frost-sensitive plants can be protected with an old bedsheet or frost cloth; it’s not recommended to use plastic sheets as the plants can still be damaged wherever the sheet comes into contact with the plant. Continue to protect frost-tender plants, until the danger of freezing temperatures has passed. If frost is in the forecast, look in your garden and check your prized plants, such as Japanese maples and hydrangeas. These plants can break dormancy early and be damaged by late frosts.
Cool Season planting
Plant cool-season vegetables and annuals in April and May. Popular cool season annuals include pansies, violas, stock, alyssum, linaria and snap dragons. Cool-season vegetables include lettuces, spinach, kale, radishes, peas, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, leeks, chard and kohlrabi. This is also a good time to plant onion sets, seedling potatoes and asparagus crowns.
Warm Season planting
Plant summer vegetables after the last frost, these include: beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers and tomatoes. Prior to planting, work organic amendments into the soil.
Ease into it
When evening temperatures stay above 50 degrees, move your houseplants outdoors for a refreshing spring vacation, but avoid burning the foliage in the bright sun by moving plants gradually, starting with a well-shaded location and progressing to increasingly brighter areas.
Divide and design
May is one of the best times to divide and move around perennials and grasses. At this time, your perennials will start to emerge and you will be able to determine if you need to divide and move some things around. Split up and divide hostas, iris, daylilies, phlox, Shasta daisies, rudbeckia, nepeta, coreopsis and the list goes on. It’s also a great time to divide grasses and relocate shrubs. Difficult perennials that have a woody stem or deep taproot such as lavender, Russian sage and perennial hibiscus, should be left alone if possible. n