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Garden tasks

If you want butterflies in your garden, make your garden caterpillar friendly. photo: susannp4

Though spring officially began in March, the month of May is when we can truly enjoy the blossoming of springtime. Gardening in the evening after work is possible now with the later sunsets and can be stress-relieving after a long day at the office. Here’s what to do this month to enjoy your garden in the upcoming summer months.

Summer bulbs

These should be planted right away if they haven’t been already. Plant dahlias, gladiolus, lilies, and begonias for summer color and a cutting garden.

Slugs

Take steps to control slugs, as they will be out in full force. It is best to control them before they have a chance to reproduce and wreak havoc on your garden. Sluggo takes care of both snails and slugs and is safe to use around pets and wildlife.

Mulch

Now is a good time to mulch your garden in preparation for the warm and dry months ahead. Mulch conserves water, keeps soil temperatures even, and prevents weeds from germinating. It also improves the organic content and texture of soil.

Aphids

Aphids may be problematic by now. Combat them with the hose (a strong spray, but you’ll have to do this every few days) or with ladybugs. For a more aggressive approach, try an organic insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Soaker hoses

Watering your roses with soaker hoses will help to reduce the spread of black spot disease. Soaker hoses prevent soil erosion, conserve water, and are ideal for shrubs.

Rotate crops

Keep soil in good shape and control pests by rotating your vegetable crops annually.

Vines

Annual vines work well in small vertical spaces and are ideal to cover up an eyesore of a wall or fence. Morning glories and nasturtium are two varieties that will work, also creating privacy and shade. Both are available in several colors.

Bee butterfly friendly

… and kind to all of our pollinators, including insects, butterflies, and moths, too. Many special seed blends are available to attract these creatures to your garden. Nectar is the key to attracting adult butterflies to your garden — the more nectar in a flower, the more popular the plant will be. For butterflies to feel safe, create a sheltered, organic haven for them in a sunny, low-wind area. Provide a birdbath or a shallow saucer of water for quenching their thirst. (Be sure to keep it clean and fresh. You do not want a mosquito breeding area.)

Year-round blooms will supply a continuous source of nectar. Flowers with flat-topped or clustered blossoms with short flower tubes allow the butterflies to reach the nectar more easily. To truly provide a home for butterflies rather than just a visiting area for adults, you will need to include plants that are preferred by the caterpillar. You might see some chewed foliage, but usually there will be no permanent plant damage. A completely organic garden is recommended, which means no spraying of pesticides or fungicides at all. These will kill butterflies in both their larval and adult phases.

Annuals

Buy your annuals without blooms so that they will bloom after you transplant them.

Weed

Weeds steal both water and nutrients from plants. Be sure to give plants a fighting chance by clearing away any weeds—easiest after a light rain, should we be lucky enough to have some so late in the season.

Window and container gardens

If you don’t have a yard, or your outdoor space is limited, a container garden is a great way for you to enjoy the pleasures of gardening. A large number of pots and planters are available that are perfect for a windowsill garden — the perfect spot for herbs and flowers. If you have a deck or small patio, you can even choose a larger container with plenty of space to grow your favorite vegetables.

Mosquito abatement

Arguably one of the most annoying pests, mosquitoes are poised to make a comeback this year after years of drought. Make sure that there is no standing water lurking around your garden or yard, as this is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Larvae develop in standing water. Around urban and suburban homes, small containers such as birdbaths, barrels, wading pools, and anything else that traps water are great nurseries for larvae. Remove all unneeded standing water around your home to avoid attracting these pests.

Mosquito dunks

These kill mosquito larvae before they mature and are environmentally safe to use. Simply place the mosquito dunks in a pond, water garden, or standing water. They work for more than 30 days! Each dunk will treat up to 100 square feet of surface area regardless of depth. An EPA registered insecticide that is safe around animals, dunks contain a natural biological control (Bacillus thuringiensis) that kills mosquito larvae.

See you in the garden!

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Julia Strzesieski is the marketing coordinator for Cole Hardware and can be reached at [email protected].

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