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Tips for the Washington gardener: Dealing with samaras

Staff Writer
Washington Times-Reporter

Here come the samaras! The winged fruit of Maple trees will soon be sprouting all over and pulling the seedlings from your garden beds can be added to the to do list. If you mulch your garden beds, make a mental note to lay fresh mulch after we get through the ‘helicopter’ period!

Here is a list of other things to do during May:

• Prune spring flowering shrubs as needed right after blooms have faded. This includes forsythia, lilac, weiglea and flowering almond. If you prune too late into the season, you may be cutting off next year’s flowers.

• Remove spent flowers and seed heads from spring flowering bulbs, but leave the foliage to yellow and wither as this will provide next years food for the bulbs. You can plant perennials with spring flowering bulbs and by the time the bulb foliage is yellowing, the perennials are up high enough to hide the withering leaves.

• The first harvest of rhubarb is ready to pick and the first pick always seems to taste the best.

• Fertilize azaleas with a food meant for acid loving plants. Pinch faded blooms from the azaleas and rhododendrons to tidy them up.

• After peonies bloom, remove faded flowers and seed heads, but leave the foliage until late September.

• Pinch the top 1 to 2 inches off your garden mums to encourage full bushy plants. Continue this practice every time you get 4 to 6 inches of new growth. To keep blooms on schedule for fall, stop pinching around July 4.

• Move your houseplants out to an area protected from harsh winds and provide morning or dappled sun. Do not place your houseplants in full sun as most houseplants cannot withstand that.

• The fronts of your taller perennials, such as phlox can be pinched back by half. This not only layers your plant, but staggers bloom time as the pinched half will bloom a week or two later than the back half.

• Pinching sedums back by half after they get about a foot tall will create more flower heads that will be smaller and lighter. This will prevent them from flopping over if you’ve had that problem previously.

• Set your plant supports now so plants can grow through them.

• Prune your Russian sage, butterfly bush and sage back hard to stimulate new growth.

• Fertilize your lawn at the end of the month if you did it early to mid April or early this month if it’s your first application. If you have broad leaf weeds such as plantain weed or dandelions, put down a fertilizer that also offers weed control.

• After blooms are gone, and fruit begins to set, continue insect control on fruit trees.

• If you didn’t start seeds indoors, plant your warm season vegetables around May 10. These include tomato, squash and eggplant. Lots of you may have them out already and that may be fine, but they probably won’t do much until soil temperatures warm up more.

• It’s important for disease control that you water in the morning at the soil level, not from overhead.

• Roses are heavy feeders. Feed them and your annuals following instructions on the packaged food. Feed roses approximately every six weeks and annuals every two weeks.

• Have a great gardening month. Enjoy the sights and sounds that nature brings!

U of I Extension of Tazewell County, Master Gardener Tips for April contributed by Vicki Gustafson.

This list provides basic guidelines and certainly may not be complete, depending on your individual circumstances.

The Extension has a Web site with further info- http://web.extension.illinois.edu/state/hort.html.

Look for more tips in the Washington Times-Reporter next month.