BY MELISSA SERENDA AND LINDA SCHREIBER
The April showers have come and gone. That means it’s time for May flowers!
Our native flowers will make their appearance with little assistance from us. Some of our earlier-flowering native plants that bloom in May include Prairie Smoke (Geum trifolium), Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia), and pollinator favorite Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea).
Those early bulb flowers like tulips and and daffodils have come and gone, but resist the urge to tidy up their remaining foliage until after it has turned yellow and died back. The plant is still photosynthesizing and storing up food in its bulb while the foliage is green, so make sure to give it time to stock up its resources for next spring.
Speaking of not tidying up…if you’ve been “leaving your leaves” for bees and other pollinators to overwinter, May is when you can think about tidying up those stems and leaves that were left to protect our insect friends. This month, when overnight temps consistently stay above 50 degrees F, those overwintering pollinators will emerge and begin their life cycle again—thanks to thoughtful gardeners who share their yards with these important insects.
Once we have passed the last freeze—usually around May 4 in Iowa City—it is safe to plant veggies like tomatoes and peppers outside. Thin any seedlings that were sown directly to prevent overcrowding. Staggering the planting of crops like beans and corn every two or three weeks can give you a longer period to harvest and enjoy that fresh produce.
If your houseplants take a summer vacation outside, now is the time to begin settling them into a shady, protected area after a winter indoors. Be careful not to scald them with a sudden move into bright sun, or expose them to strong winds: be aware of their light and moisture requirements and site them accordingly once they have had time to acclimate.
After enjoying the spring blooms of lilac and forsythia, take time to prune out 1/3 of the older branches every couple of years to keep the plant vigorous and healthy. Apple trees should also be thinned within 6 weeks of blooming.
As we move into the hot, dry days of summer, give your lawn a little room to grow by raising the height of your mower to at least 3 inches. This will not only help prevent the heat from stressing the grass, but the extra height can help shade out weeds trying to gain a foothold in your lawn.