For some cold-climate gardeners, May marks the month of the last frost for the winter and the warming of the garden soil. It’s the time to start growing and getting creative.
For more, see garden task lists for each month here.
May Garden Tasks
These are examples of tasks I like to do in my cold-climate garden (zone 6). Every garden is different, and we each adapt based on climate, growing zone and conditions, the plant species, challenges, and time and resources available. Please take the inspiration and run/grow with it.
Here in southwestern Ontario, Canada, May begins spring gardening season in earnest. With the last frost of winter in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to re-introduce our over-wintered plants to life outdoors, clean-up old perennial growth from the previous year, and start planting. Woot!
Monthly Garden Tasks
Where to begin? If you’re past last frost, there’s so much to do! It’s the best kind of overwhelm.
- There is a complete, printable Spring Gardening Checklist here.
- Indoor plants and seedlings intended for life outdoors in the warm seasons, should be transitioned gradually.
- Quick-growing veggies sown in April will be ready for harvesting. Continue sowing more seeds for continual harvests.
- Soil temperature is your best guide for deciding seed sowing times. Each plant type has its own preferences.
- All that old perennial growth from last year? Now is the time to remove it, making room for new growth.
- Remember to turn your compost pile (2x per week is ideal), to keep the microbes working.
- Grow new plants from cuttings: see what you can propagate now.
- Set up rain barrels.
- As weather warms, clean away debris in pond, adjust plants for growing season, thin out as needed. Don’t disturb the frogs!
- Keep bird feeders and water feeders clean and filled.
- Clean out nesting boxes between broods. But be sure you’re not disturbing an active nest.
- Have your hummingbird feeders ready for the arrival of spring migrations.
- You can track the hummingbird migrations on this map to know when they’ll arrive in your area.
- Grow salad greens and other veggies and herbs can grow indoors all year-round.
- Move houseplants back from windows to avoid drying them out in the warmer seasons.
Now is the time to decorate your outdoor nest.
Here’s some project ideas.
- Make a repurposed garden art chandelier
- DIY flower hose guards to protect your plants
- Make decorative garden balls
- Mark your plants with creative plant tags
- Love growing fruit and veggies? See if a local food bank, fruit-sharing service, or other charitable service would like your surplus.
- Photograph your garden weekly. Make notes of hits, misses, and ideas for the future.
- Jot down ‘firsts’. First bee, butterfly, bird migration, blooms. See more on this below.
You may not know it by the name phenology, but you certainly know what it is. Phenology is the science of observing annual first events in nature. When flower buds open. When peepers first peep. When bees appear. When migrations arrive. When bulbs pop up. The list is endless.
Seasonal changes prompt natural responses in the plant and animal kingdoms. It is interesting to note these events and compare year over year.
Early Summer Phenological Events
Here’s a few examples you might notice.
- Late May or early June often means frog and toad mating time. Those night-time calls are deafening!
- Bare trees – deciduous trees have dropped their leaves.
- Birds resting in sun to find warmth where they can.
- Male goldfinch feathers become bright yellow for mating season.
- Short days with bright light reflecting from the snow.
- Ponds icing over. If you have fish, keep an air hole open.
- Frozen soil. Sound travels differently when it’s cold.