Spring is here, flowers are blooming, and it’s time to plant veggies!
If you are wondering when to do what in the garden, this checklist will help you plan your garden fun. It’s full of spring-time tasks and projects.
You can also download a printable checklist. Customize this spreadsheet for your own yard and garden.
Who Is This For?
Our garden checklist is designed for gardeners interested in growing food and healthy ecosystems.
We live in the Northern Hemisphere in USDA Zone 7. These recommendations can be applied to many gardens in Zone 6-8.
Not sure what your zone is? Find your USDA zone here.
Not in the U.S.? This pdf comparing international zone systems may help.
May Garden Checklist
- Buy seeds and/or transplants.
Local sources (farmers’ markets, small nurseries, regional seed companies) are likely to offer plants well-adapted to your climate.
- Yay! Tomatoes. Get them planted.
For a jump-start, use seedlings. Double check your last frost date and the weather forecast, just in case. A late frost could kill your seedlings.
- Plant summer crops…corn, beans, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and squash.
Warm-season seeds germinate best with soil temps > 65 degrees. You can measure with a kitchen or compost thermometer. Watch the weather forecast if transplanting seedlings.
- Plan to add a summer cover crop in bare areas.
Soil doesn’t like to be naked. Buckwheat, cowpeas, and sorghum/sudangrass are good options for summer cover.
- Keep freshly-planted seeds damp.
Water often (but not too deep) until seeds germinate. If germination isn’t light dependent, apply a light mulch.
- Plant summer bulbs.
Tender bulbs like dahlias, gladiolus and calla lilies don’t tolerate freezing. Best to dig up each fall and re-plant in spring.
Plant annual flowers and frost-senstive herbs.
Now’s the time to plant cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias, and other annuals. It’s likely safe to plant tender herbs like basil, lemongrass, and chamomile.
- Move houseplants outside and water well.
Most houseplants will welcome a shady outdoor location for summer. Water them until clear water drains. This flushes out salts accumulated during winter.
- Harvest cool season crops.
Enjoy fresh snap peas, greens, broccoli, and other goodies planted in early spring.
- Prune spring-blooming shrubs.
Forsythia, spirea, lilacs, azaleas and most other spring-bloomers have flowers on the previous year’s growth. If pruning is needed, cut them back after they flower in spring. (Or cut while they flower and bring the trimmings inside!)
- Allow leaves from daffodils or other spring bulbs to linger.
These leaves are feeding the bulbs that will bloom again next year. If they become unsightly, you can add annuals to “hide” them until they finish this important work.
Try to get a head start by eliminating weeds when they are small. Even the worst weeds (like poison ivy, bindweed, goatheads, and Japanese honeysuckle) are less overwhelming early in the season.
- Start a compost bin.
New to composting? Here’s our mini-course to get started. If you have one bin, start another!
- Harvest or turn your compost pile.
If your compost pile has been sitting all winter, see if compost is ready to harvest. If not, turn and water the pile to help speed it along.
- Do a soil test.
If you haven’t done a soil test yet, do one now to get useful information about how you may need to amend your soil for best results. Your local cooperative extension service may offer free or low-cost kits. Be sure to add the results to your journal.
Add a good layer of mulch to your beds, trees and shrubs. Mulch will conserve water and save a bunch of time weeding this summer.
- Get your garden tools organized.
If you haven’t already, make sure your garden equipment is ready and in good working order. Clean and sharpen pruners, shovels and hoes.
- Setup or service your irrigation system.
Whether you use drip, soaker hoses, or a plain water hose, make sure they are clean, working, and leak-free. Easy to lose AND easy to replace, washers are one key to leak-free hoses, sprinklers, and sprayers.
- Get your garden journal up to date. If you haven’t a journal yet, start one.
You can’t remember everything. Write down details like dates, weather, successes, and failures. It will help you learn and make good decisions. Find a way that works for you, from low-tech pen and paper to a high-tech mobile app. (We use Evernote.)
- Take a walk with your camera and journal.
Schedule a regular time to observe your yard and garden. Take along a camera and your journal to record what you see.
- Invite pollinators to your garden.
Add plants to your garden to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Xerces Society has wonderful region-specific Pollinator-Friendly Plant Lists and other useful resources.
- Put up your hummingbird feeders.
Hummingbirds are here! If you haven’t already, clean your feeder well and fill it up.
- Knock out aphids early.
Blast aphids off plants with a spray from the water hose. Most of them can’t climb back up the plant. If you’ve got an infestation, you could try an insecticidal soap.
- Watch for slugs and snails.
Here are seventeen ideas for stopping these slimy plant eaters, from beer to garlic to ducks!
Beyond Your Garden
- Seek out plant sales.
Many nurseries are having plant sales now. It’s a good time to pick up your transplants or invest in perennials. Just make sure you don’t buy more than you can get planted!
- Visit a public garden for inspiration.
Your local public garden might offer a special for National Public Gardens Day.
- Connect with local gardeners.
Grow a network of neighbors to compare notes and help identify plants and problems. Farmers’ markets, Master Gardeners, cooperative extension offices, public gardens, nurseries, garden shops, food co-ops, social media groups, and community gardens (even if you don’t garden there!) are great places to start.
- Celebrate National Wildflower Week.
In many places, the wildflower parade of color is in full swing! National Wildflower Week is usually the first week of May. Find local wildflower groups and events here.
- Plant a sunflower house.
Sunflower Houses by Sharon Lovejoy is full of fun ideas for “children and their adults.”
- Invite your kids to help.
Brainstorm ways to get the whole family involved in (or playing near) the garden. Give kids their own section to plan, plant and tend. If kids are reluctant, try and try again. In June, we’ll share tips and a tutorial for gardening with kids.
Now, I’d love to hear from you!
What garden tasks are at the top of your list this month?
What projects are you excited about? What chores are you dreading? Let me know in the comments below.