Let’s Get Gardening: May 2018

Is April Finally over?! I, for one, say “Hooray!” I don’t know why this year’s crazy April weather got to me so much, but it really did – and I’m not the only one. Pretty much everyone coming into the store all month had something to say about the weather, and it usually wasn’t good.

There was one person who visited us in April who had a different perspective, though – and it’s something to keep in mind for all of us. Our friend Eric Kampe, of Ann Arbor Seed Company, pointed out that, because we have had a very gradual warm-up (not the ones we often have, where we get a string of really warm days that gets everything growing early), we are not as likely to get unpleasantly surprised by a late frost that kills everything off, or at the very least, causes lots of things to lose their blossoms, like our fruit trees. So while I really would have liked it a little bit warmer last month, I can at least keep that in mind when I’m enjoying the blossoms on my cherry and apple trees this month!


May Featured Garden Products: Fertilizers

As you plant your gardens this month, be sure to do a soil test for nutrient needs. You can find fertilizer for every need in your garden, but it can be a little confusing, so here’s a quick primer.

What you need to know about fertilizers

The Numbers – When looking at a bag of fertilizer, you generally see three numbers, such as 10-10-10. The first number is the amount of Nitrogen, the second number is the amount of Phosphorus, and the third number is the amount of Potassium. These are the nutrients needed by plants in larger amounts. Some fertilizers will also list, somewhere on the bag, other nutrients that plants need in lesser amounts, but that are still important, such as sulfur, magnesium, and calcium. Don’t get too bogged down in all of these – just keep in mind what the main nutrients do for you plants.

Nitrogen – Nitrogen is needed for good leaf and stem growth. Nitrogen is needed for all plants to thrive, and plants that are not producing flowers or fruit (think lettuce, cabbage, spinach, etc.) need even more than others. You don’t want to over-do it with nitrogen though, or you may get weak, leggy plants that don’t put out much in the way of fruit or flowers.

Phosphorus – Phosphorus is important for root growth and for flower production. It’s especially needed for root crops, such as carrots, beets, and radishes. It’s also important for all of your flowering plants, including vegetables.

Potassium – Potassium is important for the ability of plants to take up water, and in the activation of enzymes that help plants grow and resist disease.

Soil Tests – If you haven’t done a soil test, but think you should put some fertilizer in before planting, stick to a balanced product. If you have done a soil test, and it tells you that your soil is in need of one or more of the nutrients, there are fertilizers that can address all of these issues.

At The Garden Mill, we carry a line of organic fertilizers made right here in Michigan – Organically Done – as well as products for adjusting pH and for your lawn. Come talk to us about your soil’s needs.


In this month’s issue of Let’s Get Gardening

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for seasonal gardening advice and recommendations for your garden, yard, and bird feeding. In this month’s issue:

With the warm-up this week, you might be tempted to go out and get everything done in your garden in the upcoming days. To that I say – slow down! There are certainly a number of things that you can get done in the early part of the month, but there are also a number of things that are better left for later – even the end of the month – if you want to be really safe.

Vegetables and Herbs:

  • Wait to plant until late in the month are basil, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and squashes.
  • Things to plant now – onions, potatoes, strawberries, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, and kale. Seed potatoes, onion sets, strawberry roots, and rhubarb roots are all on sale at the Garden Mill now!
  • Consider growing your own potatoes. Commercially grown potatoes tend to be grown using lots of pesticides. MSU Extension service has a great pamphlet with lots of information on growing potatoes.
  • Seeds to plant now: spinach, lettuce, carrots, radishes, and beets. About mid-month, it’s safe to plant beans of all sorts. Squash, cucumber, dill, and cilantro seeds can be planted directly into your garden mid-month as well.
  • We will have seedlings for a variety of locally grown tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, and herbs available at the store in the coming weeks.
  • When you plant your seedlings, start a program of fungicide immediately, and keep at it on a regular basis.


  • Wait until at least mid-month to plant most annuals in the ground or pots. Some annuals can stand a light frost, as long as they have been hardened off, but if you really want to be sure, wait until you are planting your tomatoes to plant annual flowers.
  • Most perennials can be planted out any time now, but check with the grower to be sure that they can handle any late frosts we may yet see.
  • Now is the time to divide and transplant late-summer and fall-blooming perennials that may have outgrown their space. Wait to transplant spring and early-summer bloomers until after they have finished flowering (best to do it in the fall).
  • Work compost into the top few layers of soil in your beds, being careful not to disturb roots, and put down a new layer of mulch, once the soil has warmed up, to help keep moisture in and keep soil temps consistent.

Trees and shrubs:

  • Once your forsythia have finished flowering, they can be pruned. The University of Minnesota Extension has some good tips for pruning, including lists of what trees and shrubs to prune when.
  • Plant trees and shrubs now to give them a chance to get acclimated before summer heat sets in. While fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs, spring is still a good time, as long as you are diligent about watering.


  • Keeping your lawn properly mowed is one of the keys to keeping it healthy, especially when we aren’t getting much rain. In general, the grass experts recommend keeping your grass mowed to three to four inches high, and cutting off no more than one third of the blade each time you mow.
  • If you are seeing large patches of dead grass in your lawn as it greens up this spring, there are a number of possible reasons, and it’s a good idea to figure out the cause before you decide what to do about it. This article can help with the identification process and also offers tips for solving the problems.


  • With the extended cold weather we had in April, hummingbirds have been slow to make their way to Michigan this year – and who can blame them? Now that it’s warming up, you can expect to see them in your yard soon, so get your feeders out and fill them up – you don’t want to miss the show!
  • Oriole feeders should be put out now as well. Along with nectar, orioles like grape jelly and cut oranges. Giving them a variety of their favorite foods can help convince them to stick around and nest in your yard.
  • There’s no need to stop feeding the rest of your birds for the season. While many of them will be primarily eating insects this summer, they will supplement their diet with food you offer, and will also take some back to the babies in their nests.
  • Don’t forget that you can provide homes for the birds, too! Bluebirds, wrens, swallows, ducks, woodpeckers, owls, and more will happily take up residence in houses you provide for them.
  • One more thing for the birds – put out bird baths now, if you took them in for the winter. There’s almost nothing as fun as watching birds in birdbaths. Adding some sort of movement to the water, with a dripper, mister, or wiggler, will attract even more, and has the added benefit of deterring mosquitoes
  • Clean out feeders and baths regularly to help prevent diseases.

Store News & Specials:

  • Garden Mill 5th Annual Pottery Sale! Save up to 50% off most 
    ceramic, metal, and stone planters. While Supplies Last, through 5/31/18. Offer good on in-stock supplies only. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Excludes artist consignment pieces.
  • $10 off any $50 purchase coupon

More info on all of these tips and more:

Read the May 2018 issue of Let’s Get Gardening