Gardens In The Southeast: Gardening To-Do List For May

Hands Planting A Small Plant In Soil
may south
(Image credit: AlexRaths)

May is a busy month in the garden with a variety of chores to keep on track. We might be harvesting cool-season crops and planting those that grow in summer. Our May gardening tasks for the Southeast region might involve staking and caging some climbers. Depending upon our location, we might even be working up new beds. An ongoing chore for improving the soil is keeping a compost pile going.

May Gardening To-Do List

This is an appropriate time to divide clumps of bulbs previously growing in the landscape. Other perennials may be dug and divided now. Add some of the divided flowers into new beds, if needed.

Are you getting an urge to plant tomatoes and other warm-season crops? Many sources advise waiting until June in some parts of the Southeast. While freezing nighttime temperatures are usually history by this time of year in most of the southern states, check your local forecast for 10 days ahead. Mountainous areas might still get low temperatures in the morning this month. Other than those spots, it is likely the right time to start your warm-season crops.

Plant okra, sweet potatoes, and corn. Get your melons going. Start your tomatoes. If you think there’s a chance of frost or freeze shortly, start by using the succession method (plant in two-week intervals). If you get those cold morning temperatures, protect your plants with small cloches or an old sheet.

Additional tasks for May include:

  • Feeding shrubs
  • Feeding the lawn
  • Planting daylilies (late bloomers) and other perennials
  • Continue planting heat-loving annual flowers

Pests in the Southern Garden in May

Insect pests tend to appear when the weather warms up. Keep an eye out for bugs that might be on or around your growing food crops and ornamentals. Treat with an organic pesticide only if an attack appears imminent.

Add plants to gardens in the Southeast that attract beneficial insects to your landscape. Many herbs are helpful, like dill, comfrey, yarrow, and chamomile. Ornamentals like marigold, sunflowers, bee balm, and many others attract them as well. Lacewings, ladybugs, and syrphid flies will find the blooms.

Plant some of them around crops that you’ve had infested in the past. Beneficial bugs help cut down on populations of damaging insects. Be careful of treating these plants with pesticides, as these can take out the good bugs too.

This is a great time for being outside and enjoying the weather. It’s also the perfect time to get new plants growing by air layering, grafting, division, or cuttings. Try that propagation you’ve been wanting to experiment with.

Becca Badgett

Becca Badgett was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for ten years. Co-author of the book How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden, Becca specializes in succulent and cactus gardening.