May is the ideal time for over-seeding your lawn.
By Larry Sombke
Container gardens are becoming increasingly popular as people are feeling the need to get something growing in limited space or because they are downsizing their gardens. My wife and I plant at least six different container gardens each year and we each plant what we like in our respective pots. It makes life a lot simpler that way.
Don’t make the mistake of planting only annuals in your container garden. These portable pots can be full of herbs, perennials, bulbs, even small shrubs if you like. Or they can be all mixed up. If you follow a few basic rules, you can let your imagination run wild.
Pots, soil & fertilizer
While I still have a couple of terra cotta pots, I now use mostly heavy duty, but light in weight, plastic pots that are just as good looking as clay. I have a couple wooden containers, too. My plastic pots are from Campania International and they have lasted for years.
First, make sure your container has holes in the bottom to allow for good drainage; if not drill a few holes in the bottom. Next, layer in an inch or so of coarse gravel or broken ceramic pot or even some broken sticks on the bottom of the pot to further assist in the drainage.
Fill the pot with a light potting mix that contains vermiculite or perlite to keep the soil light and airy. A good alternative is garden soil mixed with compost, peat or dehydrated manure. All of these products can be found at your local lawn and garden center. Good drainage and light soil will give your plants the best conditions for success. Next, place the plants into the soil, mix in a handful or two of natural organic fertilizer such as Espoma, in the root zone, which will fertilize the plants over the course of the growing season.
Herbs in containers
Herbs will grow really well in containers as long as you give them plenty of sun. Plant a combination of chives, small leaf basil, thyme, sage and rosemary in one pot. Dill, large leaf basil, (try red leaf basil for color) parsley and tarragon are also a good combination.
Perennials in containers
Perennials have become so inexpensive and widely available, there is no reason not to treat them as annuals in your containers. Heuchera, dicentra, ajuga, polemonium (Jacob’s ladder), campanula and salvia are just a few that do well in containers.
My favorites for sun and shade
I must admit to a prejudice of planting more than one type of plant in a container unless it is an herb garden. I like to plant all of one thing in each container because I think it looks better that way. Each year I will have a container full of nasturtium that I started from seed in the container in mid-May. I will also have a container of just basil and one of dill. Tuberous begonia is my favorite container plant for shade.
Lawn Tip for May
May is the ideal time for over-seeding your lawn. Many of us will have spots in the lawn where the grass is not growing well-along the driveway, under certain trees, where the kids and the dogs play, etc.
Starting no sooner than Mother’s Day and running until Flag Day, spread good grass seed over these spots. Be sure to keep them watered until the seeds germinate. Shady spots should be planted with a blend that is high in fescue seeds. Sunny spots should be planted with a blend that is high in perennial rye grass. Read the labels on the bag. Avoid blends that are high in Kentucky bluegrass; good looking, but too needy of water and fertilizer, and annual rye grass, looks good for one season and will die.
I used to think that even with over-seeding, I had to scratch the soil area, plant the seeds and tamp them down into the soil, perhaps cover with straw and other labor intensive efforts. But now I am a devote of Rensselaer County Extension agent David Chinery, who has found that repeated over-seeding without the soil preparation has produced excellent results. It worked better for me, too.
Larry Sombke is a landscape consultant, speaker, author and a frequent guest on Northeast Public Radio. Contact him with questions at www.beautifuleasygardens.blogspot.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.