Gardening Tips

Helpful tips for gardening in the Triangle in May and June.


• Plant summer bulbs – dahlias, cannas, caladiums – and tropical water lilies and heat-loving annuals such as portulaca and sun coleus.

• Peonies typically need little fertilization but in some instances, it is good to give them a little boost. If you use a fertilizer choose a balanced slow-release 5-5-5 or 10-10-10. After the bloom, deadhead your peonies to promote root growth overseed formation.

• Irises can be planted now.

• Continue plantings perennials and summer annuals and work a slow-release fertilizer into the hole when planting.

• Pinch back chrysanthemums to encourage branching, more blooms, and bushier plants. Continue doing this until mid-July.

• Stake or add a hoop to taller and leggy perennials now before the plant gets too big.

• Spray roses for black spot and other fungus type diseases. Make sure roses receive 1 to 2 inches of water per week, but don’t overwater as that can affect the health of the plant.

• Take your houseplants outside for a vacation in a shady spot. They are tropical and love our humid warm environment. Keep watch for insect attacks and treat accordingly.

• Keep pulling weeds so they don’t steal water and nutrients from your flowers.

• Check container plants daily. Don’t let these dry out. Fertilize often as they lose nutrients quickly.

• When selecting summer annuals, look for short, bushy plants with green leaves, well-developed root systems, and more buds than flowers. Wait until after danger of frost (around April 15) before planting annuals in the garden.

• Wait until spring bulb foliage dies down naturally before removing it. Fertilize with bone meal after blooming.

• Don’t let weeds go to seed. Pull them now to keep weeds from taking over.

• Begin a regular fungicide schedule as soon as new leaves appear on roses

Fruits and Vegetables

• Plant warm-season crops in May – eggplant, peppers, squash, cucumbers, snap beans, peppers, okra, and watermelons.

• Stake or cage tomatoes and train green beans and cucumbers up trellises or supports.

• Check your vegetable garden daily for water needs. Fertilize weekly, as these plants are heavy feeders and need fertilizer weekly. Keep watch for disease and insect infestations.

• Control blossom end rot on tomatoes with good watering practices; add lime to reduce the problem.

• Harvest vegetables and fruits in the morning, not during the heat of the day. Place the harvest in a cool place to prevent deterioration of taste and quality.

• Try growing your veggie garden in containers if you don’t have space in the yard. Remember these need 6-8 hours of direct sun. Or try mixing edibles in with your existing landscaping.


• Spot treat broadleaf weeds. It’s hard to control henbit, chickweed, and hairy bittercress now, but it is a good idea to control the seed dispersal of the flowers. Physically removing these weeds before the seeds fall will give you a jump on next year’s weeds.

• You can fill bare spots in your lawn with sod.

• Watch your mower height. Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia should be mowed at 1 inch, fescue at 3 inches. Do not fertilize fescue, but you can lightly fertilize the other grasses.

• If needed, water your lawn in the early morning to avoid evaporation in the heat of the day.

• Watch for brown patch and dollar spot in fescue lawns. Fungicides can be applied now to prevent the diseases if you don’t have these in your fescue.

• Manage your lawn watering needs through the Turf Irrigation Water Management Program at NC State. The program calculates and tracks watering requirements based on current weather data. Details at

Trees and Shrubs

• The sooner you plant trees the better chance their root systems have to grow before hot weather starts.

• Finish pruning your spring-blooming shrubs in May. If you prune too late, you might cut off buds for next spring’s bloom.

• Prune new growth of evergreens shrubs to keep shape, but no more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the growth. Do not prune into the old wood, as it will not re-generate growth.

• Prune rhododendrons immediately after blooming.

• Water young trees and shrubs.


• Watch for leaf galls on camellias and azaleas, and pick off and dispose of them.

• Keep an eye on evergreens – junipers, arborvitae, and especially Leyland cypress – for bagworms that look like little brown hanging cones. There are worms inside that will kill an evergreen if left untreated. Bagworms are relatively easy to control with organic insecticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis.

• Watch for yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets in the landscape and lawn and stay away from those areas. They are beneficial in pollinating and eating insects.

• Monitor fruit trees for scale insects. These look like a pinhead-sized bump on stems. The insect under this protective armor is sucking plant juices. One can become thousands resulting in poor production and plant decline.

• Japanese beetles start to arrive in June. Be on the watch and be prepared.

For a complete list of garden maintenance activities, visit the NC Cooperative Extension web site at

For lawn care go to the NC State Turf Files at