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Spring Gardening: May Garden Checklist Zones 6-8

May is a busy and thrilling month for gardeners in Zones 6-8. Some cool-season crops will be ready for picking, planting season is in full swing, seedlings are popping up, and blooms are beginning to flourish. Let’s start growing those May gardens!

We all crave this time of year for many reasons, and it’s essential to keep up with garden chores so that we can get the most out of our gardens. Not sure what exactly you should be working on in the garden this month in your region?

Check out our May Garden Checklist for Zones 6-8 for a stellar list of to-dos that will take you one step closer to bountiful gardens and a lush landscape.

Photo of gloved woman hand holding weed and tool removing it from soil

May Garden Planning

If you’ve kept up with your monthly garden to-do lists, you have a good foundation for what’s coming up this growing season. Your trusty garden journal will be your best friend this month!

  • Walk around public areas or neighbor’s gardens and get some ideas on some plants that draw your attention. Take photos and add them to your garden journal so that you can identify them at your local garden center or on a plant identification app. Then seek them out as you venture out shopping at your local nursery.
  • Garden centers and nurseries are brimming with plants, containers, and everything garden-related. Do you have anything on your wish list? Keep a garden shopping list in your garden journal and jot down any supplies you still need at the garden center.
  • Walk around and assess what pests are presenting themselves in your yard right now and note any traps or companion plant pairings that can help you combat them.
  • Ensure that your garden has the flowering plants it needs to attract beneficial pollinators and bring in predatory insects to the garden.
  • Use your sketched-out garden design plans and dream boards to figure out where your newly acquired plants and seedlings will go.
  • If you constructed new raised garden beds over the winter and haven’t set them out yet, now is the time! Fill them with raised bed soil or compost and lots of organic matter.
  • Calculate the amount of soil that you will need to fill up your garden beds. Are your raised beds very deep? Consider layering soil in your raised beds by adding tree rounds and setting them in the bottom of the trough. Layer compost and raised bed soil on top. The organic matter will break down over time and save you money by taking up square footage, so you can use more raised bed soil and compost elsewhere.
  • Decide what you still need to fill gaps in your garden. This is best to do before you head to the store, so you know what you are looking for.
  • Are you thinking of adding fruit plants or summer bulbs to the garden? Now is a great time to hit the garden center when the varieties are readily available.
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Spring Garden Prep & Maintenance

May is a busy month for gardeners when it comes to prep and maintenance! Grab your sun hat and your well-kept garden tools and get those May gardens ready for some growing with some essential tasks.

Spring Garden Weeding

Those pesky weeds make quite an entrance throughout May. The upside is that if you have a keen eye and pull them early in the month, they are much easier to eliminate. Continually patrol your May gardens for weeds and pluck them out whenever you see them. Keep other spring weeds from propagating by adding a couple of inches of organic mulch to the garden beds.

Cucumber flower

Re-Edging Garden Beds

If you notice that your shrubs and May gardens have filled in space close to your edging or lawn border, it might be a good time for some upkeep. Remove edging and dig out the bed edges to re-establish the boundaries. Then, replace the edging. This will keep your lawn from seeding into your garden beds and keep the two areas from competing with each other for nutrients, water, and root space.

The Importance of Mulching & Amending

Mulching and amending can be the difference between a prolific garden and a mediocre one. Just as mulch insulated your gardens over the winter and early spring, it will keep your plant roots cool as the temperatures begin to heat up in your May gardens. This is particularly beneficial for your cool-season crops, which seek to bolt in warmer temperatures.

Adding a couple of inches of mulch to your garden beds can also help stomp out reseeding weeds, regulate moisture. It also will help keep your soil from eroding during bouts of heavy rain in May.

If your soil test results are in, add compost and any other necessary soil amendments to help build healthier soil.  Support microbial life by using organic fertilizers and mulches like fish fertilizer and organic matter.

Starting & Maintaining A Compost Pile

Start a compost pile if you don’t already have one.  Continue to add organic matter throughout the year. If you already have one started, it’s a great month to add some fish fertilizer to the heap and turn the pile. This type of organic fertilizer does wonders for promoting healthy soil and microbial life.

Fertilizing Your Landscape Garden

Treat your perennials and shrubs to a feeding of some slow-release organic fertilizer this month to give them their best start to a showstopping growing season.

Garden Watering Systems

If a drip irrigation system was in your plans for this season, it is prime time to get it set up and test it out before complete planting takes place.

Take Care of the Wildlife in Your Spring Garden

Don’t forget about the wildlife throughout May. One of the most enjoyable parts of spring for many gardeners is watching the birds darting around and hearing their sweet songs. Inviting birds to your backyard helps create a wildlife habitat and significantly helps control the insect population, which can protect your plants.

  • Fill up some bird feeders or hang some suet and watch the array of birds that flock to the feast.
  • Add a hummingbird feeder!
  • Plant perennials like salvia, bee balm, rudbeckia, Shasta daisies, and other flowering favorites of hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
  • Do a thorough cleaning of bird feeders and birdbaths.
  • Fill birdbaths with clean water.
  • Add a birdhouse or two to help provide a safe new home for nesting.
  • Plant some sunflower seeds so that the birds can enjoy the seeds in late summer.
hand planting pumpkin seed of marrow in the vegetable garden

Outdoor Planting In Zones 6-8

There is plenty of transplanting and seed sowing to be done in May gardens in zone 6, zone 7, and zone 8. We’ve broken things down a bit and highlighted things by zone since May can vary some with planting times.  As always, consult your local extension office or trusted nursery for ideal planting times in your region.

Outdoor Planting In Zone 6

  • Zone 6 gardeners can begin transplanting tender seedlings like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers once the soil temperature reaches a minimum of 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Direct sow seeds for okra, corn, beans, cucumbers, and squash into your garden beds.
  • Any succession crops of cool-season varieties should be planted early in May so that they have time to produce before they bolt in the hot weather.

Outdoor Planting In Zone 7

  • Zone 7 gardeners are all in for planting. It’s time to plant sweet potatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins, watermelon, okra, tomatoes, and eggplant.
  • Be sure to add mulch to your cool-season crops so that their roots remain cool to avoid bolting.
  • Thin out your fruit trees by removing some of the fruits, allowing 6 inches of space between them. This will help your fruit trees produce more ample harvest.
  • Continue with outdoor seed sowing this month for direct sow selections.

Outdoor Planting In Zone 8

  • Transplant tomatoes, okra, beans, Brussels sprouts, corn, eggplant, peppers, melons, cucumber, and squash.
  • Gardeners in zone 8 can continue to direct sow succession crops.

May Harvesting

Harvest time is here! It’s time for some of your hard work in the vegetable garden to pay off with the start of a fruitful harvest.

  • Pick your peas and lettuce so that they will keep producing.
  • Cool-season crops like peas, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and lettuce should be ready for picking.
  • Zone 8 can harvest beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, peas, and spinach.

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  1. What is “bolting”? I am a black thumb novice. Your emails help me feel bit more confident. I am in E. TN, zone 7 I think. I hope to transfer small starter herbs to hanging pots on my wooden patio wall. I get very little sun but I’ve decided on an area that gets about about 6 her of full sun. I have a small raised planter & 2 12″ pots, It’s about 6″ off the ground. I bought 2 wire cages to surround both pots. I bought 2 starter tomato plants, 1 in each pot. 1 cherry & 1 plum. Is it time to put the herbs & tomatoes out. I have been told May 15 is the best to avoid our last frost. Any helpful hints will reassure me. Thanx, Marianne

    • Hi Marianne, we’re so happy to hear that you’ve found our emails helpful. It sounds like your garden is off to a great start. You’re right, in zone 7, you can plant and transplant tomatoes and herbs outdoors in May! Many herbs can thrive in 6-8 hours of sunlight. For more herb growing tips, check out our Herb Gardening blog: https://www.kellogggarden.com/blog/herb-gardening. Certain plants such as lettuces, brassicas, and herbs tend to bolt when the weather warms up. Bolting refers to the process that occurs when a plant stops producing fruit or leaves and begins to produce seeds and go to flower. Protecting your plants with shade cloth can help prevent bolting. We hope you have a fantastic season, happy gardening!

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