Rarin' to garden? Better to watch out for frost

November 30, 1999|By LORI YOUNG

"When is the last frost date?"

I have had many calls regarding this question ? followed closely by, "Can I plant tomatoes yet?" Or geraniums, petunias, etcetera.

I am as ready as anyone to get out there and finish planting my vegetable garden, window boxes and flower beds. The warm weather and sunshine are calling us all to be outdoors.

The average last frost date is May 3 for Hagerstown. Remember, this is the average last frost.

In fact, we had some light frost pockets just last week in certain areas.

If you choose to plant annuals or vegetables that are tender, then make sure you protect them from the frost.

This can be done by covering them with a bushel basket, burlap bag or anything that will protect them from the frost.


The recommended date to plant annuals and tender vegetables outside is Mother's Day, which is May 14 this year. Even if you plant after May 14, if frost is forecasted, you will have to protect from frost.

Another question I get is, "When do I prune forsythia, lilac or other ornamental shrubs?"

The rule of thumb is, if your shrubs bloom before June 30, then prune them after they flower. Some examples of these are Forsythia, Azaleas, Spirea, Lilac and Wisteria.

But, if your shrub blooms after June 30, then prune them when they are dormant. Some examples of these are Abelia, Holly, Crepemyrtle and Butterfly Bush.

So what can you plant now?

In your vegetable garden, May is the time to plant summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, snap beans, lima beans, cucumbers, melons, peppers, eggplant, winter squash and sweet potatoes.

In your flower beds, you can plant annuals and perennials.

Place mulch down to prevent weeds and hold in moisture. Summer flowering bulbs like peony and elephant ear can also be planted now.

Should you cut off your spring flowering bulbs?

Not now!

Wait until the bulb foliage turns yellow and dies back, as this is feeding the bulb for the winter and next year's growth. You can cut off the dead flowers, but leave the foliage.

Container gardens are important parts of your landscape. Consider planting herbs, flowers or vegetables in containers to add greenery to your landscape.

As we all know, mint can become aggressive and take over the entire garden area. I plant mint in containers, so I can use the mint in recipes and still keep it under control.

Container gardens can be used this way and to also allow gardeners who have limited space a way to garden.

What insects are out and about?

I am still getting regular calls about the Brown Mammorated Stink Bug.

The Brown Mammorated Stink Bug is trying to get outside at this time of year to lay eggs. You will still find the obnoxious pest indoors and there is still nothing labeled for indoor use.

As before, the only way to get rid of them is the swat, stomp and squash method.

I recommend you pick them up with toilet paper and flush them down the toilet, so they take their "stink" with them.

Fact sheets and others will tell you to vacuum them up ? I don't recommend that. From personal experience, if you do, the rotten egg smell they emit in the vacuum is then dispersed throughout your house.

Bagworms are not out, but their bags are still on the trees.

If you notice Bagworm bags on your trees, pick them off and destroy them. They are either empty or filled with eggs.

The time to spray for bagworms is mid-June to mid-July with a product containing B.T.

I have seen aphids out. The university recommends using Insecticidal Soap and making sure you hit the undersides of the leaves.

Ants vs. termites is the next question I am getting.

How to tell the difference between the two?

An ant has bent antenna, a pinched-in waist, and each pair of wings is a different size. A termite has straight antennae, a straight waist, and all four wings are the same size.

Both termite swarmers and winged ants have been seen recently in Washington County.

And last but not least, don't forget your indoor plants.

May is the time to start fertilizing houseplants and grooming them for summer. If you are going to place them outside, start hardening them off when the night temperature stays above 60 degrees F.

This process allows the houseplant to adjust to the increase in light and temperature. Start by putting the plants in a shady section outside for part of the day and then gradually increase the amount of time and sun the plant to which is exposed.

Houseplants dry out quicker outdoors than indoors, so make sure they are properly watered.

For more information on any of the topics above, call me for a fact sheet or visit the Home and Garden Information Center's website at

Remember to get outside, enjoy the weather and hope for rain to water the plantings you create.

Happy gardening!

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