May is just around the corner, and our gardens are growing away. Below are some tips for what you can do in your garden and landscape during the month of May:


• Leave clippings on the lawn — they return nutrients and water to the soil and do not contribute to thatch.

• Thatch buildup is the result of overfertilization. If your lawn has a thatch layer thicker than a half inch, power rake in May to remove thatch.

• Aerate lawns only if the soil has become compacted.

• Frequent mowing encourages lawns to thicken and reduces weed problems. Maintain bermudagrass, zoysia and centipede lawns at 1 inch tall and St. Augustine lawns at 3-4 inches.

• Spray broadleaf weeds with a post-emergent herbicide. The best product to use will depend on the weeds you are trying to control and your turf type.

• Check lawns for white grubs and apply insecticides by mid-June. It’s best to control Japanese beetle grubs in May or early June. Use insecticides labeled for grubs like Merit, Advance Lawn Grub Control and Season Long Grub Control.

Trees, shrubs and flowers

• Scout for bagworms on shrubs and trees; especially pay attention to junipers, Leyland cypress and cedars. Cut out or spray with Sevin, malathion or B.t. (Dipel).

• If needed, prune spring blooming shrubs like azaleas, camellias, Indian hawthorn and oakleaf hydrangea after they finish flowering but before mid-July.

• Be on the outlook for two common rose diseases: blackspot and powdery mildew. Many fungicides are available to control these diseases, including Daconil, funginex and immunox being the more common ones. Spray applications should be every seven to 10 days starting in the spring and after heavy rains.

• Keep an eye on dogwoods, deciduous magnolias (tulip trees), crape myrtle and viburnum for powdery mildew.

• Replace winter flowers (pansies, snapdragons, etc.) with heat loving annuals like coleus, sweet potato vine, vinca and petunias.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs

• Plant late season vegetables such as pumpkins, peppers, cucumbers, okra and sweet potatoes.

• Harvest onions, garlic and potatoes when their tops start to die back.

• Mulch around vegetable plants to conserve moisture and reduce disease problems.

Got gardening questions? We can help! Contact the Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. One can reach the plant clinic by phone at 919-731-1433, email at, or stopping by the Wayne County Extension Office at the Maxwell Regional Agricultural and Convention Center, 3114B Wayne Memorial Drive.

Learn more

• Subscribe to Wayne County Gardening e-newsletter and receive timely gardening information and announcements of upcoming extension gardening events To subscribe, visit Scroll down to enter your email address in the “address” box and click on the subscribe button. You will then receive an email which will direct you to a website to accept the subscription.

• “Like” us on Facebook to receive timely garden tips, ask questions, and learn of upcoming gardening events.

Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs

• The Lawn Care Basics workshop will be 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 15 at the Wayne County Extension Office, the Maxwell Center, 3114B Wayne Memorial Drive. The workshop will cover how you can successfully care for your lawn. Learn about site preparation, grass selection, seeding, lawn maintenance and common pest problems. Registration fee is $5. Pre-registration is not required. Arrive a few minutes early to register.

• Visit the Farm Credit Farmers Market, located behind the Maxwell Center. The market is open Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Save the dates for our annual Garden Festival and Plant Sale! This year’s festival will be a two-day event, so come early for the best selection of plants. The festival will be open Friday, May 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, May 4, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The festival will be located at the Farm Credit Farmers Market, behind the Maxwell Center. A large variety of plants, crafts and raffles will be for sale, and Master Gardener volunteers will be on hand to answer your gardening questions. Be sure to visit the Farm Credit Farmers Market during the event along with a food demonstration from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 3. Beekeepers of the Neuse will have local honey for sale both days. 

Jessica Strickland is an agriculture extension agent specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.