by Kathy Kersten

Gardens for Growth was started last August-September as a modest project to help pay down our church debt. Congregation members brought in the surplus produce from their gardens and made it available for those in need and for those able to give abundantly for a worthy cause. Besides raising a nice amount for the debt reduction, we witnessed a social reaction among our church members.

People gathered, asked questions, and shared information. The narthex became a gathering place for members getting to know one another better. Praise God! We will be offering Gardens for Growth again this year. It might be a good idea to plan ahead and plant a little extra in your garden for this event.

In addition, the first two Sundays in June (June 1 and June 8), we would like to offer a Plant Sale. This is the time of year to be dividing your perennials, new shoots of trees and shrubs (forsythia, lilac, mock orange), ornamental grasses, ground cover (myrtle, pachysandra,etc.) and perhaps some houseplants.

Try to pot your plants a few weeks before the sale. Be sure they are labeled, and if possible include a picture cut from a garden catalog for identification.

To get you started, here are some suggestions for what you can be doing in May.

  • Fertilize spring blooming bulbs. All the summer-flowering bulbs can be started indoors.
  • Prune back perennial ornamental grasses.
  • Apply slow-release fertilizer in all garden beds to get plants off to a good start.
  • Apply an organic shrub fertilizer.
  • Divide perennials that have spread or outgrown their area.
  • Clean garden beds. (This can also be done in April.)
  • April/May is a good time to prune semi-woody perennials, boxwood, holly, firethorn, clematis and other woody vines, roses, and summer-flowering trees and shrubs.
  • Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs like lilacs, azaleas, and rhododendrons after they are finished blooming, but before July 4th.
  • Prune summer-blooming shrubs, such as butterfly bush, Rose of Sharon, and spirea before the foliage emerges.

Michigan weather is even iffier this year than usual, but cool season vegetables can be planted mid- late April/early May as the ground becomes workable–beets, chard, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onion transplants, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, mustard greens. Be sure to plan your vegetable garden to rotate crops, and try companion planting with herbs.

Now is the time to decide what to pot up for St Luke’s Gardens For Growth! Let us know if you need pots. We will have some gardening catalogs available in the library.