Rocky Mountains

May, 2004
Regional Report

Allow Soil to Warm Up Before Planting Tomatoes

My Italian grandmother and Aunt always waited until the latter part of May to plant warm-season vegetables. They wanted to be sure the soil temperature had warmed up enough so that the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant would get off to a healthy and vigorous start. I still follow this old-fashioned time line and haven't lost a crop to a late-spring frost.

Fertilize Lawns

If your lawn did not receive a late-fall (October) fertilizer application, now is the time to apply a slow-acting lawn food. Professional turf and sod growers use a formula of 20-20-10 with 2 percent iron and 3 percent sulfur. This has proven to be an excellent formula for our alkaline soils and will help maintain a thick turf that resists weed invasions. Follow label directions for application amounts and frequency.

Mow Turf Higher

To promote a deeper root system and water-thrifty lawn, mow cool-season grasses to a height of 2-1/2 to 3 inches. When water sources are limited or your water provider mandates water restrictions, use slow-release nitrogen lawn fertilizers so the lawn doesn't grow as fast and demand more frequent watering.

Apply Mulch in Advance

Mulch your flower beds before you set out annuals. Then set the transplants right through the mulch. This way you won't have to take the extra time to spread the mulch between the small transplants, and it and prevents damage to them.

Prune Spring-Flowering Shrubs

To rejuvenate and renew spring-flowering shrubs, such as forsythia and flowering quince, prune them back hard now. Remove the oldest canes (3 to 5 years old), usually identified by their woodiness. Use a pruning saw or heavy-duty lopper to cut the oldest stems off at ground level. Thin out criss-crossing branches or stems.

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