Perennials: When tulips and daffodils fade, snap off the tops to prevent seed pod formation. Leave the foliage until it is yellow or brown. Next year’s bulb and flower development depend on food produced by the leaves. Do not braid or wrap the leaves to make them look neat. Continue dividing overgrown plants.
Flowers: Get out planters, wash thoroughly and fill with fresh potting soil for annual displays. Pansies do well in the cool weather.
Vegetables and fruits: Start seeds of melons, pumpkins and summer squash in peat pots to go directly into hills in late May after hardening off. Plant sales are ubiquitous during the first two weeks of May. Even if tender plants need protection until later in the month, it is a good time to buy choice and reasonable offerings. Continue planting onions, carrots, beets, broccoli, potatoes and lettuce in the garden.
Trees and shrubs: After bloom, prune forsythia by two-thirds for shapely natural looking growth. Continue planting new trees and shrubs. When choosing conifers for the landscape consider the full-grown size, the shape of the mature tree as well as texture and color of the needles. A mixed conifer planting can be stunning.
Lawns: Control crabgrass with pre-emergent herbicides. Set the mower high for the first mowings and save the grass clippings for the compost, or just leave them on the lawn as fertilizer. Two blue/purple weeds are blooming and spreading in the lawn now: veronica officianalis (common speedwell) and nepeta hederacea (ground ivy). They are often confused and require different treatments for eradication.
Houseplants: Repot house ferns with rich compost.
General: The 40th Earth Day was this week. Think about earth-friendly practices for your garden and lawn: reduce pesticide and herbicide use; save water and improve the soil with compost.