Nothing says ‘spring’ quite like the arrival of tulips and daffodils in the garden. The hardy green leaves popping out of overwintered bulbs act as a reminder that the growing season is right around the corner. But don’t start digging yet! Frost can kill your newly transplanted flowers and veggies, and Colorado’s last frost of the year averages right around the first week of May (sometimes as late as the last week). Fortunately, there are still several plants that will do well on a chilly night and help you get a jumpstart on your spring garden.
Prep Your Garden Space
Whether you are planting for yourself or for the bees and butterflies, there are plenty of ways to get in the garden before the final frost. The most important step is making sure you are working with good soil. Amending the soil will make it easier for plants to thrive in their new home. If you are planting in an outdoor garden, clear out any dead plants and debris that have accumulated, pull unwanted weeds, and add a layer of compost or pre-mixed soil to the garden bed. Pulling weeds will churn up the dirt, making it easier for water and air to circulate around the roots, and the compost adds nutrients to the mix.
Start With Frost-Tolerant Veggies
It is a common rule of thumb for gardening in Boulder to hold off on planting until after Mother’s Day, but there are still a few cold-hardy veggies that you can start growing right now. Root vegetables like beets, carrots, and turnips, and leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach can all handle late season frost. After Mother’s Day, or when it no longer gets below freezing at night, you can start planting things like basil, squash, and tomatoes. It’s helpful to consult a regional planting calendar when determining what works best for your yard.
Grow Spring Flowers
The best flowers to plant for colorful blooms in May are perennials like tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and irises. Although most flowers that grow from bulbs are planted in the fall and bloom in the spring, you can find several varieties available in stores that can be transplanted in April or May. They require very little care, and they have the added benefit of growing back every year. Pansies are another beautiful early season option since the blooms can tolerate colder temperatures than most.
Landscape with Native Plants
Landscaping with native plants has become increasingly popular in the last decade, and it isn’t hard to see why. Adding native flora not only adds curb appeal, but it also conserves water and provides habitat for local wildlife. Although there are many ways to add native plants to the mix, May is the perfect time to sow columbine seeds. The state flower loves cooler temps and partial shade, and they will continue to bloom throughout the summer in the right conditions.
There are plenty of ways to get in the garden sooner than later. If you are concerned about a late frost killing your crop, extra steps can be taken, like starting seeds indoors, covering plants on cold nights, and starting plants in containers that can be easily moved when the weather takes a turn. No matter how you go about it, May is an exciting time to get outside and in the garden.