When I was young Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day, because that was the day when you remembered those in your family who had died by decorating their graves with flowers. In my family this didn’t mean only soldiers, but everyone.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May. This year, that means that it falls on our traditional last frost advisory date of May 30, so planting those tender vegetables and annuals should be plenty safe enough. Still, it always pays to keep an eye on the forecast until the first week of June has passed. If even a hint of frost is expected, cover plants with damp newspaper, tarps, or what have you and weigh down the corners so they don’t blow off. Anything planted before now like peas, lettuce, carrots, spinach, radishes, chard, and onions won’t need covering, but the recent plantings will. It’s also best to wait until June 7th to put tropical house plants outside.
When buying plants remember to choose short, stocky plants with deep green leaves. Plants with spindly stems, wilted leaves, leaf spots, or brown edges on leaves or flowers shouldn’t be considered. Whiteflies are active now, so swipe the back of your hand over the leaf tops. If you see a cloud of tiny white flies rise up from the plants, it’s better to leave them right where they are. This is especially true with tomatoes because these pests are almost impossible to eradicate. Check the undersides of leaves, crowns, and where the leaves meet the stem for scale or mealy bugs as well. Scale looks like a cluster of yellowish dots and mealy bugs have a white, cottony appearance. Any plants with sticky leaves and shiny spots on them may have aphids and shouldn’t be considered.
Make sure to water what you plant thoroughly. Watering means more than just a 30 second sprinkle; plants need a good, deep soaking and before becoming established may need watering daily if they are in full sun. The planting site should be well prepared, with as much compost as you can spare dug in. A little starter fertilizer, slow release fertilizer, or compost tea will see them off to a good start.
Finally, don’t forget what Memorial Day is really all about; remembering our lost loved ones. Why not visit them and remember them with a few flowers? Geraniums are always a good choice because they’re a tough plant that can stand up to a lack of regular watering. Soak them well before planting and they should be fine unless we have a prolonged dry spell.