Regional Gardening Guide - Zone 5-6

May 1 to May 31-- Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.

Here’s what’s happening in your gardening region:

May is the second transition month where summer temperatures alternate with spring rain but the good news is that the last frost date for most of us is this month. In some years the last frost date occurs while cool spring weather still holds on but this year …. We are still about 10 days ahead of the past few years. So that means we can cautiously start to plant in the garden and harden off some of the seedlings. Here are some things that you can do in May:


map for zone 5-6

Your Regional reporter

Kate Cospey regional reporter photo

Kate is an avid veggie gardener and writer.
She is a board member of the Garden Writer's Association. She authored 2 books: The Downsized Veggie Garden (Feb 2016) and New York & New Jersey Month by Month Gardening is due out Aug 2016.

To see what Kate's doing in her garden. Click Here!

1. Harden off seedlings.

Each year we start seedlings indoors where it is warm. The seedlings grow without being blown around by wind and they are carefully watered to make sure that the seedlings don’t get knocked over. All that is great for a while they are small and inside but outside they need to get used to rain, wind and full strength sun which has to be introduced slowly and over a few days. Learning about how to harden off seedlings is the last part of successful seed starting before the plants go into the garden:

  • Hardening Off Your Seedlings

    Your seedlings may look like they are ready to go it on their own in your garden, but be kind, prepare them for the extremes of your garden with a process called ‘hardening off.’

    Read more
  • Seed Starting Basics

    Growing from seed not only gives you a much larger selection of vegetables and flowers to choose from, it also lets you get a jump on the growing season by starting many plants indoors.

    Read more
  • Indoor Seed Starting

    It's possible to have a fine vegetable garden by buying young plants. But you will have a much wider range of possibilities if you start your own plants from seeds indoors.

    Read more

2. Tender Seeds to Start Now.

With the warmth of spring and still some rain in the forecasts, our thoughts are turned to hardening off seedlings. There is also time to start some more seedlings indoors. Fast germinating marigolds, zinnias and pretty balsam can all be started indoors and ready to plant out in last May when the temperatures have settled into a summer pattern.

  • Balsam, Mix, , large
  • Zinnias
    Burpee zinnia seeds grow perfectly in any home garden. Shop vibrant zinnia flowers at Burpee Seeds.
  • Marigolds
    Burpee's marigold seeds and plants grow perfectly in any home garden. Shop our American, French and specialty flowers at

3. Direct sow seeds.

While some seeds like to be started indoors where it is warm, others prefer to be planted directly into the ground. Carrots and beans both like to be planted where they will grow as do sunflowers and many of the old fashioned flowers such as cosmos and cleome.

4. Some seeds to direct sow this month

Some seeds to direct sow this month: Direct sow seeds are an easy way to start seeds without taking up windowsill space. It is also a great way to start kids in the garden – large direct sow seeds like beans, summer squash and sunflowers are great for even the smallest preschooler’s fingers.

  • Sunflower, Elegance, , large
  • Beans
    Burpee bean seeds are perfect for any home garden. Shop snap, sugar, lima and soybeans at
  • Squash
    Burpee's squash seeds grow in any home garden. Shop our zucchini, butternut, scallop, winter and summer squash at Burpee Seeds.

5. Containers.

Patio Growing: Even if you only have a patio you can still grow lots of vegetables and flowers in containers, You just need to give them some good potting mix, lots of sunshine and water – just like you would in a traditional garden. Pick larger self-watering containers if you like to go away at weekends. Drip irrigations that links to all your containers is another great way to water them and if you add an automatic timer to your outside faucet, you to water while you are away – or still in bed!

  • Self Watering Planter , Trio 30, , large
  • Rectangular Planter Box, , large
  • Drip Irrigation Kit for Palram Greenhouses, , large