5 Unexpected but Great Gardening Tips for May  

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By Lawrence Leaf

As someone who has been digging deep in the garden for several decades, I am here to offer you some tips that not only work but sometimes are a bit unconventional. Having good outcomes is the goal here, so each month I will be offering these tips to you. There’s the reason I’m known as the Ambassador to Spring.

Lawrence Leaf

1. Colorful Succulents Limit Watering For People On The Go

The world of floral succulents can be a multi-cultivar floral revolution. Searching for a proper supplier for strong floral succulents may be time-consuming, however well worth it and exciting. Ruling out local box stores is a great first choice and searching the internet will find you the best sources. People who can be forgetful or are just extremely busy can gain a colorful bouquet of floral excellence with succulents.

Now go out and find yourself interesting containers. Place clean, dust-free pebbles in the bottom. Place flitter cloth on top so the soil will not mix and contaminate the pebbles which are your drain field. Make sure to USE cactus and succulent potting soil. DO NOT USE REGULAR POTTING SOIL. Water lightly once a week and occasionally mist. It is that easy.

Sempervivums and very low-growing sedums are together a great combination in planters or pots. The picture shown highlights some of the cultivars I suggest and here is a list of plants you can search for.


Sempervivum ‘Fashion Diva

Sempervivum ‘ Eddy

Sempervivum ‘ Killer

Sempervivum ‘ Terracotta

Sempervivum heuffelii ‘ Purple Haze

Sempervivum ‘ Jade Rose

Sempervivum ‘ Hairy Balls

Sempervivum ‘ Purple Dazzle

Sempervivum ‘ Raspberry Ice

Sempervivum ‘Pippin

Sempervivum ‘ Glowing Embers

Sempervivum ‘ Artic White

Sempervivum ‘Eagles

Sempervivum ‘Ohio Burgundy

Sempervivum ‘ Carmen

Sedum ‘ Creeping Blue

Sedum ‘ Goldmoss

Sedum ‘ dasyphllum

Sedum ‘ Alantis

You may find others you like. Another great resource? The Cactus and Succulent Society of America and Succulent Society are also good sources to find plants.

Photo: Lawrence Leaf

2. May 6, 2023, World Naked Gardening Day Protect Yourself

World Naked Gardening Day is celebrated worldwide on the first Saturday of May. Mark Storey and Jacob Gabriel founded World Naked Gardening Day in 2005. Storey is the consulting editor for Nude & Natural magazine. Gabriel is a permaculturist. Together they established the day as a project of the Body Freedom Collaborative.

It may surprise you to know how many people take part in this event. If you are that proud of your outer total exposed body and wish to keep it lighthearted and take creative pictures for social media, why not. For me being a professional gardener pulling weeds and dealing with dirt and insects, I may just keep my clothes on. But then again one day I might get a wild notion. This would bring up another worry much more concerning!

Lawrence Leaf

That would be sunscreen. There are parts of my body, which may be disturbing to mention, that I don’t want sunburn! Sunscreen should be a concern for all exposed parts of your body when gardening out in the sun. With or without clothes! Sunscreen plays an important role in blocking ultraviolent (VV) radiation damage to the skin. Causing a possibility of contracting basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma skin cancer.

If on World Naked Garden Day, your neighbor is out there bold enough to participate do watch. It has to be more entertaining than what is on TV. Bugs biting, sticker bushes, and all the other obstacles that come with gardening could be a challenge. However, one obstacle that is not funny is skin cancer. So, if you choose to garden with or without clothes, please wear sunscreen on your exposed skin

#I would like to recognize happyhippie_homestead and Chadatweed for the photos for World Naked Garden Day.

3.Weeds, Weeds, Weeds, And The Truth And Myths Of Weed Removal

I was raised as a child at my family nursery. Started working in the nursery industry at the age of 5. I was a ground supervisor at a nationally registered arboretum. I also operated and owned a nursery garden center which was a combined garden design company. So, I have tried all these methods of weed removal. Some of which sound encouraging and ended up being extremely disappointing. So learn from my experience that I am now sharing with you. Of course, some weeds like dandelions are good weeds, but many more are not.

a) First, let us talk about Herbicides. This is the most popular way to combat weeds. You just mix and spray or buy a concoction already mixed in a bottle. Easy enough! How many people do you know that read the entire label placed on the product by law due to all the hazardous chemicals in this product? Herbicide is a weed killer. The key word is Killer! If used properly as labeled the person using these products should look like they are going to outer space with a face guard, proper respirator, and other protective clothing. So, if you are using Herbicide, please read and do everything the label says. It is written for your safety.

b) Next, let us talk about Weed Fabric or Weed Barrier. Although many homeowners as well as commercial properties think using weed fabric or weed barrier is a permanent solution to weed prevention, it could not be further from the truth. The weed fabric may be good for a couple of years, then weeds root to the weed fabric making it necessary to remove both the weed and the weed fabric which is now compromised and contaminated. Also, the pores of the weed fabric, since it is not biodegradable, tend to clog over time, further limiting the amount of air and water restricting carbon dioxide and oxygen between the soil and the atmosphere. This is not good for healthy soil and takes nutrients from the plants you are protecting. There are even more problems you can research however these are strong enough reasons to make weed fabric worrisome.

c)Next, let us talk about pre-emergent. This product kills weed seeds and does not kill weeds already growing. Many pre-emergents kill weed seed and have harmful chemicals in them so please review safety labels. Corn gluten is a natural pre-emergent however, it is not as effective and may draw animals since it is a food source for many animals and may draw them to your property.

d) Some people, as well as myself, have used paper products like cardboard and newspaper. With cardboard, you may want to be concerned about glues changing the pH to your desired plants. Newspaper can be somewhat effective and many times the dye is vegetable based causing less concern about pH changing. One misconception of paper product is that it draws or enhances worms since you see them raise to the top. Like weed fabric, newspaper cuts off carbon dioxide and oxygen and the worms are raising to the top of the ground to get air.

e) Another weed prevention to speak on is mulching heavier, like 4 inches. Even some professionals recommend this and if you don’t want any plants great. However, mulching over 1 to 2 inches in a garden with plants will cause poor air circulation for good soil and can cause root rot to shrubs, trees and perennials. I must say many people put too much mulch on trees to eliminate weed growth. This results in root suffocation causing the tree roots to die along with possible other problems. Please research.

f) Now let’s talk about ground covers choking out weeds. This is a very effective way to control weeds. This constructive way of combating weeds is ruled out many times due to the cost misconception since it costs more at first. It is actually over time cheaper labor-wise and ruling out all manmade chemicals and products from being purchased.  Plus, there is a lack of patience. The general rule is this. First-year ground cover creep, second year they crawl, third year they take over. In my experience, this is one of the best ways for weed control if you can work and have some patience.

g) Last but not least, pulling weeds. No matter what, at the end of the day you will always have weeds. And man will always look for a man-made product to remove nature and the best way to deal with nature is to go with nature not against it. Pulling weeds can be rewarding if you want to be one with nature. Don’t let the wedding or nature overwhelm you. Take a walk around your yard at least 2 to 3 times a week. Check on things and address them so you can be on top of things.


4.Why The Best Mother’s Day Gift Is A Live Plant

You can buy your mother a box of chocolates. In a week or two they are eaten. And a year later the chocolates are a distant memory. You can buy your mother clothes and a year later she may lose or gain weight and the clothes do not fit. You can buy your mother cut flowers and in no time, they are in the trash heading to a landfill. However, buy a mother a perennial flower, shrub, or tree and it will last her a lifetime like a child.

I am not saying this because I had a nursery, and I am a gardener. I am saying that because women have a natural sense of motherhood which is naturing. I don’t know how many times I have been in a yard of a mother seeing many neglected plants all over her yard. Then she points out one plant in excellent health and she would say, my son or daughter give me that plant. At Leaf Nursery my father, the late Lawrence F. Leaf Sr., made a special day (Thursday before Mother’s Day) where he invited the entire 4th-grade class of Hazelwood Elementary to purchase small azaleas and other plants at a discount. Years later when I ran the nursery the former children, now parents themselves, would stop in with their children and bring up that day with a heartwarming smile. Proving plants are a joy to a mother’s heart and like children’s shrubs, trees and perennial plants last a lifetime.

Photo: Jill Wellington

5.Plant An Herb Garden: This May Enhancing Your Dinner Palette

I am proudly in the process of installing an herb garden to bring fresh farm-to-table produce to the famous award-winning “fager’s island”restaurant. Under the guidance of world-renowned chef Jim Hughes, I want to share with you the process for you to have a well-balanced herb garden.

First, you need to pick a sunny location and beds should be elevated by at least one foot for drainage. I mixed good topsoil mixed with compro and mushroom soil. using a rototiller for hours back and forth to make sure mixing is proper. The best pH level is 6.5 and you may need to adjust slightly in some areas of the herb garden as some plants will like a different ph.

One trick is to check the result of the plants after rain which sends the nitrogen up the plant to see how well they adapt or thrive to your mixture. Plants will always tell you if they need something in their soil, especially after a good rain. In general, herbs should be planted 12 to 16 inches never closer than 8 inches apart unless otherwise noted for air circulation.

Another trick is choosing a strong herb plant supplier. Even with the conveniences of big box stores, I prefer herb specialists that consult restaurants. Generally, they tend to be cheaper since they really know what they are doing and most likely grow it themselves and they are experts meaning the plants are healthier. I use Shelton Herb Farm run by herb expert Margaret Shelton in Leland NC and Chef Jeff Herb from Centerton Nursery in Upper Deerfield Township, New Jersey.

Happy May everyone and hope these tips are helpful.

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