Get Ready for Summer!
The May garden is a beautiful sight to behold: flowers blooming, veggies growing, and lots of green growth on trees and shrubs. But the hot weather of summer is right around the corner and May is a great time to plant heat lovers and get the garden ready for those hot days! Here’s what to do in the garden in May:
What to Plant
- Vegetables – Plant the heat lovers: melons, peppers, squashes. These really take off and thrive in the heat. Also continue planting tomatoes, green beans, and eggplant. Melons, squashes and beans can be planted directly in the ground from seed or from transplants. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are best planted from transplants at this time of year.
- Flowers – The cool season flowers like foxglove, snapdragon, and delphinium put on a great show in May, but as they finish up, replace them with summer annuals like zinnia, cosmos, marigolds, petunias, rudbeckia, verbena, nicotiana, and gomphrena (full sun). For part shade try impatiens, begonias, and lobelia. Look for taller varieties like ‘Benary’s Giant Zinnia’ (4ft tall) and ‘Gazebo Cosmos’ (4 ft tall) which look great at the back of a border and provide lots of flowers for cutting.
- Tropicals – Plant citrus and other tropical fruit trees now during their active growing season. While it’s also a good time to plant decorative tropicals like hibiscus, ferns, and palms, these may not be good landscape choices given the drought conditions.
Note that this is not the best time of year to plant natives. Fall is the better time. But with our severe drought, there is a strong motivation to plant drought tolerant natives and other low water use plants as soon as possible. If you decide to do this now, be sure to water your new plants. Natives/low water use plants need regular water while they are getting established. Don’t expect to see lots of new growth on these plants over the summer, many natives go semi dormant in the summer.
Almost everything in the garden is actively growing in May! New growth benefits from added nutrients so May is a good time to fertilize almost everything. If you already fertilized in April, read the fertilizer package instructions to see if another feeding is appropriate. If you used a time released fertilizer, you may not need to feed again for a couple of months. Follow directions on all fertilizers for how much and how frequently to use. Irrigate before and after fertilizing.
- Cycled Irrigation – If you haven’t already adjusted your automatic sprinklers system to do ‘cycled’ irrigation, do so now. ‘Cycled’ irrigation means to cut each station’s watering time in half but run two cycles. This does two things: it reduces runoff and increases water penetration. By the time all the stations have run, the first station’s water has had a chance to seep deeper into the soil allowing the second cycle to percolate even deeper.
- Mulch – I’ll say it again, MULCH! This is one of the best things you can do for your garden. It will help keep moisture in the soil, keep the soil temperature moderated, keep the weeds down, and slowly add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. See my post in January for more info on Mulch.
- Equipment – Consider switching to drip irrigation, installing a weather based irrigation controller, and water-efficient sprinkler nozzles. Here’s a link to my water district’s website which describes these more fully: Save Water. Check your water district’s website to see if they offer rebates for switching to more efficient equipment.
- Roses – Deadhead as necessary. Watch for pests and diseases which will step up activity this month. Treat early to prevent spreading. Visit the University of California Integrated Pest Management website for more details on controlling specific pests and diseases: IPM for Roses.
- Azaleas/Camellias – Clean up dropped leaves, remove spent blooms, and prune if desired.
- Tomatoes – Be sure to tie up as they grow. They’ll get away from you if not tied up weekly!
Enjoy the Garden!
Be sure to spend some time enjoying the garden! A cup of tea in the afternoon, a glass of wine in the early evening, or an alfresco dinner are all great ways to enjoy the beautiful May garden! And if you still have a lawn, put it to good use by spreading a blanket for a picnic or play a game of croquet or bocci ball!