California Gardens - The Year Round Gardening Site

May Garden Calendar

May is the heart of Spring in the garden. There is no way everything in the garden gets done. Deadheading extends the season of so many plants. Remove the flowers and they won't make seeds, the plants will try ever harder to make more. I always take the early flowers as they are spent but am eventually overwhelmed. Weeding is easy when those weeds are small and cute and the soil is soft and moist. Later the weeds have become monsters spewing ever more seed at each touch. I purchase a lot of wildflower seed to get flowers to fill between slower growing permanent plantings. By clipping seed pods from these wildflowers I can scatter them elsewhere in the garden. This brings me to mulch. Mulch inhibits seed germination. That is a good thing if you are supressing weed seeds and not so good if you want wildflowers to germinate in that spot. Mulch is an essential ingredient if you are making a transition from a heavily fertilized garden to an organic garden. Mulch helps create soil from the top down. Mixing it in is a lot of work and does little good. The bugs that know how to eat mulch live at the top. There is time to think about your garden plan as you spread mulch about your garden.

I am planting as I turn sprinkler systems back on. Rainfall for the last two months has not been adequate to establish new plants. California native plants are coming back into the marketplace. As much as I enjoyed all of those succulents it is great to see the natives back at the nurseries. Calochortus kennedyi, Desert Mariposa.

May Garden Calendar

Roses are having one of their best blooms in years. I am taking the time to trim of blind shoots, open up the interior of the plants and knocking off the witches brooms. Canes last about 3 seasons. By trimming lower on the plants new canes are encouraged. This is the fountain of youth for a rose bush, it can be done all year, not just when winter pruning makes the roses a fraction of what they were. Opening up the middle of the rose helps keep air moving and minimizes black spot, powdery mildew and rust. The fungicides are not as effective at removing the problem as my pruners. Providing water early in the day or by drip applied at ground level helps keep plants from getting new spores on the leaves from splashing water.

There are a slew of bugs wreking havok in our urban forest. Stressed trees have little defense against this. Hey mulch lovers . . . providing mulch around the base of the tree cools the roots and reduces evaporation. Using rocks as mulch heats them up even if it looks so tidy. Chips that are fresh from the truck will rob nitrogen from the trees. Mulch needs to digest for a season before being applied. Mulch against bark rots the bark, leave a gap for airflow between mulch and bark. Slow irrigation that penetrates deep into the soil during cool days every few weeks will help the trees recover this Summer.

My Vegetable patch is making me really happy. Peas . . . . peas and more peas. My Fava's are spectacular, taller than I am, making me the fava equivalent of the summertime zuchini pariah. Garlic and Onions are coming to flower. Tomatos and peppers are in the ground. Squash, beans, and cucumbers to follow. The vegetable garden looks so tidy, pretty sure haywire will be a more appropriate description in a few months. I am transitioning from my cool season plantings of greens to warm season vegetables.