Gardening in the merry month of May

Compost kitchen vegetable waste. You can even make your own worm compost!

As we move into the dry, hot weather of summer, we only have a little while left to take advantage of cooler days for doing outdoor spring cleaning and landscape projects. Although we can possibly experience more cloud cover and maybe even a surprise shower, it’s likely we are done with the measurable rainfall so it’s time to start conserving water and getting the most out of every drop. Sunshine will be growing stronger, so now is also the best time to get swimming pools and water features into top shape for the coming heat.

Are you getting the best efficiency from your irrigation system?

Check on your watering systems, replace faulty sprinkler heads, fix drip lines and mend leaks and cracks so you don’t end up with geysers and floods when your systems are on. Consider replacing old sprinkler heads with low-water heads that should deliver water to your lawn and garden much more efficiently than conventional heads. The lower volume of water will penetrate slowly without washing off, making your plant roots happier and your water bills lower. Set your sprinklers to water slow and early.

Sprinklers don’t need to be as active as they will in a month or two, so check your timers and adjust them as the weather changes. Then, rather than leaving water times on longer (often the excess just washes away unused), add more short-watering periods following a rest of at least 15 to 20 minutes between so the first watering has time to penetrate into the soil.

The idea is to allow water to sink down. And getting projects built now before the summer means you will be ready for the heat to the bottom of plant root systems, not just wet the surface of the soil.

Suppliers are shipping this year’s stock of new, drought-tolerant plants to your favorite retailer NOW! Check them out!

Enjoy the remaining sub-hundred degree weather for doing labor-intensive projects outdoors. Big repairs and improvements will be more comfortable and safer for you to do while it is still relatively cool.

It’s time to finish planting your seeds and take a trip to the garden centers. Flowers, shrubs, even potted trees can go into your landscape in May. If temperatures soar after planting, make sure everything remains well watered. Drape protective shade cloth or light burlap over new plantings to help protect vulnerable newcomers from sunburn damage for the first few days, then slowly expose them to full sun a little at a time.

There’s nothing that can’t be planted at this time of year except maybe some of the cool season vegetables. Artichokes are starting to crop and early strawberries are fruiting. Get those peppers, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, corn, squash, eggplant and other warm-season plants into the ground now so you can start harvesting in a month or two. You can plant pumpkin seeds starting now and during the next month. They should be the last seeds to go in the garden if you want to harvest them closer to Halloween rather than in August or September.

This is the end of the best season for planting California native plants. However, you will have to give even the tough natives plenty of water over the summer until they can establish drought-resistant root systems.

If you have compost from your own pile, this is a good time to dig it into the soil. You can also top dress your soil with compost as a moisture-holding barrier that will help roots stay cooler in heat. If you are buying it in bags, you might want to consider buying or building a compost bin so you can make your own for free. Locate it far enough from the house that you won’t be attracting rodents to any structures, but close enough that you’ll still be willing to walk the distance to use it.

If you have fruit setting on your trees, you may want to cover the tree with bird netting before the wildlife steals everything. Some trees will be fruiting in June but plenty of critters won’t even wait for fruit to ripen before decimating your crops. And with so many previous years of drought, the critters out there are well trained to feed off of our landscapes. So they will be back and be looking for all the easy pickings they can find!

Clean garden areas and gutters of dead stuff that can ignite in a wildfire. After the rainfall this winter, there will be a lot more fuel to feed our fire season – which can become active as soon as the last moisture from winter rain dries out. Start protecting your home from potential flying cinders now!

Gray aphids can damage flowers and edibles

Keep a careful eye out for insect infestations and animal pests. Unwanted bugs may be overwintering in larger-than-normal numbers. Rodents may have bigger litters with the increased rainfall and plant growth. If that happens, critters could be very destructive in the garden this year. Catch infestations at the first sign and they will be a lot easier to control. Try natural pest controls, such as hosing off aphids with a stream of water and setting up physical barriers such as rabbit and chicken wire fencing … before resorting to dangerous poisons.

Don’t forget about adding something special such as a pool or hot tub, a sport court, a barbecue or an outdoor room, a flower-cutting or raised vegetable garden to your yard.  I know I am always suggesting expanding outdoor uses into your landscape. But why not get the most out of the land you own? Design it yourself or call in some professional help. Either way, planning ahead will make the job easier and avoid expensive mistakes down the road.

May is a busy time in the garden. And it’s a good time to get out and get some exercise, sunshine and fresh air. There are plenty of jobs to do in the landscape.  Rem

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