Q: It’s finally looking like spring, and I’m eager to get out in my garden. What chores should I be doing this month? - Nancy Ellsworth, San Luis Obispo
A: What a year it’s been! Alternating 40 degree and 90 degree weather, heavy rains, gale force wind, beautiful sunshine followed by hail stones. We’ve had it all - frequently all in the same day.
It makes it hard to know what we’re supposed to be doing for our gardens on any given day.
But there’s something about May that urges even the most laid back gardener to get out there and start digging in the dirt, and the May gardening jobs are especially fun and rewarding. Spending time in the sunshine with fragrant blossoms and emerging vegetables is the reason most of us started gardening in the first place.
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In May we can sow the seeds of summer vegetables -- eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, winter squash and cucumbers -- even watermelon in warmer areas. Thinning seedlings as they grow will produce larger, healthier vegetables.
Low-water plants such as Gaillardia, Gazania, Rudbeckia, Shasta daisies and Verbena can be added to the garden now for immediate color and interest. As winter and spring blooming flowering plants complete their blooming cycle prune them back - sometimes by as much as one half. Pinch back Chrysanthemums to 12 inches for more flowering in the fall. Dead head roses and other flowers regularly to encourage further blooming, and inspect the plants for sawfly larva, aphids and other pests and remove them by hand or with a spray of water.
Lawns need to be fertilized now if you didn’t do it in April, and timers on watering systems should be adjusted for summer time. For lawns, trees and shrubs, water in the morning, deeply, and not too frequently.
Take advantage of the many garden tours offered on the Central Coast this month. Take notes of what you like. When it comes time for fall planting, you’ll have lots of ideas for creating an even lovelier garden next spring.
The Master Gardeners have a wide variety of Pest Notes pertaining to the issues in the garden this month. Contact them for further information or visit the UC Integrated Pest Management website at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu..