Q: What should I be doing in my garden during May?
—Wave Stonerock, Nipomo
A: With a few April showers and many sunny days, your May garden is no doubt in full bloom. And who can resist chores in the garden, when the outlook is so good?
Your plants won’t complain if you begin by pinching and pruning. Winter and spring flowering vines, bushes, trees, ground covers can all be pruned after they complete their bloom cycles. Frost-tender plants like abutilon and hibiscus can be pruned back by as much as half now that the chance of frost is over. You’ll be rewarded in the fall with more flowers and shorter stems by pinching chrysanthemums to 12 inches. Remove all spent flowers as needed.
Your rose bushes will beckon to you — and other creatures. Sawfly larva, also called rose slugs, emerge at this time. Inspect the undersides of rose bush leaves and remove by hand or with a blast of water. That strong blast of water will also remove aphids or mites. While you’re at it, don’t forget to dead-head and feed every six weeks to promote blooming.
Thin vegetable seedlings to allow them room to grow big and healthy. Interested in starting seeds indoors for later transplanting? Best bets for inland areas are eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and winter squash. For coastal areas, plant watermelon, tomatoes, winter squash, summer squash, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers.
To prepare for summer and reduce your water bill, rebuild water basins around trees and shrubs. Consider soaker hoses or drip systems. A good strategy is to give small or young trees a thorough soaking once a week, larger trees every two weeks.
The neighbors will worship the ground you walk on if you give your lawn extra care. Dethatch as needed and fertilize if you haven’t already. To keep it healthy and greener on your side, check timers and be sure to water during morning hours.
Low-water plants such as gaillardia, gazania, pentas, rudbeckia, shasta daisies and verbena are great choices to plant now. Daylilies will provide a long season of bloom. Planning ahead for fall? This is a wonderful time to get ideas by visiting local arboretums and taking gardening tours.
But for now, “May” you have many enjoyable days in your own backyard.