May Tips: Southern California

Spring is winding down and summer's just around the corner. Here's the last burst of garden chores to get done before serious heat sets in.


+ enlarge image Plant your marigolds before the heat arrives.

Planting Nursery Plants -- Continue to plant warm-season annual flowers and vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, petunias, and the like) as long as you have enough time for them to beat the summer heat. (However, in hot desert areas, for example, that means no later than late February.) If in doubt, give a quick call to the garden center nearest you.

Planting Nursery Plants

  • If you haven't already, plant seeds or seedlings for corn, green beans, melons, squash, cucumbers, okra, sweet potatoes and other heat-lovers.
  • Keep up with watering. Even highly drought-tolerant plants can need irrigation. Water large cacti, for example, once a month and agave and yuccas every three weeks.
  • Prune winter- and spring-flowering trees and shrubs once they stop blooming.
  • Limit pruning of desert legume trees such as palo verde and mequite, just removing dead or very small limbs as necessary. Heavy pruning, to stimulate new growth which will be stressed by oncoming heat, should wait until later in the summer.

Deadheading 101 -- Deadhead fading flower blossoms. You'll keep your garden neater and flowering better longer.

Deadheading 101

Mulch Matters -- If you haven't already, apply a layer of mulch on flower beds and around trees and shrubs 2-3 inches around the base of plants. It reduces weeds, conserves moisture, and prevents disease. Great stuff!

Mulch Matters

  • Keep harvesting vegetables when they're young and tender.
  • Fertilize your lawn.
  • Fertilize roses, citrus trees, fuchias, avocado trees, vegetables, and flowers.
  • Keep an eye out for yellow or pale leaves with green ribs -- a sign of iron chlorosis. Apply chelated iron according to package directions.
  • Clean up fallen fruit from citrus and other fruit trees.
  • Keep mowing regularly. It's the best thing you can do to control weeds and keep grass thick and healthy.
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