May’s weather is often unpredictable. It can bring an occasional shower, fog and extreme heat along with what is commonly known as ‘May Gray’, overcast skies. May is also one of the busiest and most satisfying months in the garden. There is still planting to be done, some pruning, continual deadheading, mowing, weeding, mulching and much more. At the end of the day when you look back at all you’ve accomplished, you’re pleased with your efforts and satisfied with a job well done.
Color: As a guideline, most annuals and perennials take 6-8 weeks to mature from a 4″ pot. Use this timeline when planning color planting for special events you’re hosting such as graduations, weddings, and family gatherings. Plant far enough ahead so that the plants are looking their best. Feed hanging baskets and plants in pots every 3 weeks to keep them looking lush. Now is the time to plant heat loving flowers such as ageratum, asters, celosia, chrysanthemum, coleus, bedding begonias, gazania, impatiens, lobelia, marigolds, nicotiana, petunias, Shasta daisies, verbena and zinnias among many more. Try something new this season and spice up your garden. Pinch back stems to encourage full plants that will produce lots of flowers.
Fruits & Vegetables: Since the weather has warmed up, it the perfect time to plant exotic fruit trees like bananas, avocados, citrus and mangos. Keep well mulched to retain moisture. Plant beans, beets, carrots, celery, eggplant, melons and tomatoes. Pesky caterpillars are starting to appear. Treat them with a nontoxic insecticide to keep them under control. When trying to locate the elusive tomato hornworm, sprinkle the plant with water and watch for movement as they shake the water off of themselves.
Lawn: Mow at least once a week to maintain a healthy lawn. If you lowered the blade on your lawnmower in the fall raise it back up now so that the fresh cut lawn is 2″ to 2 ½” tall. This will help retain moisture in the soil when the days get hotter. Fertilize on a regular basis to stimulate a lush lawn. Weeds that appear in a lawn can be a sign of stress. Adjusting the Ph closer to 7 will help the grass overtake the weeds. Consider renting an aerator. An aerator makes holes in the surface of the law so that water can easily penetrate to the roots.
Roses & Flowers: This is your last chance to plant late blooming plants such as dahlia, gladiolus and tuberoses. To keep roses in full bloom, feed and water regularly and dead head any spent blooms. Watch for mildew and treat as soon as detected to keep it under control. For fragrance, also plant gardenias, jasmine and pittosporum. Remove spent flowers from spring bulbs but leave the foliage. Feed now for strong growth and flower production in the spring.
Irrigation: Test your sprinklers to make sure all heads and emitters are working properly. Adjust your sprinklers for longer days and the time change. Keep young plants adequately watered to help them establish in the garden. As always, avoid overhead irrigation late in the day.
Mulch, mulch, mulch– Mulching keeps the weeds down and water in while looking esthetically pleasing.
Thin fruit off of fruit trees to promote healthy growth. Branches weighed down by heavy fruit can break and distort the shape of the tree. Twist off excess fruit so the remaining fruit is spaced every 4-6 inches on alternate sides of the branch. Suckers on your fruit trees are taking nutrients away from fruit production. Remove them to encourage stronger, larger and tastier fruit. Feed and water fruit trees regularly to keep nutrient levels up. Leaves damaged from leaf curl or other diseases should be removed and disposed of. Do not mulch or compost as this will spread the disease.
Along with everything else, the weeds are growing substantially this month also. Keep on top of weeding so that seeds don’t spread around the garden. Weeding the day after watering makes the task much simpler.
Lightly prune winter and spring flowering trees and shrubs after the blooms have expired. Heavy pruning should be done later in the year when the heat has passed but before flower buds have set.
April in Southern California is perfect for playing in your garden. The days are longer and warmer and there’s always something to do. Plant every chance you get. Local garden centers are loaded with all that new and interesting this month. Drop by discover something exciting.
Work with what you’ve got. If you would like to grow herbs and vegetables but don’t have a large space consider establishing a container garden. A variety of inexpensive pots in various shapes and sizes can be used to cultivate a ‘patio garden’. In pots or in the ground, group tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro together and you have a ‘salsa garden’. Be creative in the space you’re allowed.
Color: Asters, Coleus and Zinnias are showing up in the garden centers now. April is one of the months with the largest selection of flowering plants available. Be creative and make your own hanging baskets and potted patio plants using some of your favorites. Continue to dead head all flowering plants for optimum flower production.
Fruits & Vegetables: Plant Citrus, Bananas, Avocados, Guava and other frost sensitive fruit trees this month. Fertilize existing fruit trees to help promote good fruit production. Additionally, thin excess fruit from young trees before the fruit reaches the size of an almond. This will prevent undue stress being put on the tree. Peaches should be thinned to every 5″ on alternate sides of the branch with plums, nectarines and apricots spaced at every 3″. Time to put in vegetables such as beans, corn, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes if you haven’t done so. Also plant melons, squash and gourds.
Lawn:If you have a problem with crabgrass, apply a pre-emergent herbicide before it gets out of control. Mow your lawn frequently – every week. To keep a healthy lawn, never cut more than 1/3 of the length of the blade of grass. Fertilize regularly. Your lawn needs between 3-5 inches of water in April. Make sure it gets about 1/2″ twice a week. (In most sprinkler systems, it takes about 20 minutes to get 1/2″ of water.)
Perennials: It’s not too late to divide perennials such as Agapanthus, Moraea and Hemerocallis. Make sure they’re planted immediately after division. Divide and transplant grasses too. For bushier flowering shrubs, pinch new growth to encourage fullness at the base of the plant.
Pests: Treat aphids, spider mites and white fly with insecticidal soap or a brisk spray of water.
Roses & Flowers: Roses should be at their peak right now. Continue to dead head and feed with a high nitrogen fertilizer.
Irrigation: Keeping an eye on the weather, set your irrigation for the longer, warmer days. Check your system to make sure that everything is working efficiently. A deep, thorough watering is better than a short, shallow watering. Deep watering encourages roots to go deep which will benefit the plant later this summer.
Also: Once the weather has warmed and the plants in your garden are beginning to show signs of life, prune off any cold damage that may have been inflicted during the winter. Cut just below where the dead branches begin. If you’re not sure about what is damaged or not, wait until next month and reassess the damage.
Stake taller growing plants now while they’re smaller and easier to manage.
Sheer formal hedges and prune evergreens in preparation of their spring growth spurts.
Prune and fertilize groundcovers to remove dead patches and encourage new growth.
February in your Southern California landscape is the beginning of new growth. It’s also a month of transition. Spring is looming but winter is still with us. Although frosts are possible they’re improbable after February 1st. Be aware of the weather and plan your garden activities accordingly. Don’t prune back flowering perennials too soon and put them at risk to cold damage.
Take this time instead to plan this year’s changes. Review your notes of what did and didn’t do well last year. A successful garden depends on planning and attention. If you have a busy schedule, use low maintenance plantings to create a ‘well tended’ garden with little effort after it’s established. Consider introducing a new plant into your program; perennials and vegetables both. There are a lot of new varieties available at Briggs. Try one just for the fun of it and see how it does.
Color: Filling in blank spots with cool weather annuals such as dianthus, Iceland poppies, pansies, stock, primula, snapdragons and calendulas is a great way to make an impact fast. Clear leaf trash from winter storms out of the beds and punch in a little spring color for instant gratification.
Fruits & Vegetables: There’s still time to plant bare root fruit trees, grapes and berries before they begin to leaf out. Make sure it’s done early in the month. If you haven’t already done it, prune your fruit bearing trees. Midmonth is the time to apply the final spray application for pests on your deciduous fruit trees. Fertilize deciduous fruit trees 2 to 3 weeks before they flower. Along the coast, Citrus and Avocado’s can be fertilized this month. Inland, wait until next month.
Cool weather vegetables like lettuce, carrots, broccoli, celery, white potatoes, peas and radishes can be planted now. At the beginning of the month, the soil’s not warm enough to plant warmer crops like tomatoes and peppers. Wait until the soil temperature reaches about 60 degrees.
Lawn: Slow growth of your lawn doesn’t mean you don’t have to mow. Mowing regularly helps keep the lawn healthy. Cool weather lawns can be fertilized lightly.
Roses & Flowers: Azaleas and Camellias are in full bloom. Plant those now using an acidic soil mix which will help them thrive. However, you want to feed once they’ve stopped blooming. Prune hydrangea and feed with a high nitrogen fertilizer. If you want blue blossoms, apply Hydra blue (aluminum sulfate) or a similar product now for blue flowers next year. Dormant roses should have been pruned by now and you may be seeing some new growth. Fertilize lightly toward the end of the month.
Irrigation: With winter rains, the need for supplemental watering may be limited. Watch the weather closely and turn your sprinklers off and on accordingly. After a deep rain, wait until the soil dries out a bit before turning the system back on. Irrigating saturated soil is just a waste of precious water. If this month brings light rains, be sure to water natives lightly. Additionally, give deciduous trees a deep watering to encourage bloom and leaf development.
Also: Applying a pre-emergent weed killer will save you time later in the season. Do not apply in areas where you plan to sow seeds for vegetables or flowers. Pull weeds while they’re small before they have a chance to spread seeds around your garden.
Finish heavy pruning of dormant trees before they bud out.
It’s not too late to plant summer blooming bulbs like Canna, Gladiola, Lilies, Tuberoses and tuberous Begonias. If you plant a couple of gladiolus each week through the end of next month, you should have continual blooms through the summer.
There’s not a lot going on in the garden this month which is good because chances are your time is full of other commitments. Now is a great time to work on your plans for next year’s garden. Pull out the notes you’ve made throughout the year and make your revisions on paper before you tackle the projects in the spring. Do maintenance on your gardening tools. Oil shovels, picks and spades to prevent rusting. Clean, sharpen and oil other tools to keep them in good shape for when you need them in the spring.
Color: There are still a lot of varieties available as both annuals and perennials. Plant a combination of red and white flowers for holiday cheer. Alyssum, Bacopa, Begonia, Cyclamen, Dianthus, Geranium, Gerbera, Impatiens, Osteospermum, Pansy, Salvia, and Verbena are among a few. Poinsettias, which are native to Mexico, can also be used as color in the garden. They’ll be happiest on a drip system which will keep the leaves dry.
Fruits & Vegetables: Plant bare root fruit trees this month. Prune established fruit trees once they’ve dropped their leaves. Spray as needed following manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Cut back grape vines. Artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels’ sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, kale, lettuce, peas, potatoes and radishes can all be planted now. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Lawn: Fill in thin spots with a little more seed if you over seeded the lawn last month. If we get a hot spell, you may want to supplemental water. Mow as necessary.
Roses & Flowers: Stop watering and fertilizing established roses this month and let them harden unless we get
a heat wave. Bare root roses can be planted this month. Now is a good time to transplant roses.
Remember to take as much of the roots as possible and keep well watered.
Irrigation: Do a test run on your irrigation system to ensure that all lines are clear and emitters are working efficiently. Watch your system carefully. If it rains, turn the system off and save the water.
Also: Natives can also be pruned lightly now in order to maintain a uniform shape.
Cut back Wisteria. Remove the long, thin branches that have become intertwined with the old wood.
If you haven’t done so yet, plant your bulbs. Bulbs that don’t need to be refrigerated can be planted until December 25th. If you wait longer than that, you run the chance of having fewer, smaller flowers. Other bulbs with higher cold requirements need to be planted in cold soil. If the weather is cool, between Christmas and New Years, plant then. Otherwise wait until the soil temperature drops being sure to plant before January 10th.
Protect tender plants from frost by covering them with a non-plastic material when frost threatens. Keeping plantings well hydrated will help frost survival also. A turgid plant will recover from frost better than a dry plant. Should a frost damage your garden, don’t be tempted to prune off the damaged parts. They’ll help protect the plant from further damage should another frost occur. Trim these parts off later in the year when all risk of frost has past.
There is a lot to do in your landscape this month. It’s time to get out there to plan ahead for spring and prepare for winter storms. Soil temperatures are still warm and the digging is easy. Get out there and plant, plant, plant!
Color: Pansies planted now will provide beautiful color through the winter months. Columbine, Cyclamen, Poppies, Primrose, Ranunculus, Snapdragon, Stock and Viola will all add a nice splash of color to your garden.
Fruits & Vegetables: Plant containerized fruit trees and bushes now. Don’t plant bare root plants until next month. Fruit trees should be sprayed for pests in 6 week intervals when the trees are in their dormant stages. An easy way to remember the schedule is to spray around the following holidays; Thanksgiving (when the last leaf has fallen), New Years Day (the height of dormancy) and Valentine’s Day (when the buds begin to swell). Remember to follow the manufacturer’s directions for application carefully. Prune old canes of berries (except raspberries) back to the ground leaving the new canes to produce fruit next year. Plant vegetables like artichokes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, garlic, lettuce, onion, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips. Plant strawberries.
Roses & Flowers: Stop fertilizing roses this month and prune lightly. Save the hard pruning for January. Most varieties of Hydrangeas bloom on year-old stems. Don’t be tempted. Pruning now will reduce the number of flowers you have next year. To try to get blue or purple blooms on plants with normally pink flowers, apply Aluminum Sulfate now. Mulch around Camellias, Azaleas and other Rhododendrons with a high acid mulch. Removing smaller buds on Camellias will result in larger flowers later on.
Also: Cut back the ornamental grasses when they begin to show signs of new growth.
November is the time to plant natives. Even though they’re drought tolerant, they need to be watered (see water schedules for your local water agency) until they’re established.
If you haven’t done so yet, plant your bulbs. Now is the time also to divide Agapanthus, Iris, Moraea and Daylilies and transplant evergreen shrubs. (Though not tender tropicals.)
Prepare for winter rains. Trim or thin trees with heavy top branches so the wind moves through them easily. If you’re going to trim them yourself, research proper pruning methods to avoid mistakes that may cause problems later on. Double check stakes on young trees.
Not all of your work is outside. Reposition houseplants so that they benefit from the winter sunlight. Keep them away from drafts and the heat from fireplaces or heating vents.