In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2012
Regional Report

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Trellises aren't just for tomatoes.

Garden Is In Full Swing!

May planting is for the heat-lovers -- the vegetables and flowers that thrive and bloom and set fruit more lustily when the weather's hot and sunny. Earlier in spring and later in fall, we coddle them to stretch the seasons, but now is when they grow really fast. Other plants may tolerate our summers, but these plants relish the heat and bright light. Just keep them well-watered and mulched with at least 4-6 inches deep, and they'll produce exuberantly.

Plant Seeds!
Sow seeds of lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celery, chard, chicory, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, leeks, warm-season lettuces, melons, okras, green onions, peanuts, peppers, pumpkins, soybeans, warm-season spinaches, squashes, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

Plant Trees!
Plant citrus and other tender trees. Keep the soil well mulched to hold in moisture with fewer waterings. Too little water results in stunted growth and reduced fruiting.

Grow Up!
Trellises provide support for greater fruit production per square foot of soil and for longer periods because more leaf area is exposed to sunlight for more photosynthesis, and more air circulation means less fruit rot and ground-insect attack. Vines spreading on a trellis provide shade for a porch, patio, or wall. Crops grown on a trellis are easier to pick and cleaner, not available to snails and slugs, and not prone to ground rot. Some vines need more guidance and anchoring onto the trellis than others, but all will grow well with proper fertilization and irrigation. Clamp clothes pins attached to twine on each side of a vine for easy adjustment as the vine grows. Support heavy fruits on shelving, in netting, or with rags or old nylons. If left unsupported, their weight will drag the vines down from the trellis. When weeds are pulled up from beneath trellised vines, there is less injury to the cultivated plants because of the vines and fruits are out of the way.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch!
Maintain a good mulch of organic matter covering garden soil throughout the summer. This prevents crusting and cracking of the soil surface, holds in moisture, encourages earthworms, moderates soil temperatures for optimum root growth, improves the soil as it decomposes, and prevents weeds from germinating. A two-to-four inch layer of mulch decreases evaporation from the soil by 70 percent or more, allowing you to water less often (but still deeply). Keep mulch several inches away from tree trunks and plant stems, however, for good air circulation.

Change Watering Patterns!
Watering patterns you begin now will help or hinder your plants' abilities to thrive -- not just survive -- during the extended heat of summer. Change to a less-frequent but still deep watering pattern to encourage roots to grow deeply into the soil for moisture rather than spread just below the soil surface. During hot, dry spells, these deeper roots will have access to moisture for continued strong growth, but the shallow roots won't. Build soil basins around large plants and trees to prevent runoff until it's absorbed. Avoid overhead irrigation so late in the day that foliage cannot dry completely before sunset. Fungal and bacterial diseases thrive in warm, moist conditions and can develop overnight.

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