Soft green leaves and delicate flower heads celebrate spring and renewal. Now is the time to renew gardens and home landscapes. One chore per week, just four per month, will keep a garden going.
Check all the sprinklers and drip lines to be sure they are working properly and not wasting water. There is a comprehensive spring tune-up guide for sprinklers in the 2010 April - June Master Gardener Newsletter which can be found here.
Lawns will thrive with an application of fertilizer now. Use a balanced slow release or organic fertilizer and apply it according to package directions. Organic fertilizers react more slowly, but will provide a lush result. If crabgrass has been a problem in past years, consider a pre-emergent/fertilizer mix. Help preserve our waterways by avoiding getting granules on hardscape surfaces.
If a new tree or shrub will need planting, make a hole about twice the width of the root ball. Build a cone of soil in the center of the hole tall enough so the new plant will be level or slightly above the surrounding soil when placed on top of it. Gently knock the plant from its pot. Use fingers to uncoil and separate any bunched-up roots. If the root-ball is solid, use a knife to score four 1/2-inch-deep cuts around the sides and one on the bottom (don't do this on bougainvillea). Set the roots atop the cone, refill the hole, and water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets. The beginning of the root flare on trees should be visible at or above the surrounding soil. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around the plants, keeping the mulch about an inch away from trunks and stems. This is a good time of year to plant citrus trees.
Spread compost as fruits and vegetables are planted; it will give them a good start and help produce a larger yield. Compost is easy to make. To process a compost pile quickly, keep it as damp as a wrung-out sponge and turn it frequently. If it isn't feasible to turn the compost as frequently as needed, don't forget that the “let-it-rot” method also works; it just takes longer.
Fill out a flower garden and add a little height by starting with flowers in six packs. Planted in May, these little gems will explode with summer color in a few weeks. If instant color is needed, think about 4-inch pots instead. Shorter bedding plants get the front row spot followed by tall, upright bedding plants and finished with some summer-blooming vines grown on a sturdy structure that is set in the garden at the same time planting occurs. It is difficult to add the structure once the plant needs it. As the vine grows, train the shoots to the support with self-gripping Velcro, plant tape, or twist ties.
Fill ou vegetable gardens with transplants of tomatoes and peppers. Around the middle of May is a great time to plant seeds of pumpkins, beans, corn, squash, cucumbers, and melons. For interesting and unusual fall decorations, consider growing pumpkins or winter squash that are not the ordinary jack-o-lantern choice.
This is always a fun chore … do nothing … to those green leaves and stems left once the flower from a bulb has finished performing. The bulbs should be left in the ground until the foliage is dry and crisp.
Lawns that get a lot of heavy fool traffic develop compacted soil which makes it difficult for water, fertilizer, and oxygen to reach the roots. If a screwdriver can't be pushed up to its handle into the turf, it's time to aerate. Use an aerator that either produces a core or a water wash to dig holes. Spike aerators just add to compaction. If using a machine aerator, be sure to mark and avoid all sprinkler heads. Some machine aerators require a lawn to be moist, but not soggy. Irrigate a day or two before aeration if soil is dry.
Bees are essential pollinators. A variety of flower shapes and colors will attract bees to a garden. Look for flowers and plants that are native to this area for growing ease, adaptation to the local climate, and to serve as an attractant to honeybees.
Basil and cilantro planted now will produce fresh herbs all summer. Both annuals do well in pots, love sun and ample water (easy to control if the herbs are in pots). Start basil from seedlings, but sow cilantro seeds directly in the pot – they germinate quickly. Begin harvesting when plants reach 6 inches tall.
Deep-water established plants often enough to prevent wilt and promote deep rooting as temperatures start to rise. Check the soil moisture around roots with a moisture meter probe or by digging down with a trowel. Soaker hoses apply water directly to the soil with very little evaporation.
Lawns need about two inches of water per week during the summer heat. To determine lawn sprinklers' output, place several flat-bottomed containers (such as tuna cans) around the lawn, turn on the sprinklers for a half hour and then measure the water in the containers. Adjust the sprinkler coverage if needed and reset the amount of time they water according to the results of the timed test.