May is a fat month. Our gardens gush with flowers and fresh foliage. All is a cascade of blooming rhododendrons, clematis, roses. Petals of apple and crabapple swirl in the spring wind like snowflakes in a storm. Timing certain chores is critical for keeping the garden fresh and full of flowers and food. Here is what to do now to keep your garden lush and healthy until fall.
WATER: Soaking rains are no longer a given at this time. Keeping plants watered consistently and evenly is the key to keeping a summer garden fresh. Lawns, roses and flower beds need a thorough soaking at least once a week on the coast. More if growing in warmer, inland areas. One really cannot water too much in the summer. Container gardens need to be kept evenly moist, soaking the root area thoroughly until water pours out of drainage holes.
PRUNE: The main chore here is removing spent flowers from summer-blooming annuals and perennials. Most plants will remain fresh and full of flowers if regularly groomed.
FEED: Keeping perennials, annuals and vegetables well-fed during the spring growing season — and beyond — will make a garden fat and robust. Usually all it takes is applying an all-purpose 4-4-4 organic fertilizer every four to six weeks. Liquid fertilizers that have seaweed are especially effective. As always, water thoroughly after applying fertilizers.
SPRAY: Drippy, foggy days on the coast invite disease to take hold on roses, dahlias, tomatoes and squash plants. Weekly spraying problem plants with an organic fungicide will keep disease away. Worm/caterpillar pests, as well as aphids, beetles come out in full force during mid spring. Insecticidal soap is a good all-purpose organic spray that knocks down these pests. Bacillus thuringiensis sprays kill caterpillars and worms. Drizzly days also invite slugs and snails to come out and feed. Apply organic slug bait every three weeks or so.
Terry Kramer is the retired site manager for the Humboldt Botanical Garden and a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.