May in the Garden
What to do:
Annuals: Plants that can take summer heat include salvia, angelonia, wax begonia, and ornamental pepper. See Gardening with Annuals in Florida:
Bulbs: Planting early-, mid-, and late-blooming varieties of daylily ensures months of color from these low maintenance plants. See Bulbs for Florida:
Herbs: Continue to plant heat loving herbs, including basil, oregano, sage, Mexican tarragon, and rosemary. See Herbs in the Florida Garden:
Vegetables: Southern favorites to plant now are okra, southern pea, and sweet potato.
PREPARE (for Hurricanes) BUT SPARE (the Palms)
May is the month to consider heavy pruning of shrubs and trees, which might be a hazard during hurricane season. At all costs avoid giving palms a “pencil” or “hurricane cut” To quote from a 2014 story in USA TODAY: University of Florida experts say over pruning can shorten the tree’s lifespan and sometimes lead to worse hazards. Problematic pruning runs rampant throughout Brevard County and elsewhere in Florida, with curbside mounds including both yellow and green trimmings, most prominently in the months leading up to hurricane season. Healthy palms should resemble a big globe, arborists say. Even yellowing fronds that dangle down help provide palms with food. “The only thing that’s going to come off in wind is the dead leaves, they’re very lightweight,” said Tim Broschat, a professor of environmental horticulture at U of Florida. But palms weakened by repeat overrunning can lose their entire top crown during storms, he said. “It’ll snap off and kill the tree, and when it comes down it will cause greater damage,” Broschat said. Palms that have crownshafts — a region of smooth, usually green, tightly clasping leaf bases at the top of the trunk — rarely need pruning, as long as they’re adequately fertilized. Part of the problem is that most Florida palms suffer potassium or magnesium deficiencies, studies show, because fill soil used in developments lacks those two elements. Yellow or discolored fronds are the main symptom of the deficiency, but hacking those or anything other than the deadest of fronds removes a reservoir of nutrients the tree needs to sustain itself. As a survival tactic, palms cannibalize older leaves. Removing only brown fronds and flower stocks is fine, horticulturalists say. But cutting off the yellow fronds exposes the tree’s “bud” to the cold, raising the potential of death in the winter and the same fate from tropical winds in the summer. “If they keep doing it, it could set them up to lose their cold-hardiness,” said Sally Scalera, a horticulture agent at the Brevard County Extens Extension. “The best thing for them is to never remove anything but brown fronds.”
POLLINATORS It’s no secret that pollinators, especially honey bees have been declining in recent years. Pollinators are essential in order for successful harvests of food crops. You can help by adding pollinator-loving plants to your garden. It’s super easy and you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful blooms, as well as attract more butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. Invite bees and other pollinators to your garden. Include the flowering plants they need in your landscape. However, make sure that plants you buy have not been treated with Neonicotinoids, the systemic pesticides that are taken up through the roots and leaves and distributed throughout the entire plant - including the pollen and nectar. The good news is that growers are now required to place a label on treated plants.
FLOWERING PLANTS RECOMMENDED FOR ATTRACTING POLLINATORS
Annuals & Perennials: Cannas, Impatiens, Marigolds, Nasturtians, Pentas, Purple coneflowers, Salvia, Shrimp plant, Sunflowers (especially Mexican), Lantana, Cosmos, Zinnias, Powder Puff, Portulaca, Blue Daze, many varieties of Jasmine, Milkweed. Natives: Spotted Bee Balm, Blue Curl, Gaillardia (Indian Blanket Flower), Canna Flaccida, Black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis (Tickseed), Stoke’s Aster, Pickerelweed, Adam’s Needle. Herbs: Thyme, Mint, Basil. Vines: Coral honeysuckle, Passionflower, Carolina Jessamine, Cross Vine, Trumpet Creeper. All of these vines are native to Florida. Note: The native passionflower vines are Passiflora Incarnata and Corky Stem ‘Passiflora Suberosa. Other: Saw Palmetto, Walter’s Viburnum, Chaste Tree, Sea Grape, Bottlebrush trees, Spanish Bayonet, Ligustrum, Southern Magnolia. Liriope.
MAY’S GARDEN QUOTE (Apropos of pollinators)
“A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay; A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon; A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.” - Traditional English Rhyme