May in the Garden
What to Plant
Annuals/Bedding plants: Plants that can take summer heat include coleus, salvia,
torenia, wax begonia, and ornamental pepper.
Bulbs: It’s a good time to plant bulbs, remembering that some lilies do best when their roots are crowded so try planting Amazon, Aztec, and Clivia lilies in containers to increase blooming. Plant Achimenes, Agapanthus, Blood Lilies, Caladiums, Canna, Crinums, Daylilies, Gladioli, Gloriosa Lilies and Spider Lilies, and Zephyranthes (Rain Lilies).
Herbs: Plant heat-loving herbs, including basil, Mexican tarragon, ginger, cumin, summer savory, and rosemary. I hear some local gardeners are having luck with black and white sesame seeds.
Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, okra, boniato, hot peppers, southern peas, butter or lima beans, eggplant, and tropical “spinach” such as Sisso, Malabar, and New Zealand.
What to Do
Conserve Water – from the Tampa Bay Water Agency
In April, May and June, Florida’s temperatures begin to increase while the state’s rainfall tends to decrease. As temperatures rise, so does outdoor water use:
• If it rains at least ½ inch on or just before your watering day,skip your day.
• Conduct a visual inspection of your irrigation system by turning each zone on for less than 5 minutes and looking for broken or misdirected heads.
Correct these problems and water your landscape only:
• If you are planning new plants, use Florida-friendly landscaping to put the right plant in the right place and save water.
• Hold off on installing new sod, trees or plants until the summer rainy season.
• Make sure your landscape beds have at least 3 inches of organic mulch around each plant but not touching the plant trunk. Mulch cools the plant roots and helps retain moisture. See below for more on mulch.
• Use a hose nozzle when hand watering or washing your car. It saves water by keeping the water from running constantly.
• Mow turf on the highest setting possible (3 to 4 inches) and never mow more than one-third of the grass height. This helps to increase plant root depth and make it more tolerant to dry conditions.
Monitor the landscape for signs of environmental stress and for chinch bugs, scale insects, spider mites etc. It’s so much easier to nip problems in the bud (so to speak) than to deal with a full-blown invasion. Avoid chemical insecticides and use UF approved “home remedies for insect and disease control” Birds, butterflies, bees, lizards, frogs, and toads will thank you. Spray stressed plants with Maxicrop every week or so and healthy plants at least monthly for peak performance.
Trees: Prepare for hurricane season by checking trees for damaged or weak branches and pruning if needed. As a general rule, use the pruners for growth up to about three-quarters of an inch. If you're cutting green growth, use bypass pruners; for hardened wood, use anvil pruners. A pruning guide
For big jobs hire a knowledgeable arborist, who is bonded and insured. Discuss in detail what you want done. Ideally, your best bet is an ISA-certified arborist. See International Society of Arboriculture and Pruning Landscape Trees and Shrubs
Pruning Palms: You know to never, ever give palms the dreadful “pencil cut:; but please spread the word to friends and neighbors. Palms are nourished daily through their fronds. When trimmers cut off the green fronds, they are removing the palms’ natural ability to feed the tree, taking away a necessary source of nutrition. The palm trunk will be thinner at the top and more likely to fall in high wind. It takes a palm 1 to 2 years to recover from the insult. Palms that are pencil trimmed annualy will die. Several Florida counties outlaw this practice, which is promoted by tree trimming companies.
Pests: Watch for thrips, scale, and mites on ornamental plants because they become more active in warm weather. See Landscape Pest Management
Gardenias: Distinguish between the normal yellowing of older leaves and the yellowing of new growth, which usually indicates a micronutrient deficiency. See Gardenias at a Glance
Lawns: Watch for damage from chinch bugs in St. Augustinegrass and begin scouting for newly hatched mole crickets in bahiagrass lawns. See Turfgrass Pest Insects. May is usually a dry month; do not mistake irrigation problems with a pest infestation. See Lawns and Drought.
Prevent or minimize disease by following proper cultural practices. See Turf Diseases.
Tomatoes: Watch for pests, disease, and nutritional disorders on tomato plants. See Home Tomato Gardening.
Summer survivior varieties include: most cherry tomatoes, wild Everglades, Sunmaster, solar fire, florilina, and homestead. Try to avoid placing plants in scorching sun.
Recognize that bird song? The spring air is filled with the music of mating and nesting birds.