Watering The Garden
west may
(Image credit: Zbynek Pospisil)

In the month of May, spring is waving goodbye and summer is saying hello. Gardeners in California and Nevada are hurrying to get their garden to-do lists wrapped up before it gets too hot. What are the critical May gardening tasks for the West? Read on for a regional garden checklist.

May Gardening Tasks for the West

  • May is still planting time and putting in more seeds is part of every garden to-do list. Almost any warm season vegetable can be planted in May in western gardens.
  • Stay away from lettuce, peas, and other crops that do not like the heat. Instead, start heat-loving tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and melons. You can also put in beans, okra, corn, cucumbers, and squash too. That’s not all.
  • You can plant almost any kind of herb in May, including heat-loving herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary, and lavender. Remember not to tuck the herbs into shady corners since most of them need at least six hours of direct sun.
  • If you are a fruit fan, now’s the time to plant fruit trees. You can install avocado, banana, mango, and strawberry guava trees in May. If you have citrus trees, pick up any fallen fruit to tidy up the orchard.
  • Keep those garden pruners and scissors close at hand in May. Your garden to-do list includes quite a bit of clipping and pruning. Start with deadheading the wilting blossoms of spring blooming flowers. That may lead to additional blooms and will certainly make the garden look nicer. Once winter and spring flowering trees and shrubs stop blooming, you’ll want to prune them as well.
  • If you live in a desert climate, don’t do heavy pruning of desert legume trees right now. It’s a good time to take off dead limbs from trees like palo verde and mesquite but save any heavy pruning until after the heat of summer is behind you.

Additional Tasks in Western Gardens

In the West, as in many other parts of the country, May is a great time to make sure your flowers, trees, and veggies have enough water to keep them healthy and happy. That makes irrigation and mulching additional May tasks in western gardens.

One way to accomplish this is to set up a regular watering schedule either overhead, with a hose, or some type of drip system. If you live in hot areas of the West, you’ll need to water more than on the Pacific Coast.

Another way to keep water in the soil is to mulch your plants and trees. Apply a layer of mulch on flower beds, garden beds, and around trees or shrubs. Keep mulch a couple of inches (5 cm.) from the trunks or stems of the plants. Mulch holds in moisture but that’s not all. It also keeps weeds down and insulates the soil from the sun’s heat.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.