What to plant in May?
- Direct seed in the garden cucumbers, melons, summer squash, beans, corn, and annual herbs.
- Plant sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, marigolds and aster in the flower garden.
Your May Garden Chores:
- Fertilize summer blooming flowers early in the month.
- Apply (or re-apply as needed) organic mulch to all beds to keep the soil cool and enrich the
- soil. Be sure to leave space around the base of the plants.
- Trim the dead flowers but not the leaves from spring bulbs. The leaves restore the bulb; so
- wait to remove them until they turn yellow. Fertilize the bulbs after the bloom is finished
- with bone meal.
- Later in the month prune spring flowering shrubs to shape, removing old and dead wood. The
- plants flower on the growth that happens during the summer; do not prune in the fall or
- winter or you will have no flowers on the shrub.
- Continue the battle against slugs and snails.
- Deadhead (cut off spent flowers) to get continuing bloom on annuals and perennials.
- Thin peaches, plums and nectarines so there is 6” between fruits.
Problem of the Month:
Spotted spurge (Euphorbia maculata) is an annual plant native to the eastern United States. In California, it is the most common species of the spurge family, which also includes creeping spurge (E. serpens) and petty spurge (E. peplus). These weeds invade many of the state’s crops, affecting vegetables, trees, citrus, turf, ornamental beds, and container ornamentals. Management of all the spurges is similar.
What kind of dirt do I have? (By David Dennis)
Roughly half of the soil in your garden consists of small bits of weathered rock that has gradually been broken down by the forces of wind, rain, freezing and thawing and other chemical and biological processes.
Soil type is generally classified by the size of these inorganic soil particles: sand (large particles), silt (medium-sized particles) or clay (very small particles). The proportion of sand, silt and clay particles determines the texture of your soil and affects drainage and nutrient availability, which in turn influence how well your plants will grow.
Organic matter is the partially decomposed remains of soil organisms and plant life and we will cover this essential component in a future article.
Soil texture can range from very fine particles to coarse and gravelly. You don’t have to be a scientist to determine the texture of the soil in your garden. To get a rough idea, simply place some soil in the palm of your hand and wet it slightly, then run the mixture between your fingers. If it feels gritty, your soil is sandy; if it feels smooth, like moist talcum powder, your soil is silty; if it feels harsh when dry, sticky or slippery when wet, or rubbery when moist, it is high in clay.
To identify your soil type you can conduct this simple soil test from several locations within your garden:
- Fill a quart jar about 1/3 full with topsoil and add water until the jar is almost full.
- Screw on the lid and shake the mixture vigorously, until all the clumps of soil have dissolved.
- Now set the jar on a window sill and watch as the larger particles begin to sink to the bottom.
- In a minute or two the sand portion of the soil will have settled to the bottom of the jar. Mark the level of sand on the side of the jar.
- Leave the jar undisturbed for several hours. The finer silt particles will gradually settle onto the sand. Your will find the layers are slightly different colors, indication various types of particles.
- Leave the jar overnight. The next layer above the silt will be clay. Mark the thickness of that layer. On top of the clay will be a thin layer of organic matter. In fact, the jar should be murky and full of floating organic sediments. If not, you probably need to add organic matter to improve the soil’s fertility and structure.
- Measure and calculate the percentages of the three layers (sand, silt and clay) and compare to these descriptions:
- Sandy Soil: 0-10% Clay, 0-15% Silt, 90-100% Sand
- Silty Soil: 7-27% Clay, 28-50% Silt, 23-52% Sand
- Clay Soil: 40-100% Clay, 0-40% Silt, 0-45% Sand
Now that you have identified your soil type we will cover what you can do to improve your soil structure in next month’s article.