What to do in a Southern California garden in May

What to do in a Southern California garden in May

May can be spring, or May can be summer. Last year (2016) it was spring, with cloudy and showery weather, but this year so far it feels more like summer with dry breezes and lots of sun and not much May Gray yet — yet! The forecast is for it to turn back to spring for the upcoming second week of this month, with showers and cooler weather.

Cool weather is great planting weather. Take advantage, if you can.

Regardless, it’s already been plenty warm for subtropical plants to set fruit. Maybe your citrus and avocado trees are like mine: still blooming but also with pea-sized fruitlets. And maybe you planted some tomatoes in March that are already setting fruit. If May ends up being more warm like summer, we’ll even get to eat some by the end of the month.

But I chose the photo above to represent May because it’s the prettiest subtropical flower forming fruit this month in my yard. Passion fruit vines have everything beyond beauty going for them too: vibrant, evergreen foliage; vigorous growth to cover a fence or pergola; not messy when their fruit drops; tangy and tasty fruit; plus a fascinating etymology. Maybe you have a place to plant one — maybe next week?

Sometimes it feels like we live in paradise, friends. If you want to keep it going, here are some May opportunities in the yard:

Sow and plant

– Sow or plant these vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, beets, eggplant, beans, cucumber, corn, squash, melon, chard, basil

– Plant peppers and eggplant later in May if you want to be really smart about it; late May into early June is an ideal time to plant these heat lovers because if you plant earlier they’ll grow slowly and bugs can decimate them; however, if you plant later than mid-June you’re not going to get as much fruit as possible before it cools in the fall

vegetables seeds and seedlings in May

My diversified portfolio of seeds and seedlings on deck, to be planted in the ground from tomorrow through the end of May.

Harvest and eat

– Harvest wisely by doing it early in the morning for leaves of lettuce, chard, and kale; they are turgid at this hour — full of water and crunchy — and will taste best and keep fresh longest

– Stop watering onions and garlic that you planted last fall once their outer leaves start to yellow; they’ll continue to enlarge their bulbs on residual soil moisture; pick them to eat anytime, but wait until their tops are totally dead if you want to store them

– Eat these goodies (had you planted them): blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes (especially smaller-fruited types), potatoes, onion, garlic, broccoli (still a few final florets!), peas, lettuce, beets, carrots, peppers (if you overwintered a plant)

Miscellaneous

– Go hunting at night with a flashlight to see which bugs are eating your plants; in May, you might find earwigs on peppers, pill bugs on strawberries, june bugs on avocado leaves, slugs and snails on lettuce; pick them up and drown them in soapy water, collect them and feed them to chickens, throw them into your neighbor’s yard (unless you live next door to me), or squish them on sight

– Weed spotted spurge and purslane before they set seed; uproot and lay them on the ground upside down so they dessicate and decompose (but beware of purslane’s ability to root and regrow if it’s laid on moist soil)

– Note sun and shade patterns throughout the day; May through August patterns are about the same, in other words, you can grow a warm-season vegetable or a deciduous fruit tree in a spot that is sunny now but may be shady at other times of the year (north of a building, for example, like these pomegranates)

pomegranate north of building

 

You might also like to read:

You sure can grow long-day onions in Southern California

‘San Diego’ tomatoes, and supporting tomatoes

Chickens eat bugs in the garden

You sure can grow long-day onions in Southern California

You sure can grow long-day onions in Southern California

October begins onion planting time, and I just put in some Walla Walla seedlings. Next week I’m going to sow Ringmaster seeds. These are “long-day” varieties, meaning they are said to be best adapted to northern latitudes, places that have long summer days, places like Walla Walla, Washington. In other words, I’m planting the wrong types of onions, on purpose, for the second time.

Last year, in a moment of rebellion or in the spirit of scientific inquiry (I don’t remember which), I decided to deliberately flout expert advice and attempt to grow the long-day variety Ringmaster, and just the other day we cooked up our last giant Ringmaster bulb. They grew very well — perfectly, I’d even say. So this year I’m trying another round to see if it was a fluke.

I will also plant Texas Grano onions, which is a short-day variety and is the recommended type for Southern California. It has produced well for me too, for many years in a row now. Texas Grano is a sure bet; Ringmaster and Walla Walla are somewhat experimental.

 

UPDATE, July 2016:

Looks like it wasn’t a fluke. Both of the long-day varieties, Ringmaster and Walla Walla, produced excellent bulbs, once again. Their production was just as good as the short-day Texas Granos. The only difference between the long-day varieties and the Texas Granos was that the Texas Granos were ready for harvest earlier, in June, but the long-day varieties weren’t ready until July.

I’m now of the opinion that every variety of onion is worth trying here in Southern California, regardless of whether a seed company, nursery label, or book calls it short, medium, or long day.