Gardening within the merry month of Could


By Jane Gates

Signal Staff Writer

As we approach the dry, hot summer weather, there is little time left to use the cooler days for outdoor spring cleaning and landscaping projects. While we may be able to experience more cloud cover and maybe even a surprise shower, it is likely that we will be done with the measurable rainfall. So it’s time to save water and get the most out of every drop. The sun is getting stronger, so now is the best time to get swimming pools and water features in top shape for the coming heat.

Check your irrigation systems, replace broken sprinkler heads, repair drip lines, and fix leaks and cracks so you don’t end up with geysers and flooding when your systems are on. Replace old sprinkler heads with low water heads, which should supply your lawn and garden with water much more efficiently than conventional heads. The smaller volume of water slowly penetrates without washing off, making your plant roots happier and your water bills lower. Put your sprinklers on water slowly and early.

Sprinklers don’t have to be as active as they will in a month or two. So be sure to check your timers and adjust them when the weather changes. Then, after a break of at least 15 to 20 minutes, add more short watering periods instead of leaving the watering times longer so that the first watering has time to penetrate the soil.

The idea is to let the water sink. If you have projects built before summer now, you will be ready for the heat on the soil of plant root systems, not just for wetting the soil surface.

Enjoy remaining weather below 100 degrees for labor-intensive outdoor projects. Major repairs and improvements are more convenient and safer for you while it’s still relatively cool.

It’s time to finish planting the seeds and take a trip to the garden centers. Flowers, shrubs, and even potted trees can make their way into your landscape in May. If temperatures rise after planting, make sure everything stays well watered.

Cover new plantings with a protective shade or light burlap to protect vulnerable newcomers from sunburn damage for the first few days, then gradually expose them to full sun.

There is nothing that cannot be planted at this time of year, except maybe some cool season vegetables. Artichokes begin to harvest and early strawberries bear fruit. Get these peppers, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, corn, squash, eggplant, and other warm season plants in the ground so you can start harvesting in a month or two.

You can start planting pumpkin seeds now and for the next month. They should be the last seeds to go into the garden if you want to harvest them closer to Halloween than August or September.

This marks the end of the prime season for planting California native plants. However, you have to give the tough locals plenty of water in the summer until they can develop drought-resistant root systems.

When you have compost from your own pile, this is a good time to dig it into the ground. You can also coat your soil with compost as a moisture-retaining barrier to keep the roots cooler in the heat. If you buy it in sacks, consider buying or building a compost bin so you can make your own for free. Find it far enough from the house so that you don’t attract rodents to any structures, but close enough that you are still ready to walk the distance to use it.

If you have fruit on your trees, you may want to cover the tree with a bird net before the wildlife steals everything. Some trees will bear fruit in June, but many animals won’t even wait for the fruit to ripen before decimating your harvest. And with so many years of drought in recent years, the animals out there are well trained to feed on our landscapes. So they’ll be back looking for all the simple things they can find!

Clean garden areas and gutters of dead material that could ignite in wildfire. Protect your home from potential flying debris now!

Pay close attention to insect infestations and animal pests. Unwanted errors can overwinter in an above-average number. Rodents can have larger litters with increased rainfall and plant growth. If so, living things could be very destructive in the garden this year. Catch the infestation at the first sign and it will be a lot easier to control. Try natural pest control measures, such as: For example, hosing down aphids with a stream of water and putting up physical barriers like fencing rabbit and chicken wire … before resorting to dangerous poisons.

Don’t forget to add something special to your garden, such as a pool or hot tub, sports field, barbecue or outdoor space, flower or raised vegetable garden.

I know I always suggest extending outdoor use to your landscape. But why not get the best out of your country? Design it yourself or call for professional help. In any case, planning ahead will make work easier and avoid costly mistakes.

May is a busy time in the garden. And it’s a good time to get out and get some exercise, catching some sunshine and fresh air. There are many jobs to be done in the countryside.

For more information about gardening in the Santa Clarita Valley, visit Jane Gates on YouTube at