There are a number of plants that can be added to your garden this month. Remember that, historically, May is a dry month so make sure you have a plan for the supplemental water your new plantings will need. Use your hose, making sure to follow the water restrictions in your area.
If you want some annual color, add amaranthus, cleome, coleus, crossandra, impatiens, marigold, zinnia, ornamental pepper, portulaca, red salvia, vinca or wax begonia. A list of perennials would include coreopsis, daisy bush, daylily, gaillardia, gazania, gerbera, golden shrimp plant, lantana, mallow, pentas, ruellia, salvias, shasta daisy, Stokes aster and verbena.
There are a few vegetables you'll want to try: okra, Southern peas (from seed), sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers (from plants). The following herb plants will also do well: basil, borage, catnip, ginger, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, summer savory and thyme.
Gardeners often neglect planting any bulbs in the bay area, but there are a number that do very well and add another dimension to your garden. Try aztec lily, butterfly lily, crinum, gladiolus, moraea, society garlic, spider lily and walking iris.
Here's a list of chores that may need to be done in your garden to keep it in top shape.
Fertilize citrus trees. Mature trees (planted three years or more) should receive 1 pound of fertilizer per year of age. Use a citrus special fertilizer or a balanced fertilizer containing magnesium and micronutrients. The amount should never exceed 10 pounds. Fertilize young trees (under 3 years of age) every six months, 1 pound per application.
Correct palm deficiencies. Some palms may develop manganese deficiencies. Look for yellow, brown or distorted growth on new emerging leaves. Foliar sprays of manganese sulfate (not to be confused with magnesium sulfate) at a rate of 1 teaspoon per gallon of water along with 1 pound of manganese sulfate applied to soil will correct this deficiency on the next flush of growth.
Start cuttings. Take 4- to 6-inch cuttings of tip growth. Dip cut ends in rooting hormone and stick cuttings in a sterile soil mix. Water and cover soil and cuttings with a clear plastic bag. Place in strong, indirect light. Be brave. Try everything in your garden. You might be surprised with your successes.
Irrigate according to the needs of plants. Given the recent lack of rain, most of our plants don't have a chance of being overwatered. This is a good time to understand how little supplemental water some plants need to survive. I'm hoping that the rainy season will begin soon, and when it does, a rain shutoff device will override an automatic irrigation system in the event of rain and cut down on unnecessary irrigation. These gadgets, available at irrigation supply stores, are inexpensive and easy to install.
Inspect lawns for insect pests. Some homeowners are mistaking insect damage for drought damage or still some leftover damage from the cold winter. Mix 1 fluid ounce of dishwashing liquid in a 2-gallon sprinkling can of water and drench 4-square-feet of lawn with this solution. Observe for two minutes. Pests will emerge to the grass surface and can be detected. If you have pests, treat accordingly. For chinch bugs, spot-treat affected areas with insecticides labeled for chinch bugs. To protect beneficial insects that feed on chinch bugs, spot-treat affected areas and a 10-foot buffer around them rather than spraying the entire lawn.
Prune. Light pruning may be necessary to shape plants and encourage branching. Never remove more than one-third of the plant's foliage at a time.
Spray roses to control black spot disease. Symptoms of this disease are dark, round spots with yellow halos. Use a fungicide labeled for treatment of black spot on roses following directions carefully.
Transplant palm trees. Palm roots grow when the soil is moist and warm so palm establishment is most successful during summer. Never allow soil to dry out during the first several months. Apply 3- to 4-inches of mulch.
Mow grass frequently. Mow often enough so that no more than one-third of the blade height is removed per mowing. Leave clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients or use collected clippings as mulch or compost material.
Concentrate on the above areas of your garden to keep it in shape. Also, continue to keep the weeds under control. They seem to have no problem thriving in this hot, dry weather. Visit your garden daily to see what needs to be done. This way the chores won't get to be overwhelming.
Mary Collister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.