May is the month to finish up your spring planting by focusing on those heat-loving vegetables. While many of Southern California’s native plants are beginning to shut down for the dry summer months, if you plant your vegetables now and keep them well mulched and watered, they should flourish throughout the summer and provide a bountiful return come fall.
As I wrote in March and April’s blogs, “Creating Your Own Victory Garden” and “Recession Proves Fertile Ground For Fruits & Vegetables,” more and more people are recognizing that the smart thing to do is to take a portion of their beautifully manicured landscape, dig it up and turn it into a vegetable garden – following in the footsteps of Michelle Obama’s famous White House vegetable garden. This isn’t just about saving money at the grocery store, it’s about growing your own and eating you own delicious, natural (even organic) produce.
You can either sow the seeds directly in the soil, or germinate them indoors in individual containers (see Planting Vegetable from Seed) that can be planted directly into the soil. Here is a list of vegetable that should be planted this month:
lima and snap beans, beets, carrots, celery, chard, chicory, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, leeks, warm-season lettuces, melons, okras, green onions, peanuts, peppers, pumpkins, soybeans, warm-season spinaches, squashes, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Here are some additional tips for intelligent planting:
- Interplant cucumbers and beans to repel cucumber beetles and prevent the wilt diseases they carry
- Plant potatoes to repel squash bugs
- Plant corn in blocks of at least four rows in each direction to assure good pollination and continue planting only through the end of June, as later planting suffer from severe smut when maturing in September
- Corn stalks make convenient pole bean supports if the beans are planted after the corn is six inches tall, so that the beans don’t outgrow the corn
A trellis provides support for greater vegetable and fruit production per square foot of soil and for longer periods because more leaf area is exposed to sunlight and more air circulates. Vines grown on a trellis provide shade for a porch, patio or wall. Crops grown on a trellis are easier to pick and cleaner, not available to snails and slugs and not prone to ground rot.
Some vines need more guidance and anchoring onto the trellis than others, but all will grow well with proper fertilization and irrigation.
Maintain a good mulch of organic matter covering garden soil throughout the summer. This prevents the cracking of the soil surface, holds in moisture, encourages earthworms, moderates soil temperatures for optimum root growth, improves the soil as it decomposes and prevents weeds from germinating.
A two-to-four inch layer of mulch decreases evaporation from the soil by 70% or more, allowing you to water less often (but still deeply).
For more May gardening tips, please see May Gardening Tips for Los Angeles County Residents, which is the resource for this blog.