I live in a residential area where the houses are pretty close together so most of my garden is on view to neighbors. Along about May or June, I start wholesale removal of many fall and winter annuals that have done their thing well over the season. And neighbors usually tell me they’re sorry to see the annuals go because they looked so pretty.
But that’s the nature of gardening here in Southern California — we have to roll with the seasons. So next month my pansies, calendulas, and other winter annuals will be on their way to compost or green waste, to make room for warm-weather transplants of flowers that may already be blooming, or soon will start to show color.
And my neighbors will forget the winter annuals and be pleased with the summer color.
Try some different flowers this year
It may be a little late to start much from seed in May, but nurseries and garden centers will be loaded with annuals, and some perennial summer flowers, many already starting to bloom. Just be sure when you buy that you’re not taking home leftover winter annuals — in my experience, nurseries aren’t always too careful about getting rid of them at season’s end.
For a change from zinnias and marigolds, try some different flowers this year, including tall celosia, cosmos, tithonia, dwarf sunflower, amaranthus, any of the coneflowers, coreopsis, foxglove, monarda, or rudbeckia. All are good summer flowers and are easy to grow.
We can do some late pruning this month. Some ornamental trees and shrubs, and some fruit trees can still be pruned, taking out the dead wood that was the result of the unusually cold weather we had last winter.
Keep an eye on watering
We haven’t had the good rains we would have liked this past winter, so adequate moisture for our gardens will be a concern. Mulching with anything organic will help to conserve moisture, and adequate watering during the summer will be necessary.
I always advise checking and rechecking the sprinkler system to make sure it’s doing its thing properly.
Note: Click here to see Part 1 of what to do in southern California gardens in April.
Gerald Burke is one of more than a dozen garden experts from all parts of the country who blog regularly at Diggin' It. He is a freelance horticultural writer who spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association. To read more of what Gerald has written here at Diggin' It, click here.