Southern California gardening in May

If you garden in southern California, here's what to do in early May.

Courtesy of Gerald Burke
It’s time to think about planting summer flowers in southern California if you haven't already done it. Some fast-growing kinds can still be started from seed in May.

With the arrival of May and summer weather, Southern California is likely to get some pretty warm days. The weather has kept all the forecasters covering their tracks, and summer weather may be unusual, they say, as were the temperatures in fall and winter, as well as the lack of rain.

But whatever the weather, gardeners will go on doing their thing: planting vegetables and flowers, replacing worn-out or frozen shrubs, pruning back excessive growth, fertilizing, and all the other good things that need to be done.

Many of the fall, winter, and early spring flowers we planted — pansies, violas, stocks, snapdragons, calendulas, and others will be looking a little worn out now, and we need to think about replacing them and planting summer flowers and vegetables.

Veggies from seeds and plants

You can now sow seed outdoors of the following vegetables: asparagus; beets; beans, both pole and bush; lima beans, carrots; sweet  corn; popcorn; cucumbers; all melons; eggplant; leaf lettuce; romaine; kale;kohlrabi; peanuts; mustard greens; okra; long-day  onions and onion sets; leeks; peppers; potato tubers; pumpkins; radishes; rhubarb; spinach; Swiss chard; all squash; turnips; rutabagas; and tomatoes.

You’ll probably be happier with tomato plants this late in the spring, so think about buying already started plants rather than growing them from seed. You can also think about buying plants of some other vegetables: sweet potato, hot and sweet  peppers, lettuce, eggplant, melons, and cucumbers.

The benefit of starting with plants now instead of seed at this time is that you’ll have edible produce much sooner. The downside is that you have little choice in varieties.

Don't forget the flowers

Most of the summer flower varieties can be started from seed now. The quick-growing ones will do best, and include zinnia, dwarf and tall marigolds, gaillardia, cosmos, nasturtium, alyssum, portulaca, melampodium, and sunflower.

I would use started plants for amaranthus, fibrous or wax begonia, bells of Ireland, celosia, coleus, delphinium, dianthus, carnation, ageratum, lobelia, gazania, foxglove, geranium, hollyhock, gerbera, impatiens, petunia, larkspur, scabiosa, all the coneflowers, salvia, statice, verbena, and annual vinca.

Do keep in mind that we didn’t get a lot of winter rain, so mulch well and keep the garden well watered.


 Gerald Burke is a freelance horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association.He is one of more than a dozen garden experts from different areas of the country who blog here at Diggin' It. To read more of what he has written, click here.

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