Magazine article Sunset

What to Do in Your Garden in May

Magazine article Sunset

What to Do in Your Garden in May

Article excerpt


* Back-of-the-border blooms. Sunset climate zones 7-9, 14-17: For vertical accents in borders, grow tall, upright bedding plants behind shorter ones. Good choices include green-flowered Nicotiana langsdorffii and fragrant N. sylvestris, 'Aztec Sun' and 'Goldfinger' Tithonia, and tall-growing varieties of cosmos (such as the Sensation series) and sunflower. All grow 3 to 6 feet tall.

* Ornamental grasses. With their flowing habit, grasses lend a sense of movement to the garden. The following species are also drought-tolerant, take full sun to part shade, and thrive in Northern California (in zones 1-2, treat them as annuals): Elymus glaucus, E. triticoides, Festuca paniculata, and Pennisetum messiacum. If you can't find the plants locally, order from Greenlee Nursery ( or 909/629-9045).

* Summer annuals. Zones 7-9, 14-17: May is the optimum planting month for annuals. In sunny beds, plant cosmos, Madagascar periwinkle (Vinca rosea), marigolds, nasturtiums, petunias, salvia, and zinnias, from either sixpacks or 4-inch containers. In shade, grow coleus and impatiens. Zones 1-2: Plant after danger of frost has passed.

* Veggies for containers. Zones 7-9, 14-17: If you don't have space to grow vegetables in the ground, plant them in containers. Tried-and-true favorites that do well in pots include 'Blue Lake Pole' beans (train them on obelisks), 'Giant Marconi' pepper, 'Early Girl' and 'Sun Gold' tomatoes, and 'Eight Ball' or 'Spacemiser' zucchini. Seedlings are available in nurseries now. Choose a container at least 18 inches deep and wide, and use fresh potting mix. Place the pots in full sun. Fertilize and water regularly.


* Aerate lawns. Lawns that get a lot of heavy foot traffic may have compacted soil, making it difficult for water, fertilizer, and oxygen to reach the roots. If you can't push a screwdriver up to its handle into the turf, it's time to aerate. …

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