Verdant View – May 2023

May Is Hot And Beautiful

I recently attended a friend’s 99th birthday celebration and it was a thing of beauty. Having witnessed almost a century of life on this planet, Lois is still thriving and present and, I believe, will be with us for some time to come. Aside from the fact that she is gorgeous at 99, she radiates and creates beauty around her. She is inquisitive and constantly, beautifully expressing her views and perspectives of this amazing world we live in.

I am an avid birder (yes, like Miss Jane Hathaway of The Beverly Hillbillies) complete with binoculars, sans the cargo attire. I constantly ask if birds are attracted to beauty. My gardener friend Diego says that my home has the most birds he’s seen in all the Ribera. I asked him why and he stated that they must like all the flowering, colorful foliage, the running fountain, the glistening pool . . . mainly the beauty of the place. I tend to agree. Every year adult birds put on their best attire to attract a mate.  To the prospective mate, I’m sure the new “duds” are deemed beautiful.

Jane Hathaway

I also celebrate May Day or May 1st since it celebrates spring at its peak and the coming summer. This holiday is associated very strongly with fertility, a thing of beauty.

One thing we know here in the Ribera de Chapala is that the month of May is hot!

We anticipate the rains to start mid-June, so until then your plants will need extra watering and protection. Container plants and hanging baskets may need daily watering now that they have established themselves and the temperatures have risen. Some plants may need relocating to a shadier location where the brutal direct sun is tempered with shade. Water perennial plants, vegetables and shrubs thoroughly and allow the plants to dry adequately between watering.

Avoid overhead irrigation so late in the day that foliage cannot dry completely before sunset. Fungal and bacterial diseases thrive in warm, moist conditions and can develop overnight.

You might want to keep a pest journal to track your unwanted visitors. Walk around the garden with your garden journal and note the pests you see in your May garden.

Consider what companion plants will attract predatory insects to your garden to combat pests this season.

It’s also a great time to fertilize your vegetable garden, perennial gardens, and container plants. You can add compost around your fruit trees to give them a boost. Remember to always fertilize after you have weeded so that you are not feeding the weeds.

Encourage bees to visit your garden for better pollination. They’ll come more readily if you provide them with their favorite plants including basil, borage, calendulas, catnip, hyssop, lemon balm, mint, summer savory, thyme, and other plants with blue flowers.

What to plant in May

This month is our hottest and driest month of the year. Extra water may be needed, as well as shelter during the hottest time of day for you and your garden. Portulaca thrives, lantana, geraniums, pentas too; look for them at the viveros, but it’s too hot for pansies, petunias and primrose. The Reina de la Noche blooms in May. Start cucumbers and squashes, eggplant too, but remember they need lots of water (moist, well-drained soil.) Plant seeds for gaillardia, coreopsis, coleus and cleome. Cut back ageratum, alyssum and petunias after blooming and geraniums too, removing the shaggy growth. They will all look better for it. Don’t forget to mist your orchids regularly.

You could also put in sweet corn now, but most people wait until the rains begin. Plant corn in blocks of at least four rows in each direction to assure good wind pollination. Make succession plantings through the end of June only, as later plantings generally suffer from severe smut problems when they mature in September. Corn stalks make convenient pole bean supports. Plant the beans after the corn is six inches tall, no sooner, or the beans will outgrow the corn.

Maintain a good mulch of organic matter covering garden soil throughout the summer. This prevents crusting and 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 percent or more, allowing you to water less often (but still deeply.) Keep mulch several inches away from tree trunks and plant stems, however, for good air circulation.

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Francisco Nava
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