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Just For You

Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


May 2013 To-Do List: Southern California Coastal & Inland Valley

Susan Wells

If you live in the coastal regions, gathering seaweed and bringing it to your garden can be a fun activity while you enjoy the beach. Gather from mid-beach, as the seaweed at water’s edge is too wet and that further up the beach is full of bugs. Use burlap or mesh bags and bring it home either to the compost bin or place it directly in the garden. It is an effective and nutritious mulch. And it’s free!


You may enjoy trying Malabar Spinach this season. It performs well in the heat, unlike other spinaches, and is not bothered by insects. It will grow in southern California as a perennial, with trellised vines growing to 8 feet.

Gardening in raised beds using row cover and shade cloth is a great idea for Southern California gardens. You can use the best soil mix for what you want to grow in each bed, as well as shield what you plant from the hottest sun in the afternoons. The beds can be made any size or shape, depending on what you use to edge them. Put hardware cloth on the bottom to keep out rodents and install PVC hoops on top to hold up the row cover.

Remember that, heat loving though they are, tomatoes will not set fruit when the temperature gets over about 90 degrees. Afternoon shade can help, as can misting. Make sure tomatoes are heavily mulched to keep soil cool and conserve water.

Keep all warm season vegetables, such as cucumbers and squash, picked clean to keep them producing. You can still plant eggplant, peppers and okra this month.

If you planted potatoes early, be sure to keep hilling them up to increase yields. After they bloom, start looking for new potatoes. You can harvest these without digging up the whole plant. Leave some tubers to mature.


To divide your anthurium, slice off a large clump of roots and relocate in a well drained, shady area. They do well with a balanced, slow release fertilizer with occasional foliar sprays. They are a lovely contrast when planted along with ferns and bromeliads.

May will be the last month of the year to plant begonias. Mix plenty of organic material to sandy soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Moisten dry soils before adding transplants. They will need frequent watering for the first two weeks after planting, and will bloom all year long.

Coleus and begonias are bothered by caterpillars and slugs. They can be sprayed with a soapy insecticidal spray. An application of Bt and slug bait may also be effective. Follow manufacturers’ directions.

Close-up of oak tree baseTrees/Shrubs

Limit pruning of natives like palo verde and mesquite to removing dead or damaged wood. Heavy pruning now will encourage new growth that will be damaged by the intense heat of summer. Leave that for later in the summer.

Prune flowering trees and shrubs immediately after they bloom and before they begin to set buds for next year’s flowers.

Apply a layer of compost and a layer of mulch around shrubs and trees and water deeply. The mulch will protect the roots from heat and will conserve water and discourage weeds.

Examine hibiscus growth for insects in the spring when they first appear. Treat them before they inflict serious damage. Leaf and bud drop, wilting and discoloring are signs of infestation. Feed hibiscus every month during active growth using a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 or 5-5-5.


Use care when operating lawn equipment around your trees. The bark is a tender tissue and easily damaged when crashed into, making the tree vulnerable to disease and insect infestation.

Fertilize warm season lawns this month but don’t over do it. Over fertilizing grasses during the warmer months causes the turf to stress.

When you mow, only remove 1/3 of the height of the lawn. The extra height shields tender roots and aids in photosynthesis. Get a mulching kit for your lawn mower and you won’t have to rake the clippings. They can be left on the soil to return nutrients.

If you have an irrigation system, examine it for clogged or broken heads. Repair or replace as necessary.




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