What to do in your garden in May
• Daylilies. For a long season of blooms with littleeffort, grow daylilies. 'Persian Market' and 'Buttered Popcorn',two new All-American varieties, are especially floriferous. Thefirst is salmon pink, the second vibrant gold. 'Frankly Scarlet', a2003 winner, is another strong performer in Southern California.'Stella de Oro', though often sold at nurseries here, doesn't dowell in our climate.
• Other summerperennials. For beautiful blooms on plants that thrive withmodest amounts of water and care, set out gaillardia, gaura,gazania, lion's tail, rudbeckia, salvias, Shasta daisies, andverbena. All are sturdy additions to the summer garden. For thelovely fragrance of vanilla in a patio pot, choose purple-floweredheliotrope. Pentas, another great choice for Southern California,has clusters of star-shaped flowers in shades of bright red, pink,lilac, or white.
• Vegetables. Set out eggplant, pepper, and tomatoplants. To find unusual varieties, if your local nursery doesn'tcarry them, order plants from the Natural GardeningCompany (707/766-9303), based in Petaluma. Sow seeds of beans,cucumber, corn, melons, andsquash directly in the ground. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (417/924-8917) is a good source for unusual varieties.
• Fertilize. Feed azaleas and camellias when theyfinish blooming. Use an acid-type fertilizer designed for them. Ormake your own, combining 4 parts cottonseed meal and 1 partchelated iron. Give subtropicals high-nitrogen food when they putout new growth. Fertilize all lawns this month; it should be thefirst application this year for warm-seasongrasses (such as Bermuda) and the last until the fall for cool-seasongrasses (like fescue). Don't forget to feed houseplants;they're growing again too.
• Prune. If abutilon, hibiscus, princess flower, andother subtropical shrubs have become leggy, cut them back by asmuch as half.
PESTS AND DISEASES
• Control rose slugs. Sawflies begin laying their eggson rose leaves in spring. When they hatch, the larvae ―called rose slugs ― feed on the leaves, creating askeletonized appearance. To control damage, start inspecting theunderside of rose foliage weekly, looking for pale green,caterpillar-like bodies. Squash the larvae with your fingers, washthem off with a forceful spray of water from the hose, or removethe affected leaves. If the infestation is widespread, apply thecontact insecticide Spinosad; spray the undersides of the leavesthoroughly.
• Look out for citrus root weevil. Diaprepes abbreviatus, a weevil that feeds on the roots ofmore than 270 species of host plants, including citrus, hasappeared in a few isolated locations in Orange and Los AngelesCounties. If it spreads, it will be a significant threat toagriculture and landscaping. For more information, as well asphotos, visit the California Department of Food andAgriculture's website. If you find an insect that meets thedescription, call this hotline: 800/491-1899.