• Get tomato supports Use tomato trusses, plastic supports that you slip over fruit-laden tomato stems to keep them from bending or breaking as the fruit ripens and grows heavy. It’s just what’s needed for ‘Mortgage Lifter’, ‘Oxheart’, and other beefy varieties. $4.50 for 100 trusses; available from the Natural Gardening Company, 707/766-9303.
• Grow colorful roses Livelier colors are the new wave in flowers, trend experts predict. Try one of these new floribundas in bright shades: vibrant orange ‘Spanish Sunset’; ‘Shockwave’, as emphatically yellow as John Deere tractor wheels; and the 2009 All-America Rose Selections winner ‘Cinco de Mayo’, a novel combination of red-orange and smoky lavender.
• Set out subtropical fruit This is the optimum time to plant bananas, cherimoyas, and other subtropical fruit in Sunset climate zones 21–24; avocados in zones 19 and 21–24; and citrus in zones 13–24. Looking for something a bit different? Try mandarinquats, a cross between kumquats and mandarin oranges, which have an edible rind like the former but a sweeter taste like the latter.
• Grasses Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince', a native grass with silvery blue leaves, is a gorgeous but aggressive landscaping plant. To keep it in bounds, plant it in its nursery container, suggests San Luis Obispo landscape designer J. Michael Barry. Cut away the bottom and the lower third of the sides. Position so that several inches of the container protrude aboveground; growing foliage will soon hide the pot. This technique also works with other rhizomatous grasses like Japanese blood grass (Imperata).
• Perennials Shop for summer and fall bloomers like asters, coreopsis, reblooming daylilies, gaillardia, gaura, gloriosa daisy, heliotrope, lion's tail, penstemon, pentas, phygelius, purple coneflower, salvia, and stokes aster. If your garden has limited space, choose perennials that grow from small rosettes, suggests Mary McBride of Mary's Garden & Nursery in Vista. They take up little space when they're not in flower. Her favorites include Aster cordifolius, A. pringlei 'Monte Cassino', Geum, Helenium hybrids, Lychnis coronaria, and Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne'.
• Veggies Set out cucumber, eggplant, melon, pepper, and tomato plants. Sow lima and snap beans, corn, cucumber, melon, and summer and winter squash. In the low desert, plant Jerusalem artichoke, okra, peppers, and sweet potatoes.
• Try nicotiana This summer annual is sun-loving, easygoing, long-blooming, and it attracts hummingbirds. The salmon and lime hybrids are our favorites ― combine them with a dark blue flower, such as lobelia, to make them pop. You may have to search a little harder to find them instead of the more common pink, red, and white shades.
• Prune subtropical plants If hibiscus, princess flower, and other subtropicals have become leggy and awkward, cut back by as much as half to reshape.
• Stop watering garlic and onions When foliage on garlic, bulb onions, and shallots begins to dry out on its own, that’s your cue to stop watering. The lack of water prompts bulbs to form the dry outer layers that allow them to be stored.
• Check for hornworms Examine your tomato foliage regularly for hornworms. The big green worms will be easier to spot if you sprinkle foliage lightly with water first; the motion of shaking off the water makes them more visible.
• Get general pest help As the weather heats up, so do pest problems. To help identify what’s bugging your plants and find a solution, use the resource Master Gardeners rely on: the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program’s site.
Next: Grow a tower of flowers
Grow a tower of flowers
Summer-blooming vines, grown up a narrow structure, add color and height to even the smallest gardens.
Choose a showy subtropical perennial, like the Mandevilla shown here; or morning glory, climbing snapdragon (Asarina), or another annual vine. Before planting, set in place a sturdy structure with enough height and heft to support your vine (adding a structure later is difficult).
As shoots grow, train them to the support with self-gripping Velcro, plant tape, or twist ties.