What to do in your Northern California garden in May
Photo by Linda Lamb Peters


Sow seeds of cucumber, eggplant, melon, and squash directly in the soil.

Set out tropicals and subtropicals such as bougainvillea, hibiscus, and mandevilla to be established over the warm season. In areas with winter frost, plant in a protected site like a south-facing wall or beneath an overhang.

Start seed potatoes in the ground in all but the hottest inland areas. Irish Eyes Garden Seeds has a large selection of stubby fingerlings to plant that are great for roasting.

Fill large containers with fragrant perennials so you’ll catch a pleasant scent when you brush by; good choices are lavender, nicotiana, and summer phlox.


Keep deer out of the garden by adding plants they ignore, such as Erigeron karvinskianus, ‘Moonshine’ yarrow, Russian sage (Perovskia), santolina, and Spanish and English lavender.


Summer crops including corn, squash, and tomatoes need nutrient-rich soil to thrive. Before you plant these edibles, till a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost into beds.

Aerate lawns that get heavy foot traffic to ensure that water, fertilizer, and oxygen reach the roots. Use a manual aerator to punch holes in small lawns. Or rent a power core aerator from a landscape equipment supplier, or hire a professional.