What to do in your garden in May

Planting and Harvesting

Gourds. Among the Southwest’s first domesticated plants,gourds are still grown and dried for use as containers,decorations, and musical instruments. Sunset climate zones 1a-3b:Plant ‘Santo Domingo Striped Dipper’ or ‘Tarahumara Warty’. Zones10, 11: Try ‘Hopi Rattle’, ‘O’odham Dipper’, or ‘Wild Luffa’. Zones12, 13: ‘Mayo Deer Dance Rattle’ or ‘Tarahumara Canteen’. All theseare available from Native Seeds/SEARCH (www.nativeseeds.org or866/622-5561). Soak seeds overnight, then plant 1 inch deep in theground near a fence or trellis that vines can climb.

Herbs for aromatherapy. The foliage of many herbs containsessential oils that aromatherapists prescribe to produce variouseffects. For example, basil, chamomile, lavender, and marjoram arebelieved to create a relaxing mood, while clary sage, lemon balm,lemon verbena, and mint are reputed to lift the spirits. Rosemaryand thyme are said to improve concentration and memory. To releasethe aroma, harvest and crush leaves, then gently simmer them in apot of water to scent a room, or wrap them in cheesecloth to slipinto a pillowcase.

Landscape plants. Consider these native and desert-adaptedplants. Trees: Anacacho orchid tree (Bauhinia lunarioides) and Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis). Shrubs: Desert honeysuckle (Anisacanthus quadrifidus wrightii), pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla), sweet acacia (Acacia farnesiana), Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens), and violet silverleaf (L. candidum).

Rabbit-resistant plants. Rabbits will eat just aboutanything, but they dislike highly aromatic plants like lavender,marigold, mint, rosemary, salvia, and society garlic. Other plantsthey find unappealing include agave, euphorbia, lantana, Mexicanevening primrose, nandina, plumbago, and verbena. It helps to startwith plants large enough to survive a little nibbling.

Seasonal color. Sow seeds or set out transplants of thesewater-thrifty flowers. Zones 1a-3b: Ageratum, coreopsis, andgaillardia. Zones 10-13: Coreopsis, cosmos, blue and scarlet flax,gaillardia, Mexican hat, portulaca, purple coneflower, andzinnia.

Vegetables. All zones: Sow seeds or set out transplants ofchiles, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, summer andwinter squash, and tomatillos. Two good regional seed sources arePlants of the Southwest (www.plantsofthesouthwest.comor 800/788-7333) and Seeds of Change (www.seedsofchange.com or888/762-7333).

Vines. Zones 10, 11: Plant Carolina jessamine, Lady Banks’rose, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, and Virginia creeper.Zones 12, 13: Plant any of the above, plus bougainvillea and coralvine.


Check irrigation systems. Repair leaks and replace cloggedor broken bubblers, drip emitters, and sprinkler heads.

Control insect pests. Blast aphids and spittlebugs offplants with a strong jet of water from the hose. Control spidermites on evergreens by spraying with insecticidal soap.

Mulch. Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of bark chips, compost,or forest mulch around plants to help insulate roots and retainsoil moisture.