What to do in your garden in May

Lauren Bonar Swezey

Planting

Annuals and perennials. Long-blooming annuals and perennialsprovide a good source of cut flowers. Try alstroemeria, coreopsis,cosmos, gaillardia, gloriosa daisy, lavender, Limonium perezii, lisianthus, Mexican sunflower, purple orwhite coneflower, scabiosa, Shasta daisy, yarrow, and zinnia.

Begonias and dahlias. These summer favorites provide a longseason of bloom. Dahlia flowers come in many shapes and sizes;plants range from 1 foot tall to 6 feet tall or more. Tuberousbegonias are either trailing (good for hanging baskets) or upright(for beds or pots). Flowers of both types come in a range of colorsfrom pastel to vibrant.

Hummingbird plants. One way to attract hummingbirds to yourgarden is to grow the nectar-rich plants that are their foodsources. Tubular flowers of blue, orange, pink, purple, and red aretheir favorites. The best choices include abutilon, agastache,alstroemeria, bee balm, cestrum, cleome, coral bells, fuchsia,honeysuckle, lion's tail, penstemon, red-flowered perenniallobelia, salvia, and zauschneria.

Vegetables. May is prime time to plant heat-lovingvegetables such as beans, corn, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers,pumpkins, squash, and tomatoes. Sunset climate zones 1, 2, 17: Grow short-season varietiesand plant through black plastic. In cold climates, spread floatingrow covers over vegetables to give them extra warmth and to protectthem from late-spring frost.

Wasabi. Zones 15 and 16 (with protection), 17: This cabbagerelative is familiar to fans of Japanese cuisine as the spicy,head-clearing condiment that accompanies sushi. The green paste ismade from the root of Wasabia japonica, an evergreen plant with edible, plate-sizeleaves. Planted from seed, it takes 18 to 24 months to produce acrop; that's why the frost-tender plants are best suited tocool-summer, frost-free climates (zone 17). They'll survive withprotection in slightly colder zones, but if the crown freezes,they'll defoliate at 28°, and roots will die. Grow wasabi incool shade and moist soil. Mulch in winter and protect withfloating row covers if frost is predicted. Plants and seeds areavailable from Pacific Farms (www.freshwasabi.com or800/927-2248).

Watermelons. These succulent summer fruits are fat-free andhighly nutritious; they contain about 40 percent more lycopene (apowerful antioxidant associated with reduced risk of certaincancers) than raw tomatoes. Seedless watermelons tend to have themost lycopene. Red, ripe flesh is the best indicator of lycopenecontent. Two seedless varieties to try are 'Everglade' (11-14 lb.)and 'SweetHeart' icebox melon (8-10 lb.), available from Park Seed(www.parkseed.com or800/845-3369).

Maintenance

Stake perennials. To support plants as they mature, installenclosed hoops or square stakes now so new foliage can grow upthrough the openings. Once plants are bushy, these stakes aredifficult to install without damaging foliage.

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