May To-Do List….Are You Ready For Summer?

Low Desert Gardens, Beavertail Prickly Pear and Globe Mallow
Low Desert Gardens, Beavertail Prickly Pear and Globe Mallow

Low Desert Gardens, Beavertail Prickly Pear and Globe Mallow

Right now, I am sitting here in front of my computer, trying to think of an interesting and helpful subject for this post, which will be published tomorrow (Saturday).

Unlike other times when I sit down to write, I don’t have much time to spend on writing today because my youngest daughter, Gracie, needs a little extra TLC.  You see, she had 6 teeth pulled by the oral surgeon.  Right now she is sitting in our family room, with a mouth full of gauze, watching some of her favorite shows – SpongeBob and Phineas & Ferb. 

Low Desert Gardens

Low Desert Gardens

So, as I was trying to figure out what to write about, I realized that I haven’t really put together a monthly “To-Do” list for low-desert gardens for my blog.  The funny thing is, is that I write one for a major online publication every month.  And so, I will borrow some from that along with some ‘extra’ tips thrown in.

So, are you ready?

1. If you haven’t already done so, adjust your irrigation system to make sure that your plants are being watered deeply.  Trees should be watered to a depth of 3 ft, shrubs 18″ – 2 ft. and perennials and groundcovers to at least 1 ft in depth.  May is one of our driest months of the year, so plants do become quite ‘thirsty’.

2. Make sure that your potted plants are shaded for the hot, afternoon sun.  A plant’s root system is actually hotter when planted in a pot then in the ground, and the sun’s heat can actually ‘cook’ the roots of a potted plant.

Citrus Tree

Citrus Tree

3. Apply fertilizer to your Citrus tree if you have not already done so this spring.  Be sure to water your citrus trees before and after applying fertilizer.  Citrus require 3 applications of fertilizer per year – the first in February or March, the second in May and the third in August of September.

4. Prune back any frost-damaged branches from trees and shrubs if they have not leafed out yet.  Chances are that if they have not started producing new growth, then they probably never will.  

'Double Delight' Roses

‘Double Delight’ Roses

5. Apply your last application of fertilizer to your roses this month.  Roses need more water than many of your other plants, so be sure that they are receiving enough water.  Roses slow down in the summer and become somewhat dormant due to the heat, so they should not be fertilized.  You can start fertilizing them again in September.

White Vinca

White Vinca

6. Take out your winter annuals (Petunias, Geraniums, Pansies, Alyssum, Snapdragons, etc.) and replace with summer-loving annuals such as Celosia, Red or Blue Salvia, Vinca or Portulaca.  Believe it or not, Lantana also makes a great container plant.

7. Avoid pruning your Citrus trees and Roses at this time.  Citrus should be pruned in March.  Their bark is extremely susceptible to sunburn, so paint any areas that are exposed to the sun with 2 parts white latex paint mixed with 1 part water OR you can use a paint specially formulated for Citrus.  The upper foliage of Roses does become sunburned in the summer and you may be tempted to remove the sunburned growth, but don’t.  The sunburned, upper foliage actually helps to shield the lower growth from the sun.

Well, I think that is enough to keep you busy for the month of May.  I will post more ‘To-Do’ tips next month.

Right now, I have to go and take the gauze out of Gracie’s mouth 🙂

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
7 replies
  1. biobabbler
    biobabbler says:

    Wow. very interesting, esp. the sunburned "hat" that the plants form, protecting their lower leaves.

    And poor little Gracie.

    I got 12 teeth pulled (3 mid-molar zone on left, right, top, bottom) when I was in 3rd grade (or 4th?) 'cause my orthodontist was tired of waiting for my sluggish teeth to grow out. Apparently I have freakishly long roots (I'm 6'1" female so I seem to specialize in long). So I got $12 from the tooth fairy! WAYYYYy back then that was TONS of dough.

    Hope she's recovering well. =) Sounds like you're doing a great job. Thanks for the interesting pointers!

  2. Nell Jean
    Nell Jean says:

    I hope Gracie is a rapid healer and will be back to her usual self very soon.

    Your tips are timely, thanks. Some of them have to be adjusted for climate but on the whole very helpful.

    The vinca with the white eye is always cool looking; kewl, too. Madagascar periwinkle is reseeding here, so we'll see vinca blossoms soon.

  3. nicole Reeves
    nicole Reeves says:

    Love this to do list!! You could do this every month if you'd like. I feel a bit lost out there sometimes but I am learning! If you have any info on how/when/why on pruning tomatoes (mine are like out-of-conrol shrubs) I would love to read about it. Hope you're daughter is better today. They bounce back quickly from that stuff.

  4. Gardens at Waters East
    Gardens at Waters East says:

    Noelle, It’s another wonderful rainy Spring day, so I’m taking time to look over the Blogs I follow. Wanted to see what you have been up to. Here at Lake Michigan your May list would be like out July list. Really! It is still rather cold and rainy. This Spring is late if you ask me, any no doubt many others. The gardens have a number of daffodils and scilla blooming but I will have to wait for the full rush of blooms for a couple of weeks. Today our high is 47F so you see, Summer is a long way off. I'll be checking in again soon. Jack

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