Gardening May 2013: Vegetables to plant now

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 - 1:22 pm | Page 8X
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 - 6:28 pm

I've always gardened on a budget, so whenever I buy a plant, I look to see whether I can take cuttings. It takes patience and time, but it's one of the most enjoyable parts of gardening. Late spring and summer are the best times for cuttings.

Choose healthy plants. Water them well the night before. Mornings are the best time to take cuttings. Use sharp shears, and cut stems – at an angle – about 6 to 8 inches long.

Choose growth that is not too soft, not too old. Strip the leaves from the bottom two-thirds of the stem. If the remaining leaves are large, cut them in half. Put cuttings in a coarse soil mix. Avoid soil mixes with manure. I put five or six cuttings in a gallon pot.

Water them. Make sure they stay damp, not soggy, and get plenty of shade. Sprinkle the leaves briefly and gently twice a day.

It takes several weeks for roots to form. Warren Roberts, the former superintendent of the UC Davis Arboretum, advises handling cuttings with "gentleness, patience and hope."

Once they are well rooted, you can pot them up individually or put them in the garden. Keep an eye on them until they are well established. Easiest plants to root from cuttings: geraniums, salvia, lavender and roses. It's worth a try.

MAY CHECKLIST

When fruit begins to ripen, hang old CDs in the trees to scare away birds. Hang them just before harvest or the birds will get used to them. You can also hang strips of aluminum foil, anything that is shiny and moves to scare them away.

Plant pumpkins, squash and melons. You can seed them directly where you want them to grow.

Break off old flowers on rhododendrons. Be careful not to damage the new buds or you won't have any flowers next year.

Flowers to plant from seed this month: sunflowers, zinnia, marigolds, cosmos, salvia, celosia and asters. You can sow them where you want them to grow (pay attention to sun and water) or in pots.

Vegetables to plant now: cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, squash, eggplant and melons.

Pinch asters marguerites, petunias, mums and fuchsias for busier growth.

Feed your lawn. For most lawns, nitrogen is the only nutrient needed on a regular basis.

Watch newly planted trees, shrubs, vegetables and perennials for signs of stress, mainly from heat or lack of water while they are getting established. A slow soak that wets the entire root area is best. Apply mulch to the soil to conserve water.

Prune spring blooming shrubs like forsythia after they are done blooming.

Watch for aphids on roses – hose them off or use insecticidal soap.

Begin summer pruning of fruit trees to keep them small. Keep thinning fruit on fruit trees, especially near the ends of the branches.

Mark the raspberry and blackberry stems that are producing fruit. You'll cut these vines to the ground at the end of the season.

Cut gladioli stalks back when flowers have died.

For a succession of crops, plant beans, radishes, carrots and corn every two weeks through July.

Pinch back fuchsias, mums and petunias to keep them full and bushy. Remove spent flowers from annuals like marigolds.

Prune away spent iris stalks. Fertilize iris with a 10-10-10 fertilizer.

When temperatures start to heat up, water early in day.

Put together a garden first aid kit. Include medication and cream for insect bites.

Pinch spent blossoms from marigolds and petunias to keep them producing. If any marigolds develop seeds, let them dry on the plant and sprinkle them where you want them to come up next year.

Keep pulling weeds.

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