Gardening tips for May
The First Month of the Rainy Season
May usually signals the beginning of Florida's rainy season, although it is not at all unusual for May to be as dry as March and April some years. On average we can expect to receive nearly seven inches of rain this month, the daily high temperature rises to about 85º while the daily low does not usually fall below 71º. In May, the prevailing wind direction is from the east-southeast with an average velocity of 9.5 miles per hour.
Along with the warmer and wetter weather come the insects: Chinch bugs, scale insects, caterpillars, grasshoppers, katydids, and an army of other bugs. But be cautious with the insecticides as along with the bad bugs come the beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies and ladybugs. Indiscriminate and over use of insecticides tends to throw off the natural good-bug/bad-bug balance in your garden. Over time the bad bugs tend to build up their resistance to the poison and become less controllable while the pollinators and predators become weaker and their numbers decline. When this happens you will end up using more and stronger poisons to control the bad bugs. They in turn will become more resistant and the cycle will continue to the point where the bad bugs will thrive while the critters that should be in your garden will not and your garden will require massive doses of insecticide to do well (for example, consider how ineffective Fire Ant poisons are). Meanwhile you will notice that birds, lizards, frogs and toads, bees and butterflies are no longer present in your yard.
May in the FloridaGarden is also the time for several flowering trees and vines to show off their best. The list includes Tabebuia (magnificent golden blooms), Bougainvillea (with colors of red, yellow, peach, purple, crimson, pink, white, apricot, magenta, orange and highlights and mixes of all of the above depending on the variety of the plant), Wisteria (which can grow and flower in South Florida, but flowers better further north), Tibouchina (purple or pink flowers), Golden Shower Tree, Yellow Poinciana, and Crape Myrtle (cloaked in many colors including red, pink and purple).
May is also the month to consider heavy pruning of many plants including trees which may be a threat during the upcoming hurricane season. When fertilized and watered, if required, they will come back and produce dense, bushy growth during this month despite the pruning.
May is the month to begin planting trees, shrubs and vines. But wait until after the first rainy spell to plant so that the ground is thoroughly wet. Even then continue to water as needed in case the rains do not soak your area as expected. If you are still hoping to plant a traditional vegetable, herb or annual garden this month these are your best bets:
Vegetables: Calabaza, Chayote, Cherry Tomatos, Collards, Cowpeas, Dasheen, Lima Beans, Malabar Spinach, Malanga, Mustard, Papayas, Okra, Peanuts, Pumpkins, New Zealand Spinach, Snap Beans, Southern Peas, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, Yams, and Yard-long Beans.
Herbs: Basil, Chives, Dill, Sage, Savory, Sweet Marjoram, Mexican Tarragon, Mint, Rosemary, and Thyme.
Flowers: Balsam, Begonias, Blue Daze, Celosia, Coleus, Cosmos, Cockscomb, Four-o'clocks, Gaillardia, Globe Amaranth, Gomphrena, Hollyhocks, Impatiens, Marigolds, Melapodium, Moon Vine, Morning Glories, Ornamental Peppers, Periwinkles, Petunias, Portulaca, Purslane, Salvia, Sunflowers, Torenia, Wax Begonias, and Zinnias.
Bulbs: Achimenes, Agapanthus, Blood Lilies, Caladiums, Canna, Crinums, Daylilies, Gladioli, Gloriosa Lilies and Spider Lilies, and Zephyranthes (Rain Lilies).
What to Do This Month:
Pests: Harmful insects become more active as the weather warms. Watch for
thrips, scale, and mites on ornamental plants.
Gardenias: While some yellowing of older leaves is normal, yellowing of new
growth usually indicates a micronutrient deficiency.
Oleanders: Chewed or ragged leaves indicate oleander caterpillars at work.
Lawn insects: Watch for damage from chinch bugs in St. Augustine and begin
scouting for newly hatched mole crickets in Bahia lawns.
Tomatoes: Watch for pests, disease, and nutritional disorders on tomato plants.
Lawn nutrition: If Bahialawns are yellowing, iron can correct the problem.
Prevent lawn diseases: Prevent or minimize disease by following proper cultural
practices when caring for lawns.
What to Do Every Month:
• Adjust irrigation based on rainfall.
• Deadhead flowers to encourage new blooms.
• Monitor the garden for insects and disease.
• Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials and water until established.
• Mow lawnsat recommended heights:
• St. Augustine & Bahia: 3-4”
• Centipede: 1.5-2.0”
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Resource Guide for District III Clubs
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