If you have been active in your garden during the last two months – planting, weeding, trimming and mulching — May is the month when you can now take a little time to sit back and start to watch things grow.
Not only is the physical act of gardening a great way to stay in shape, numerous studies have indicated that humans have a basic need to keep nature close. According to a 1980s research paper by Dr. Roger Ulrich, Professor of Architecture at the Center for Healthcare Building Research at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and the most frequently cited researcher internationally in evidence-based healthcare design, the more greenery in a garden, the greater effect on health.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Ulrich found that when test subjects viewed natural scenes after being in a stressful situation there was a marked decrease in muscle tension and pulses in just five minutes. A healthy, green garden may be the perfect remedy to that nightmare work week!
Without further ado, here are your May Los Angeles gardening tips:
> Deep Watering: As you know, California is in a terrible drought and our Governor has declared an emergency. From now until November it is important to water deeply and appropriately, taking into account our drought conditions. One should water before the sun comes up so that the water can sink deeper into the soil with less evaporation. Once the sun comes out the water will be warmed, evaporate and not have the opportunity to sink deeper into the soil. Fruit trees can be deep watered occasionally. When deep watering sometimes it’s best to water, then stop watering for a short time to allow the water to be absorbed not the soil and then water again. This avoids pooling and runoff. If you have native plants, know which ones will accept summer water and which will not. Make sure to water trees and larger shrubs along the drip line. If you have not already done so, consider installing a drip irrigation and/or grey water system. For more information, visit The Greywater Guide.
> Irises: If you do not have any of these easy-to-care-for flowers in your garden, consider planting some next fall when a variety of rhizomes become available at your local nursery. Irises are in bloom right now so keep an eye out for varieties you like. The tall bearded iries are the easiest to start with and although they prefer rich, humusy, well-drained soil, they will accept almost any soil as long as they get at least 6 – 8 hours of full sun a day and moderate irrigation. Other rhizomatous irises to consider are spuria irises which make tall clumps & bloom in June/July and the native Pacific Coast irises which are spring blooming, drought resistant, low-growing and great for naturalizing.
> Cymbidium Care: This is the growing season for this terrestrial orchid and the quality and quantity of your flower spikes will depends on good summer care. Like all orchids, cymbidiums do not like soggy feet; do not let them dry out however. A once a month, deep soaking should do the trick. Keep them in 50% shade or 35% if located near the coast. As the current blossoms fade, cut off the spikes and start feeding with a complete fertilizer. I use Grow-More Premium Orchid Food – Pink from February to October and Blue from September to February
> Camellias & Azaleas: Feed, mulch and prune these plants as soon as they have finished blooming. For Camellia, the rule of thumb is feed the first time after blooming, again 4 – 6 weeks later then finally six weeks after that. For Azaleas, rule of thumb is feed right after blooming is finished then again in late September. A commercial fertilizer marked for these plants will do fine.
> Plant a Pumpkin: Get a jump on Halloween and plant a pumpkin in your garden! Chose a giant variety such as “Big Max.” Dig a hole in full sun, add organic material and include a 6-12-6 vegetable fertilizer. Plant 4 – 6 seeds 1” deep and create a little water basin around the planted seeds, water daily until sprouted. When the plants reach 4” tall, select the strongest shoot and remove the rest. Allow many fruits to reach grapefruit size then chose the one closest to the roots, with the thickest stem, best color and size and clip off all of the others. Feed monthly with a high nitrogen fertilizer, watering the basin regularly to equal 1” of rain per day. While you can still lift your pumpkin, slide a piece of plywood underneath to keep the bottom dry and protect it from rot and pests.
How is your garden going this year? Are these Los Angeles gardening tips helping out? Feel free to leave me a comment in the field below!