Ann Wright: It’s May in the garden

With spring temperatures warming and the occasional dry wind blowing, there are plenty of things to do in the garden in May and early June. Most importantly, check that the irrigation systems are working at their most efficient and not exceeding the garden boundary. Make sure the micro drippers are also working properly. Also, give the potted plants some extra water on those warm, windy days.

Consider increasing your planting areas to identify the hottest areas and those with more shade. As the seasons change, the angle and intensity of the shadow changes—daily and seasonally. Finding plants that thrive in shady or partially shaded areas of the garden means the gardener has surveyed the area for sunlight. The dense, fully shaded area under a deck or patio is very different from an area in an open field that receives full sun throughout the day. Likewise, areas under the canopy of shady trees have different needs. Assess the amount of shade early in the season. Some shady trees allow more sun under the plants early in the season, and as the canopy grows the shade can become more full shade. Dry, non-flowering branches often result from too much shade.

Generally, a fully shaded area receives less than 2 hours of sunlight during the day. These areas of dense shade can be under the canopy of evergreens or densely packed shrubs where light cannot penetrate the growing area. It’s a cooling shade, but also a challenge to find things that bloom. Partially shaded areas receive between 2 and 6 hours of light at any given time during the day, with the remainder of the day in shade. Wooded areas can have mottled or filtered shade where sunlight filters through branches. In contrast, an area with full sun receives 6 to 8 hours of direct sun. Remember that the intensity of the sun is also a factor. Full, direct sun at noon on a hot August day is more intense than the morning or evening sun.



When choosing plants for a shady garden, choose plants with similar light requirements. When buying new plants, look for information on the label about the light requirements of the plant. Tags can list a single light requirement, e.g. B. “full sun” or “partial shade”, but what does it mean if there are a few descriptions? For example, if the label says “sun-partial shade,” what does this plant need? Typically the first word in the description is the preferred location for the plant, meaning the plant grows best in full sun but will tolerate some shade.

There are a number of plants that do well in the shade including annuals, perennials and shrubs. Some bloom like blue hydrangea, black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) and bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis). Plants for shade can be chosen based on foliage color and texture; some can grow in containers. Some make good cuttings for indoor arrangements.



Speaking of cut flowers, if you have a cut garden on your radar this growing season, join us on Saturday, 4 p.m.-noon at the Demonstration Garden Pavilion on the NID campus, 1036 W. Main St., Grass Valley. The presentation will include a discussion of the best plants to grow for cut flowers most of the year here in Nevada County. You will learn to include flowers, bulbs, flowering trees, evergreens and herbs in floral arrangements. Also: we will have some flowering plants for sale that day including dahlias which make spectacular cut flowers!

In addition to evaluating irrigation systems and garden lights, other gardening tips for May include:

• Think about the persistent drought and the persistently dry, hot summers and consider which plants you really want to plant in the garden. To conserve water, an extremely precious resource, consider waiting until fall to add flowering shrubs and water-wise plants, or cut back on vegetable gardens, lawns, and other thirsty plants now.

• Harden off any transplants ready to be planted in vegetable gardens – gradually move them outside over a week to 10 days to receive longer periods of sunlight. When the soil is warm and nights are consistently above 50, plant heat-loving plants.

• When soil temperatures reach 75°C, sow seeds of beans, melons, cucumbers, watermelons, squashes, and squashes. A soil thermometer is a very valuable tool and can be purchased at local nurseries.

• Remove faded flowers from roses, rhododendrons, annuals and perennials. Prune spring-blooming shrubs like lilac, mock orange, and spirea after the blooms have faded. Remove rootstocks from roses and fruit trees.

• Do not remove the foliage from faded flower bulbs until the foliage has turned brown and dry. (Energy is stored in the bulb to drive the plant to put out new growth and blooms – let them die off naturally, leaving spent foliage to nourish the bulb for the next season.)

Ann Wright is a Nevada County gardener

Spring flowers for a cut garden.
Photo by Patricia Wolfe, Master Gardener

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