May to-do list for your garden

By Rebecca Jepsen
for the Mercury News
May 1, 2009

Add a layer of mulch around trees and shrubs to retain moisture, provide nutrients and deter weeds. Apply a two- to three-inch layer of organic matter or chipped tree trimmings; be sure to keep it several inches away from the trunks of the plant to prevent rot. Don't practice "wall-to-wall" mulching; remember those bees that nest in the ground.

Control earwigs, which feed on soft plants and can cause significant damage. They feed at night and hide in moist, tight spaces during the day. Trap them by setting out moistened,tightly rolled newspaper at night and then discard it in the morning.

Fire blight shows up in the spring. It causes blackened branches and twigs that look as if they have been scorched. It often affects fruit trees such as apple, pear and loquat, as well as toyons, hawthorns and crab apples. It is spread by insects, rain and pruning; if left unattended, it can kill the tree. Prune the infected branch about 8-12 inches below the visible damage. Sanitize pruners between cuts.

Prevent rust on snapdragons, sunflowers,sweet peas and pansies by avoiding overhead watering and practicing good sanitation. Rusts are easily identified by the dry, brown, orange or yellowish spores that form on lower leaf surfaces. Upper leaf surfaces of heavily infected plants can become spotted or turn yellow or brown. Remove and destroy affected plants or plant parts as soon as they appear. Fungicides, such as neem oil, can be applied at the first signs of infection.

For more May gardening tips, click on: www.mastergardeners.org/tips/may.html

What to plant now

Transplants: arugula, basil, beans, beets, chard, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers,
squash, tomatoes. Local nurseries should have a good supply of most of these.

Seeds: arugula, basil, beets, chard,corn, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes.

To find a list of warm season vegetables that do well in Santa Clara County, go to: mastergardeners.org/picks/warm.html or call the hot line.