Zone 7 & 8 May Plants

The summer heat is here, and the weather man is forecasting nothing but highs in the 90s and 100s for weeks to come. Things start to seriously heat up in May, but it’s still the perfect time to plant certain crops. There are a variety of vegetables that need warm soil and grow very quickly that are perfect to plant in warmer weather.

Beans, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes all grow very quickly and prefer warm weather. This is the perfect time to set up a trellis in your raised beds and start your seedlings. All of these prefer well drained soil and regular watering, so if you don’t get frequent summer showers you’ll need to water your crops early in the morning. Tomatoes might tend to go dormant in the searing heat of late July and August, but you can look forward to another crop as the temperatures cool into September and October.

Corn, melons, and squash can be grown in fresh tilled fertile ground and will thrive in the coming summer heat. Don’t feel that you’re planting too late into the growing season. The first frost for zones 7 and 8 doesn’t usually come until mid to late November at the earliest, giving you plenty of time to allow these crops to reach maturity.

Pepper bushes seem to capture the scorching heat of the sun and concentrate it into their tiny red and orange fruits. These bushes can be ornamental, along with sweet potatoes, and provide interest and color to a front yard bed. Sweet potatoes in particular make a fantastic ground cover.

If you’re planning on some fall and winter crops, now is also the time to start planning your seedling grow beds for kale, spinach, and lettuce. Don’t start these seedlings just yet, but go ahead and start organizing grow beds and be ready to start your fall seedlings indoors under the grow light or by a south facing window here in a few weeks.

There’s never a dull moment and there’s always something to do in an active year-round garden.

Garden Insects

One of the more frustrating things for any gardener is when they venture outside to the garden only to find voracious insects devouring the product of their hard work! What can you do about these tiny critters without resorting to poisons or insecticides and other harmful chemicals?

First, identify whether the insects are truly harmful or not. Some caterpillars for example will strip a fennel or passion vine bare within just a few days. Most of these caterpillars have very specific tastes however and will soon transform into beautiful butterflies. Pollinators like butterflies are critical to the success of any garden. Sometimes it’s better to take a little hit and have fennel, or passion vine that looks denuded for a bit just to gain the benefits that these beautiful winged creatures provide. Another alternative is to plant, or allow to grow, other plants like milkweed. In a natural meadow-like lawn, “weeds” like milkweed provide a tastier source of nutrition to many caterpillars.

This Asian Beetle is NOT a Lady Bug
This Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) is NOT a Lady Bug! They look alike, and both are effecient predators of aphids, but the Asian Beetle is an invasive species with a mostly white head and more spots, while the Lady Bug has a mostly black head and fewer spots.
If you’re inspecting your plants and find ladybugs, or their immature larva which appear like tiny black and orange alligators, stop! Those are the good guys, but their presence often indicates the presence of aphids. Aphids are the main source of prey of the ladybug. If you find aphids sucking down your plants, and you don’t see ladybugs, you can often purchase some at your local plant nursery.

The praying mantis is another beneficial insect, which preys upon many common pests. Finding one is a boon! If your garden seems overrun with harmful insects, you can purchase more praying mantis from your local plant nursery. These insects, along with other beneficial critters like spiders, tarantulas, and tiny garden snakes, all help wage war on your behalf against the tiny pests that might otherwise plague your garden.

Some pests like hornworms, which love tomatoes, are more difficult to remove. These you might need to pluck off one by one. An alternative is a dilute solution of gentle dish soap and water sprayed onto the plant, including the underside of the leaves.

If you have fowl such as chickens or ducks, allow them to roam the garden from time to time. Both chickens and ducks have quite the appetite and love dining on all manner of pests, including slugs and snails. Of course, slug and snail traps such as a saucer full of beer also work well for these molluscs.

Whatever plagues your garden, always search for the natural solution before resorting to pesticides. Many of these chemicals and compounds are indiscriminate and will harm beneficial insects along with the pests. What’s more, they can cause irreparable harm to pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Ditching Lawns for Lush, Diverse Gardens.

From the AP: America’s love affair with the lawn is getting messy

More and more people are getting away from plain, boring lawns, and moving to diverse gardens that provide abundant color, texture, and foliage, while at the same time providing ample resources for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

From the article: Monrovia, a major grower of plants for nurseries and other outlets, has seen lots of interest in a “Garden of Abundance” trend -– a more “alive-looking” yard with a variety of plants, says company trend watcher Katie Tamony. She says it’s a way of thinking about your yard “as not just being yours, but part of a more beautiful, larger world that we’re trying to create.”

Plants that attract pollinators were the category most sought-after in a survey of Monrovia’s customers, she said.

Many counties and municipalities have jumped on board as well, and are encouraging residents who transform their yards into diverse gardens by handing out placards and yard signs. Native plants, as opposed to monoculture lawns, are an environmental boon not just to pollinators, but they also consume much less water than a traditional lawn. Even those who continue to maintain their lawns are moving to native grasses that can better tolerate droughts and require very little additional watering.

Throughout the pandemic, and even with it drawing to a close, more and more people are seeking to create their own little safe havens where they live. With the huge increase of people working from home, it’s become paramount to have more natural beauty and lush green landscapes and gardens are one way people seek that out.

Whether it’s a small balcony garden of potted plants, a collection of indoor tropicals and succulents, or a large outdoor garden with hardscapes and water features, Desiree Gardens can help you create the garden space of your dreams.

Contact us today for a free one hour consultation to see how we can help you achieve your dreams.