Monthly Garden Calendar for Florida

Organic Gardening Month-to-Month Almanac

By Andres Mejides



May is traditionally the last month of the dry season, but it seems like the rainy season starts later every year now. "Summer" day temperatures will probably be upon us but if we're lucky, nights will still be cooler. Many tropical trees are flowering this month. Be sure to visit your local botanical garden if you're thinking of any additions to your landscape—be sure to take notice of the mature size and shape of the trees. This will help to avoid mistakes such as planting a 50-foot tree under power lines.

Every year at this time I'm convinced that my crepe myrtles are never going to break dormancy, then they put on a fantastic show. We have a row of all the available colors planted along our front yard fence. These flower so dramatically that our friends call us to see to find out when the bloom is at its peak so that they can take pictures. We also have a Queen's Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia speciosa) planted near one of our shade houses. I started it a few years ago from seed and it's grown at least 3 to 5 feet every year. If you don't want to buy an already started tree, start one from seed yourself.

Pruning Preparations. Sharpen your pruning tools; you're going to need them. I suggest that you have, as a minimum, a pair of bypass hand pruners, anvil pruners, and a double-edged saw. As a general rule, use the pruners for growth up to about three-quarters of an inch. If you're cutting green growth, use the bypass pruners; for hardened wood, use the anvil. Pruning this early gives us the advantage of being able to chip and compost the prunings before hurricane season turns them into projectiles.

Take Rooting Cuttings. Concentrate on tropicals and sub-tropicals though, save the temperate plants for fall/winter. Keep them in shade while they're developing roots. If you don't have a shade house, a screened porch will do. Or you can grow them inside under lights. Be sure that they're kept evenly moist but not soggy.

Seed Starting. You can still start some warm-weather annuals and perennials from seed. Once again, carefully monitor the soil moisture and start them in shade to part-shade. Adjust them slowly to full sun after they've been transplanted out of their starting pots/flats.

Monitor For Insects. Their populations should be almost at peak and many take advantage of the water stress that our plants go through during the dry season. Spider mite, scale and mealy bug come quickly to mind. A good shot of insecticidal soap will usually take care of the problem if you catch it early.

Lawn Looks. Speaking of water and insect stress, check the lawn for patches that look bad—you may have an insect or disease problem. If the whole lawn looks evenly bad, the problem is probably nutritional deficiency. Letting the grass clippings stay on the lawn after mowing easily solves nutritional problems.