Garden Tips Newsletter – May 2012


Learn about local resources and opportunities for gardening.

Long-time Master Gardener Romola Georgia offers up timely tips to keep your garden in top condition.

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Archived newsletter from May 2012. Click here to return to the Archive list.

Transition Palo Alto Garden Notes for May

I’ve been thinking this month about the gardener’s role in protecting and nurturing the soil ecosystem. In addition to the visible earthworms and sowbugs that decompose and shred, we must be mindful of the bacteria, fungi, and nematodes that we do not see, but are also hard at work improving the soil texture and nutrient availability. For growing vegetables in our area:

  1. Use compost to improve the soil structure and increase the availability of nutrients and water
  2. Use organic fertilizer to provide essential plant nutrients. Our gardens usually need nitrogen. Examples are alfalfa meal or pellets or composted manures which are mixed into the soil at planting time.
  3. Use mulch on your vegetable bedsto  conserve water, suppress weeds, and encourage that biotic life in the soil as it heats up this month. Straw or unsifted compost works well to protect the soil from the hot sun.

May is heaven for gardeners in the Bay Area

  1. Plant out seedlingsof those summer crops you’ve been waiting for: tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. You can nip the lower leaves from your tomato seedlings and set the plant deeply into the soil. It will respond by developing a stronger root system and a healthier structure. Don’t forget to remove all the little buds and flowers from your peppers for the first 3 or 4 weeks. The pepper needs to develop a strong structure and good root system to support the fruits. I also remove any tomato flowers I see at planting time.
  2. Squash, beans, cucumbers and melons can be seeded directly in May. Think about the space they will need and any support structure you will offer.
  3. You can still directly seed arugula, carrots, beets, radishes, and chard.
  4. 4.   Flowers and herbs are wonderful for your cooking and also for the beneficial insects they sustain. This year try some basil, dill, parsley, borage, cosmos, marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers, or zinnias.

Fruit trees: Don’t forget to thin your fruit. Thinning is an important aspect of fruit tree care, promoting not only healthier fruit, but also avoiding alternate bearing syndrome (a lot of fruit one year and very little fruit the following year.) Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots will benefit from reducing to one fruit per cluster or making sure that no two fruits touch each other. Stone fruit can be twisted off, but pome fruit should be clipped with your pruners. If you expect a large harvest or cannot use all your fruit, consider contacting Village Harvest  They will harvest your trees and donate a portion to the needy. They also have tips on managing your trees.

It’s feedback time. Transition Palo Alto has been sending this garden note for several months to the “garden interest” group.  Please send me some feedback.  What has been useful?  What has been interesting?  What would you like more of?  What else would you like to see in the garden note  Please send comments to:

Romola Georgia

The purpose of this group is to share information, resources, questions, and events about vegetable gardening. Our wonderful Mediterranean climate permits us to grow and eat from our own gardens in every month of the year.


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