Prepping for summer and what to plant now
Text and photos by Lee Stewart
It’s May, and that means it is starting to heat up here in the Valley of the Sun. This is the time to start prepping your gardens for the intense heat that is sure to come. Tomatoes and pepper plants are in jeopardy once temperatures reach 100 degrees. It’s not only time for us to stay hydrated and cool, but our gardens need to stay hydrated and cool as well. If you are not going to shut your garden down for summer and solarize, you must start prepping your garden for summer.
Shade for your plants
May is the time to start shading and protecting your precious plants. How can you shade your plants? Well, one thing you can utilize is a shade cloth; however, you do not want to completely keep the sun out of your garden. It would be ideal for your shade cloth to be placed strategically. You want your plants to get some morning sun but be protected during the extreme afternoon sun. There are natural ways to provide shade as well. Sunflowers can grow to be up to 7 feet tall. The stem can be cut, and the root will decompose, providing organic nutrients to your garden. And who can resist wonderful roasted sunflower seeds?
Vine plants can provide a wonderful natural shade for your garden as well. Luffa should be planted in spring under full sun under a trellis. Luffas are hardy and can withstand our warm temperatures if they are watered correctly.
Watering your garden
Now let’s talk about hydration and watering for your garden. It is important that your garden is watered regularly during the extreme heat. It is ideal to have a watering schedule for your garden soil. It would be ideal to have a timed watering system to ensure your garden is getting the same amount of water at the same time daily. To ensure that you are not overwatering and/or underwatering, it may be beneficial to
utilize a moisture meter.
It is also important to look for nutrient deficiencies during the intense heat. If there is a nitrogen deficiency, there will be light green upper leaves or yellow shriveled leaves. If there is an iron deficiency, there will be yellow or white new leaves with green veins.
What can you grow in May? While there isn’t a great deal that you can plant during the month of May, there are a few plants you can sow. You can plant okra during this time if the soil is 65-70 degrees for the seed to germinate. Okra is perfect for jambalaya and gumbo. You can also plant your melons and beans during this time.
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Lee Stewart is a certified master gardener through the Maricopa extension program with The University of Arizona. She has been gardening since the age of 7. She has a passion to educate people not only on how to survive but how to thrive. Stewart is the founder and owner of Veg Up Get Dirty, a company that provides garden coaching, custom garden design, custom garden building, and garden services. She has a contagious enthusiasm for gardening, health, and wellness.