The heat brings with it important garden tasks – mulching and providing shade are two of the most important to help the garden survive the summer.
Keep reading for garden inspiration, a May garden checklist, and a list of which vegetables, herbs and flowers to plant in your Arizona garden in May.
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What to do in your low desert Arizona garden during May
What grows in low desert Arizona gardens in May? I’ll show you. All of these pictures come from my garden in Mesa, Arizona. Although the temperatures are beginning to climb, May in the Arizona garden is one of the most beautiful and productive times.
“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the warm earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.”~ Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
Vegetables growing in the low desert Arizona garden in May
Summer squash grows quickly. What is small one day is often ready to harvest the next day. Summer squash tastes best when small and tender. Harvest squash when fruits are 4-6 inches long.
Cucumbers grow best with a long warm (but not hot) growing season. To overcome the challenges of growing cucumbers in Arizona, the key is to plant cucumbers early in the season and plant short-season varieties, such as the Collier cucumber pictured here that will ripen before the hottest days of summer.
Harvest beans when they are small and tender. As beans mature, they lose flavor, and the pods begin to bulge with seeds. This signals the plant to stop producing.
Tips for growing flowers in the low desert Arizona garden in May
Fruit trees in the low desert Arizona garden in May
Some varieties of apricots ripen this month. Pick them just before they are ripe to prevent the birds from getting them first.
May in Arizona means mulberry, blackberry, and strawberry harvests. To prevent strawberries from drying out, water strawberries regularly during May. Blackberries are sweetest when “dull black”.
The early-ripening varieties of peaches are often ready to harvest this month.
If you notice the birds are beginning to peck it, harvest the fruit a little early and let it continue to ripen on the counter.
Herbs in the low desert Arizona garden in May
Always dry bay leaves before using. The bitter-tasting compounds in the fresh leaves are lost in drying.
The new tender leaves are the most flavorful. Keep tips pruned to encourage production.
Arizona garden in May to-do list:
- Plant container-grown roses this month on the north or east sides of yard that receive afternoon shade in the summer.
- It is ok to plant summer flowering shrubs. Do not over plant, be aware of mature size of plant, and space accordingly.
- Get warm-season annuals planted this month.
- Start seeds indoors this month for a monsoon planting of tomatoes.
- Harvest garlic and onions this month.
- Do not overwater or underwater this month. Both are harmful for plants.
- Check irrigation system and timer. Run system, and inspect all drips and sprinklers for leaks and proper watering.
- As temperatures heat up, annual plants will need more frequent watering. Water to a depth of about 6 inches every 2-3 days; allow top of soil to dry out before watering again.
- Check containers with a moisture meter or make sure top inch or so of soil has dried out before watering.
- Established citrus trees should be watered once every 7-10 days to a depth of 2-3 feet.
- Water established fruit trees once every 3-5 days to a depth of 2-3 feet.
- Grape vines need deep watering every 5 days.
- Wateruseitwisely.com is a helpful resource for landscape watering guidelines.
- Deadhead annual warm-season flowers such as coreopsis, gaillardia, marigold and cosmos to extend bloom.
- Light pruning of dead branches from trees and shrubs is okay. Delay heavy pruning until later in the fall.
- Minor pruning of citrus is okay; delay heavy pruning until later in the fall.
- Do not prune newly-planted trees or shrubs.
- Cut back (slightly) spring-flowering perennials.
- Pinch back summer-flowering perennials to encourage blooms.
- Prune suckers of tomato plants, and pinch back basil often to keep from flowering.
- Fertilize citrus this month. Water well before and after applying fertilizer. Do not fertilize other fruit trees this month.
- Plants in containers should be fertilized every 2-3 weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer or about once a month with a slow-release fertilizer.
- Fertilize summer herbs such as oregano, basil, and mint with an organic fertilizer.
Yard to do and clean-up:
- Clean up fallen fruit from deciduous trees and citrus trees to discourage pests and disease.
- Provide support for grapevines. Check underside of grape-leaves for skeletonizer eggs; if found, remove and destroy eggs. If you see caterpillars, use Bt to control before they overtake grapevines.
- Continue to thin fruit on deciduous fruit trees. This article helps explain the process.
- Prune suckers (shoots growing straight up below the bud union) on citrus and other fruit trees.
- Remove spent winter-growing annuals. Save seeds from wildflowers like poppies.
- Thin warm-season annuals to keep plants from overcrowding each other.
- Clean up and remove dead or damaged wood and crossing branches on citrus. Delay major pruning on citrus until later in the fall.
- Apply a 3-6 inch layer of mulch around base of shrubs, trees, annuals and vegetables. Mulching reduces soil temperatures and adds organic matter to the soil.
- Provide shade for annual vegetables with shade cloth, or plant in areas that receive afternoon shade.
- Harvest garlic late in the month when tops are almost dry. Once pulled, let garlic lie in bed for a day to dry out. Store in a dry shady spot to dry for 2 weeks. Store in a cool dry location. Use some and save largest bulbs to plant in the fall.
- Harvest remaining I’itoi onions this month. Store in a dry, shady spot for a week or two. Store in a dry cool location. Use some and save some to plant in the fall.
What to plant in your low desert Arizona garden in May
Vegetables to plant in the low desert in May
- Plant from seed or transplant: Amaranth, Armenian Cucumber, Basil, Cantaloupe, Okra, Malabar Spinach, Roselle Hibiscus,
- From seed: Black-eyed peas, Edamame, Yardlong Beans
- Plant from slips: Sweet Potatoes
Arizona Vegetable Planting Guide helps you learn when to plant vegetables in Arizona and whether to plant seeds or transplants.
Flowers to plant in the low desert in May
Angelonia, Balsam, Celosia, Coleus, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dusty Miller, Four O’Clock, Impatiens, Globe Amaranth, Lisianthus, Marigold, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia), Ornamental Pepper, Portulaca, Purslane, Salvia, Sunflower, Vinca, Zinnia
Arizona annual flowers planting guide helps you learn when to plant flowers in Arizona and whether to plant seeds or transplants.
- Would you like the low-desert planting dates for vegetables, herbs, and flowers in a convenient calendar?
- *PLANTING GUIDE: Each month has a planting guide (letter boards) for the vegetables, herbs, and flowers to plant in the low desert of Arizona.
- *HARVEST GUIDE: Harvest guides are the harvest photos of what it is possible to harvest each month.
Click here to learn more
Would you like more information about gardening in Arizona? This blog post shares 7 tips for growing a vegetable garden in Arizona.