Spotlight Columns

May gardening in El Dorado Hills

By Kit Smith
UCCE/ El Dorado County Master Gardener

Happy May Day! Here are some tasks to get your garden started and to keep it thriving.

  • Plant summer bulbs such as dahlia, gladiolus, canna and tuberose.
  • Start feeding roses with a complete fertilizer.
  • Test and repair your irrigation system.
  • Keep feeding acid-loving plants such as azalea, rhododendron, gardenia, camellia, hydrangea and Japanese maple.
  • Start feeding lawn with a high nitrogen supplement.
  • Keep removing weeds before they flower.
  • Fertilize citrus and keep feeding monthly all year.
  • Prepare vegetable beds for later when the soil is warm enough to sow or transplant. Be patient about planting your tomatoes. The soil temperature should be at least 55 degrees. If the soil is too cool, your crop will be small and susceptible to disease.
  • Pick up spent camellia blooms.
  • Deadhead spent spring bulb blooms leaving the leaves to continue to produce food that will be stored in the bulb for next year’s vitality and blooms.
  • Plant bare root trees and plants just as they are about to break dormancy. At that time, they are full of growth hormones. Plant at the same depth that they have been growing and keep watered.
  • Apply 3 inches of coarse mulch several inches away from tree and shrub trunks. Mulch reduces water evaporation, prevents weeds and buffers soil temperatures.
  • Rid the yard of snails and slugs.
  • Now is the growing season for roses, azaleas, geraniums, carnations, chrysanthemums and succulents; therefore, it’s time to take new wood for rooting cuttings.
  • Most likely the chance of frost has passed, so it is fine to move those indoor, frost-sensitive plants outside: poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), citrus, ficus (Moraceae), Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera), plumeria and most succulents.
  • Prune out leaves and twigs that look burned due to frost damage on plants such as marguerite, gardenia, Rose of Sharon, hibiscus, bougainvillea and fuchsia.

Enjoy your spring blooms indoors. Cut flowers in the early morning with very sharp loppers, clippers, pruning shears or garden scissors. A dull blade will tear or crush delicate stems. Immediately place the cut stems in 100-110 degree water to cover much of the stem. Keep cut flowers in the water for two hours and in a cool environment. At the end of the two hours, remove any leaves that will be below the water line in the vase, recut the flower stems for the size of the vase and at an angle, then put the flowers in vase of fresh lukewarm, tepid water.

Master Gardeners are available to answer home gardening questions Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, by calling (530) 621-5512. Walk-ins are welcome at our office, located at 311 Fair Lane in Placerville. Starting May 12, Master Gardeners will also be available at the El Dorado Hills Farmers Markets in Town Center, Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information about our public education classes and activities, go to our Master Gardener website at Sign up to receive online notices and e-newsletter at You can also find us on Facebook.

Mark your calendars for the Fourth Annual Master Gardeners Spring Plant Sale on Saturday, May 4, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Veterans Memorial Building Parking Lot at 130 Placerville Drive in Placerville. There will be hundreds of plants and veggies for sale, as well as informational booths.

Special to Village Life


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