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Northwest: May Gardening

An Idaho Master Gardener shares spring tips and local news

Sharon is a member of the Magic Valley (Idaho) Master Gardeners and a past president of the group.

Top “to do’s” for May:

  • Plant patio containers
  • Plant frost-tender vegetables
  • Finish weeding garden beds and mulching or refreshing the mulch in areas where needed
  • Finish pruning shrubs and trees
  • Spring fertilize turfgrass

Recent garden trends in this area:

More people are customizing their automatic irrigation systems to have spray heads in turfgrass areas and drip zones in garden beds. This allows us to program our systems to deliver the correct amount of water and not over water. Drip zones in garden beds are very efficient; they cut down on evaporation and deliver the water to the roots of the plants. Most plants don’t like to be sprayed because of several reasons: 

  • Perennial flower heads can become heavy and droop or break 
  • Spraying foliage can promote powdery mildew or rust 
  • Spray heads can be blocked by plants, so some get soaked and others areas don’t get any water at all

The biggest recent challenge to gardeners in this area:

One of the biggest challenges to gardeners in our area is the delivery of appropriate water for the plant. Since we only get an average of 12 inches of rainfall annually (we’re called a “high mountain desert”), augmenting water with irrigation systems is a must. Most gardeners don’t pay attention to a planting plan that takes into account how much water is optimum for each plant. By grouping like plants together and isolating drip zones in our garden beds for these groupings, we can customize our automatic irrigation systems to deliver just the right amount of water and not over water those plants that are native to our climate or otherwise drought tolerant.

About Sharon: I use the Master Gardener training in my professional life as a landscape designer and horticulture consultant. I provide clients with University of Idaho educational pamphlets because they each give specific information about a topic. It is nice to be able to pass along expert information in concise form. I have a home office, so most of my clients come to my one-acre home/gardens during the course of a design project. A garden bed tour is always helpful in pointing out plants that I’ve recommended for their landscape. My flower/shrub/tree beds are getting bigger and my turfgrass is getting smaller since it’s the biggest water user and requires the most maintenance in the landscape. My vegetable garden is also getting smaller.

I like to grow “specialty” items in my vegetable garden, such as everything to make salsa, plus unusual things like miniatures (tiny blue Indian corn or baby pumpkins), or decorative gourds, or large things like giant pumpkins. I grew the second largest pumpkin at our county fair last year.