What to do in your May garden

Our spring vegetable garden is looking pretty good right now. Tomatoes are filling out, beans have set blossoms and are starting to produce pods. Because of the cooler than average March and April weather, lettuce has probably not bolted yet. Peppers are also setting fruit just about now, eggplant looks good, strawberries are turning red. Swiss chard is prospering, and we’ve already picked some. Sauteed with olive or avocado oil and a little salt and pepper, it’s delicious.

Squash is blooming right now, but we’re hearing that on some plants, the male flowers are coming out long before the females, so insect pollinators (and for those of us who pollinate with Q-tips) are having a difficult time. The good news is we’ve heard no reports of the squash vine borer, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. It may be a little early. We can hope that our squash will fruit before those pests get here.

Which vegetables should I seed now

You can seed okra, cantaloupes, watermelons, any variety of southern peas now. For all these, except southern peas (blackeye peas, crowders, purple hulls, and zipper creams), you can continue to sow until July.

If you’re growing herbs, then you can certainly put in basil now through August. If you want to attract pollinators, the best basil variety for that is African blue basil. Let it flower and be amazed at the number of bees it attracts: plant two or three African blues around your garden. You may want to plant some in your flower beds too.

Insects

Last month I reported that insects were going to come back with a vengeance. Remember, though, there are 1,000 times more beneficial insects and insects that have no interest in our gardens than those pests that feast on our plants. There is an excellent book titled “Insects of Texas” by David H. Kattes. The book was published by Texas A&M Press, and you can order it online there.

Remember pollinators and other beneficial insects

Of course, pollinators, which are very important to our vegetable and ornamental gardens, and agriculture as a whole also exist in the same world. Bees (including honey bees, bumblebees, and carpenter bees, as well as the thousands of species of native bees) are vitally important pollinators. There is a variety of beetle which help pollinate and, of course, butterflies and moths. Don’t forget bats. They help in pollen exchange in night-blooming phlox, evening primrose, fleabane, moonflowers, goldenrod, nicotiana, honeysuckle, Brugmansia, and four o’clock. Bats also help fertilize figs and peaches.

Other beneficial insects have nothing to do with pollination but have a lot to do with killing harmful insects. These include parasitic wasps, lacewing larvae, ladybugs, praying mantids, and spiders.

Remember, before you get out those pesticides, be very careful not to kill beneficial insects. Use the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. This includes using the least lethal methods first and then proceeding to other more stringent actions. The IPM Institute of North America describes the steps in Integrated Pest Management. You can search for it on the Internet.