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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    Now - Sept. 7: Andy Warhol’s Flowers exhibit at Cheekwood. Nearly a dozen screen prints from the artist’s original Flowers series, paintings, studio photographs and more. Information: www.cheekwood.org.

    Aug. 14 & Aug. 16: Cindy Shapton, the Cracked Pot Gardener workshop on Edible Organic Container Gardening, a hands-on workshop to learn to grow a container kitchen garden. Aug. 14, 6 – 8 p.m.; Aug. 16, 10 a.m. – noon. $45 per person. Register and learn more about other upcoming workshops at The Cracked Pot Homestead.

    Aug. 19: Carol Reese, of UT Gardens in Jackson, Tenn., is the guest speaker at this month’s Perennial Plant Society meeting. Topic is “Just Do It!” focusing on garden ideas and how to refresh older gardens. Refreshments at 6:30, meeting begins at 7 and the public is invited. Details at www.ppsmt.org.

    Aug. 19 & Aug. 23: Cindy Shapton, the Cracked Pot Gardener workshop on Tomatoes – Canning, Drying and Freezing, a hands-on workshop to learn about preserving tomatoes. Each workshop is 10 a.m. – noon. $45 per person.Tap here to register and to learn more about other upcoming workshops at The Cracked Pot Homestead.

    Aug. 21: Lunch & Lecture: Easy Gardens for the South, featuring author Harvey Cotton who describes the plants that are key in creating a successful, sustainable garden. Noon – 1 p.m., Cheekwood’s Potter Room. Tickets $15 for Cheekwood members, $25 for non-members. Details at www.cheekwood.org.

    Aug 21 & Aug. 26: Cindy Shapton, the Cracked Pot Gardener workshop All about Teas, a hands-on workshop. Aug. 21, 6 – 8 p.m.; Aug. 26, 10 a.m. – noon. $45 per person. Tap here to register and to learn more about other upcoming workshops at The Cracked Pot Homestead.

    Aug. 23: Organic Gardening 101. Visit the garden with naturalist Deb Beazley and learn the basics of how to start and grow your own garden at home. 9 – 11 a.m. Call 615-352-6299 to register for this adult level program.

    Aug. 28: Middle Tennessee Hosta Society meeting features hosta hybridizer Bob Solberg, whose topic, “Back to Basics, A Hosta Fact Sheet” is useful for beginners and experts. 6:30 p.m., Cheekwood’s Potter Room. Open to the public. Information on the Middle Tennessee Hosta Society is at www.mths-hosta.com.

    Aug. 28 & Sept. 2: Cindy Shapton, the Cracked Pot Gardener Pesto Party workshop, a hands-on workshop to learn to make original pesto and variations. Aug. 28, 6 – 8 p.m.; Sept. 2, 10 a.m. – noon. $45 per person. Tap here to register and to learn more about other upcoming workshops at The Cracked Pot Homestead.

     

     

     

     

     

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Grow favorite herbs indoors

QUESTION: We love fresh herbs and grew basil, rosemary, parsley and sage in the garden this summer. Can we dig them up and bring them inside to grow all winter?

You can bring basil indoors to grow during winter.

You can bring basil indoors to grow during winter.

With the right conditions and consistent care, it’s certainly possible to bring herbs inside and keep them through the winter. Some fare better indoors than others. Here are details for bringing your favorite herbs indoors:

Basil: An easy way to keep basil for growing indoors is to root cuttings now and plant them in pots later. The Herb Society of America suggests cutting 4-inch portions of stems before they flower, remove the bottom leaves, and place the stems in a small container of water. Place it on a windowsill and change the water every day. After roots form, plant the cuttings in a clean, well-drained pot in good potting mix. To grow successfully indoors, basil needs strong light (this usually means a south or west window, or grow it under artificial light). Keep the soil evenly moist and provide fertilizer about once a month.

Rosemary: This is a plant that may be happier outdoors all winter than in the dry air of a heated house. If you’ve planted one of the more hardy varieties, it should survive the winter outdoors, especially if it’s in a protected location in the garden. But rosemary can also be rooted in water or in moist potting soil, planted in potting mix and place in a sunny location indoors. Mist it frequently to keep the air moist, or set the pot on a layer of stones in a tray of water.

Parsley: This is an herb that may be easier to grow indoors from seed. Parsley is a biennial that grows a long tap root, which makes it more difficult to dig up and repot. Soak the seeds in warm water overnight, and sprinkle them onto good potting mix in pots that drain well. Cover the seeds with about ¼ inch of potting mix and keep the soil evenly moist. Place the pot in a bright (south-facing) window or under fluorescent lights. Parsley seeds are slow to germinate, so be patient. Plants grown indoors may be more spindly, due to lower light levels, but the flavor is just a good.

September in the garden: Summer is winding down, but September brings a brand new season for gardens: September Garden Calendar in The Tennessean plus garden tips and tasks.

Garden events in Middle Tennessee

Sept. 17 – Perennial Plant Society meets at Cheekwood in Botanic Hall, speaker is landscape designer Marty DeHart on “Problem Area Perennials.” Refreshments at 6:30, meeting at 7, open to the public.

Sept. 21 – Oct. 31: Cheekwood Harvest Fall Festival includes scarecrows along the garden paths, a pumpkin patch, guided garden tours and nearly 5,000 autumn-hued chrysanthemums in the Robertson Ellis Color Garden, planted specifically for Cheekwood Harvest. The full schedule is at www.cheekwood.org

Sept. 21 and 22: The Tennessee Gesneriad Society annual show and sale at Cheekwood in Botanic Hall. There will be many rare and unusual plants on display as well as for sale. Hours on Saturday September 21 are 9:30a.m.-4:30p.m., and on Sunday September 22 are 11:00a.m.-4:30 p.m. For more info, call Julie at 615-364-8459.

Sept. 26: Middle Tennessee Hosta Society meets at Cheekwood in the Potter Room; speaker is David Bates of Bates Nursery on shrubs that tolerate shade for use in hosta gardens. The meeting is at 6:30 and is open to the public.

Sept. 28: Welcoming Fall Wildflower Hike at Shelby Bottoms NatureCenter. A short naturalist-led hike for all ages, 10 – 11 a.m. Call (862-8539) or email (shelbybottomsnature@nashville.gov) to register.

At Warner Park Nature Center, Deb Beazley leads adults on a stroll through a meadow to enjoy the fall wildflowers, 9 – 11 a.m. Call 352-6299 to register.

For trees and shrubs, prime planting time

QUESTION: I have a hydrangea that I bought at a nursery last spring, and it’s still in the pot it came in. Is it too late to plant it?

Fall is a good time to plant hydrangeas and other woody ornamentals.

Fall is a good time to plant hydrangeas and other woody ornamentals.

I’m sure every gardener has, at some point, bought sturdy plants in the spring, but somehow never got around to putting them in the ground (I know I have!). You can be sure that your hydrangea will be happier in the ground than it will be if it has to struggle through the winter in a plastic pot.

In fact, fall and winter are good times to plant woody ornamentals, when they are dormant and have fewer energy requirements. They still need water, but require less than they would in spring going into the hot summer. In fall, new trees and shrubs can begin to establish a strong root system and be ready to begin new growth next spring.

Here are general guidelines from UT/TSU Extension for planting container-grown trees and shrubs:

-Choose your location and begin by digging a wide hole, two or three times the width, but no deeper than the height of the root ball in the container.

-Water the plant before you take it out of the pot. After you remove the plant, cut any roots that circle the ball of soil (if the roots and soil don’t come out easily, cut the plastic away from the root ball. Don’t pull the plant out by its trunk). Use a sharp knife to make two or three vertical cuts, and gently loosen the ball to expose more roots to the soil.

-Place the plant in the hole to that the top of the root ball is even with the soil line or an inch or two above it, and backfill the hole with soil and water again. Rake over the soil to even it out with the ground, and cover the area with 2 or 3 inches of mulch (keeping the mulch away from the shrub’s trunk.

-Don’t forget to provide water to newly planted shrubs and trees if the weather is dry.
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Give mums a trim now … or later

Question: In your opinion should chrysanthemums be cut back in the late fall or spring?

Different sources say different things about what to do with mums after they are browned by frost. One source advises to cut them back in the spring; another says to cut them back to about 8 inches after they finish blooming in the fall.

In my experience, either way seems to work. I usually leave them until spring in my garden beds, which tend to be informal (some might call them “messy”), and often the new leaves start to come up from the roots very early — as early as February, if we have a mild winter. At that time, I cut back all the dead stems and divide and move clumps where necessary, and they grow happily and vigorously through the spring and summer. I cut them back a couple of times during the summer to delay flowering, and they start to bloom in the fall.

If you prefer a tidier look throughout the winter, cut off the blooms after they turn brown. They will rest during winter and be ready to pop up again early next spring.

 

Give porch ferns a place indoors

QUESTION: Is there a way to save Boston ferns over the winter without bringing them into the house? The ferns I had on my porch this year were large and beautiful. Indoors, they drop leaves and make a mess. Can I keep them in the garage?

Most experts suggest the best way to keep Boston ferns over the winter is to bring them in and treat them like house plants. Unless your garage has a window that allows bright light to enter, it’s probably not the best option.

Southern Living Garden Book provides a method that may minimize leaf drop: “In fall, use sharp scissors to cut back all side fronds to the rim of the pot, leaving the top growth about 10 inches high. Place the pot indoors next to your brightest window and keep the soil fairly moist. By spring, your plant should be bushy again and ready for its return to the porch.”

Houseplant expert Barbara Pleasant (The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual) adds that Boston ferns need high humidity in addition to bright, filtered light, so daily misting is helpful. A light dose of balanced houseplant fertilizer every couple of weeks keeps them healthy.

It’s normal for them to shed leaves, she says, so keep scissors handy for clipping broken or brown fronds.

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Bring bay indoors

I bought a bay laurel seedling this past spring that was about six inches tall and set it out in a pot in the herb garden because I heard you may have to bring it indoors in the winter. It’s now about a foot tall. Could it survive outdoors? How do you harvest and use the leaves?

Bay laurel, or sweet bay (Laurus nobilis) is generally considered hardy to Zone 8 (well to the south of us here in Middle Tennessee), so it will need to come indoors before it gets too cold.

Place the plant where it gets as much sun as you can give it, in a south or west-facing window, if possible, and don’t let it get too dry (keep the soil evenly moist but not overly wet, the experts at the Herb Society of America suggest). It may also appreciate occasional misting if the air in your house is very dry. Take it back outdoors when the weather is consistently above freezing in the spring.

Bay leaves can be used dried or fresh; they’re usually added to long-cooking soups and stews. Snip them from the plant and use them as needed, or dry them to save for later. Use them whole (crumbled leaves have very sharp edges, which could be an unpleasant surprise to diners), and be sure to remove them before you serve. A bay leaf is a key ingredient in a bouquet garni (tied in a bundle along with thyme, parsley and other herbs), which would be added to a dish while it’s cooking and removed before serving.

By the way, there have been reports of bay laurel surviving the winter in colder climates, provided it is in a protected area. But to be on the safe side, find a sunny spot for it indoors.

 

Too hot to bloom!

QUESTION: I have a pot of impatiens that was doing well, but now the flower buds have been dropping off or turning brown before opening. The pot is always in the shade and I keep it well watered and fed. It has nice green leaves, just no flowers. Any idea what could cause this?

If there are no other symptoms – no spotting of the leaves, no rotting of the stems, no powdery coating or other unusual growth – a good guess at the source of the problem would be the long period of extreme heat. Even in the shade it has been extremely hot (remember that day it hit 109 degrees?) and plants in containers may suffer more because the pot can dry out quickly. A plant under stress will shed its flowers first.

By now, with several days of rain and more reasonable temperatures, the impatiens (and many other things) should begin to recover.

This is a good time to mention again, though, an email I received from UT Extension plant disease expert Alan Windham, in which he warned about the development of downy mildew in beds of impatiens. Watch for plants that are losing leaves, that don’t flower, and that have white growth on the undersides of the leaves, he advises. This disease can be extremely damaging, so pull up, bag and dispose of infected plants to keep it from spreading. There’s more about it at UT Extension’s Soil, Pest and Plant Center Facebook page.

…And too hot to plant, too

QUESTION: My daughter has thinned out her iris bed and given some to me.  She has given me the whole plant (bulbs and stems). I know I can not plant them at this time but how do I store them until they can be planted in November or December?  Do I need to cut the stems off now or leave them as is?  Thanks for any information you can provide. 

You’re right, with too much heat and still too little rain, it’s a bad time to plant anything. Irises are pretty hardy so you can wait to plant the rhizomes.

For now, cut the leaves off to about 3 to 6 inches, and remove as much of the soil from the rhizome as you can. Don’t wash them, just brush off the dried soil. Check to make sure there are no rotting places, insects or diseased-looking spots (discard those if there are) and store them in a cool, dry place.

You don’t need to wait until November to plant them. While they’re pretty hardy, they’d still rather be in the ground, so consider planting in September, or after the worst of the summer heat passes.

When you do get ready to plant, here’s a helpful link from the American Iris Society that provides information.

Another reminder about watering: In spite of all the rain lately, we’re still experiencing severe drought conditions in Middle Tennessee. Young trees suffer most. If you planted trees this spring, give them a little extra attention to help them make it through this hot, dry summer. Click here to see the Nashville Tree Foundation’s guidelines and tips to help keep your trees healthy.

Spider mites like it hot. Watch your roses

QUESTION: What could be stripping the leaves off the branches of my roses? I spray with a product that is supposed to protect roses from insects and diseases, but it hasn’t helped.

Keep an eye on roses when it’s hot and dry. Spider mites can turn a lovely rosebush into an ugly mess.

This time of year, with this kind of weather, suspect spider mites, which thrive when the weather is hot and dry, say rosarians at the Nashville Rose Society. The tiny creatures get on the undersides of leaves and feed on the plant’s juices. The damaged leaves look speckled, turn yellow and fall off.

Spider mites are not insects; they are more closely related to spiders, so insecticides won’t have any effect. You can use a miticide, but it can be expensive. The best and cheapest way to control them is with a blast of water directed at the undersides of the leaves, rosarians say. If you do this every three days for a week or so, you break the mites’ gestation cycle.

Here’s a little more information about the tiny arachnids: Adult mites are less than 1/50 inch long. They use their mouthparts to pierce individual plant cells and remove the liquid. They produce webs that can coat the foliage with a fine silk that collects dust, making the leaves look dirty.

You can’t see them, but you can certainly see the damage. Heavily infested plants will be discolored, and if they are not controlled, the rose can be stunted, or even killed.

Record heat is trouble for trees

Meteorologist Bobby Boyd sends me email from time to time about extreme weather conditions. The latest concerns the large dome of high pressure building eastward out of the plains and across the Tennessee Valley that has put Middle Tennessee, as he says, “in the pressure cooker.” We’re breaking records this weekend. No rain in sight, and gardens are suffering.

Young trees and shrubs are especially vulnerable. The Nashville Tree Foundation has sent an alert with watering guidelines and new tips that you can read here to help trees survive.

Keep these tips handy. It’s still only June, and we’ve got a long way to go.

 

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