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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    July 22: Garden cooking at Warner Park Nature Center. Create a nutritious treat using the bountiful produce from the organic garden, 10 a.m. - noon. Nature Center staff leads this class for kids age 6 – 12. www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation.aspx.

    Aug. 1-2: Nashville Pond Society’s Parade of Ponds, a tour of water gardens at homes in East Nashville, Inglewood and Madison neighborhoods. Self-guided tours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Aug. 1, and noon – 5 p.m. Aug. 2. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 on-site. www.nashvillepondsociety.org.

    Aug. 2: Nashville Tree Foundation’s Betty Brown Tree Trail and Arboretum community open house and tours, 1 – 5 p.m. at Riverfront Park. The event is in conjunction with the grand opening of the newly developed Riverfront Park and Ascend Amphitheater. Tours of the Tree Trail will be held every 20 minutes; meet Nashville Tree Foundation docents at the Tree Trail trailhead. Learn more at www.nashvilletreefoundation.org.

    Aug. 18: Perennial Plant Society meeting at Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall. Speaker is Shera Owen, topic is “People, Plants and their Stories.” Refreshments at 6:30 p.m., meeting at 7 p.m. open to the public. To learn more: http://www.ppsmt.org

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Watermelon: Don’t harvest too early

QUESTION: How can you tell when a watermelon is ready to harvest?

WatermelonIt’s tempting to cut that beautiful watermelon from the vine as soon as it looks like it’s big enough, but size is not the only clue to ripeness. Before you cut the melon from the vine, turn it over and note the color of the ground spot – where the melon rests on the ground. The spot should be creamy yellow. If it’s white, the watermelon is not ripe enough to cut.

A tendril grows at the end of the watermelon. If it’s still green, wait a few more days before you harvest. If it is half-dead, it’s likely the melon is ripe. The age-old method of giving the fruit a thump may also work; a ripe watermelon sounds hollow when you thump it.

Cantaloupes and other small melons don’t have the tendril or a significant soil spot, like watermelons, but there are other clues to gauge its ripeness. Cantaloupes develop a golden color under the netted rinds when the melon is ripe. They also soften at the end opposite the stem when they ripen, which you can feel if you press gently. Ripe cantaloupes also have a sweet fragrance, and the melon will separate easily from the vine.

 

 

Plan to divide crowded daylilies this fall

The daylilies in our garden beds are beginning to crowd out other plants. Can they be separated and thinned out?

DayliliesExperts at the National Arboretum and the American Hemerocallis Society Society suggest thinning clumps of daylilies every five years or so. Repeat blooming varieties (such as ‘Stella de Oro,’ ‘Happy Returns’ and others) tend to form larger clumps, and may need to be divided more often. Early spring and fall are good times to take care of this task.

When the time comes to divide the clumps, use a garden fork to loosen the soil and pry the clump of roots out of the ground. Divide it by pushing two garden forks back to back down into the center of the clump, then push the handles apart to separate the roots.

To replant the divisions, dig a wide, shallow hole and place the rootball into the hole. Backfill with soil and tamp it into place, then cover the soil with an inch of mulch. Water thoroughly. You can cut the foliage back to about 12 inches.

(Stella de Oro? Stella d’Oro? You may see it spelled either way. I use the same spelling as the American Hemerocallis Society, which provides loads of information about daylilies at its website.

July garden tips & tasks

Summer is in full swing. Here’s how to enjoy the garden and it’s July bounty:

Early in the month

Geraniums

Cut geraniums and other summer annuals to encourage them to grow fuller.

In the kitchen garden, pick zucchini, summer squash and cucumbers while they are still small and tender.

Plant a second crop of those summer vegetables that grow quickly: bush beans, squash and cucumbers are easy favorites.

Watch for Japanese beetles. Experts don’t recommend Japanese beetle traps, which may attract more beetles to your landscape than would normally visit. Pluck them off the plants and drop them into a pan of soapy water.

If summer annuals such as coleus or geraniums are getting leggy, cut them back to encourage them to grow bushier. As a bonus, root the cuttings in water to have even more plants.

Before you leave for vacation, arrange for someone to water annual, vegetable and perennial beds and container gardens while you’re away. Make it easy for them: set up sprinklers in strategic places and hire a neighborhood youngster to turn on the faucet if it doesn’t rain.

Mid-July

Zinnias

Cut zinnias often. The more you cut, the more they bloom.

Bearded irises can be divided every three to five to years; mid-July is a good time to do it.

Lawn growth may slow down in the heat, but you may still have to mow. When you do, only cut about a third of the lawn’s height.

Cut chrysanthemums back in order to delay flowering until fall.

Herbs, annuals and perennials growing in containers need water every day when it’s hot. Don’t let them droop.

Keep cutting summer flowers such as zinnias and cosmos often; the more you cut, the better they bloom.

Later in the month

Tomatoes

Keep the soil evenly moist for tomatoes.

It’s hot, so get out early in the day to work in the garden. Drink plenty of water, wear a hat and use sunscreen.

Keep the soil around tomato plants evenly moist. Inconsistent watering can cause tomatoes to develop cracks.

Some summer flowers that grow tall may need staking to keep them from toppling in a heavy rainfall.

Continue to deadhead plants – cut off the spent flowers – to extend the blooming period.

Don’t forget about shrubs and trees planted this spring; they need an extra dose of attention in this heat. Give them a slow drink from a dripping water hose once or twice a week. A layer of mulch around newly planted threes and shrubs helps keep the soil moist longer.

Check the mulch in perennial and annual beds. Add more if it’s beginning to look thin. A good layer of mulch will help keep soil moist longer in the summer heat.

Enjoying a bit of Tranquility: Franklin’s Cornelia Holland nurtures the shade garden

Cornelia Holland, Photo courtesy University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

Cornelia Holland, Photo courtesy University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

she calls Tranquility at her home. She has donated plants to the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville to establish Tranquility – The Cornelia B. Holland Hosta Grden at the University of Tennessee Gardens. Read the story in Saturday’s Tennessean.

 

Rose of Sharon is an easy summer favorite

I remember a large Rose of Sharon shrub that grew in my grandmother’s yard that had big, pretty flowers every summer. I’d like to have one for my own garden. Can this shrub be started from cuttings?

Lil Kim Proven Winners

Lil’ Kim Rose of Sharon (H. syriacus) from Proven Winners Plants.

The old-fashioned rose of Sharon, or shrub althaea (Hibiscus syriacus), is easy to grow, and often pops up in unexpected places from dropped seeds. It can also be propagated from stem cuttings. Here are general guidelines for taking cuttings of rose of Sharon and other woody ornamentals:

Cut lengths of softwood (soft, succulent new growth) or semi-hardwood (partially mature wood of the current season’s growth) about six inches long from a healthy host plant. Remove the bottom leaves, and dip the cut ends in rooting hormone powder. Stick the cut ends about one-third their length into a rooting medium that drains well, such as perlite or vermiculite. Cover the cuttings with some sort of plastic covering to maintain a humid environment, and place them in indirect light.

Keep the rooting medium moist until roots develop. It will likely take several weeks, but you’ll know the cuttings have grown roots when you tug gently on the cuttings and feel resistance. Transplant them into containers to allow them to grow to a larger size before you plant them in the garden.

Rose of Sharon grows and blooms best in full sun, and thrives in almost any well-drained soil. Once established, it tolerates heat and drought. Flowers bloom on new growth, so if it needs pruning, you can do that task in winter.

Spider mites can ruin your roses

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.

Knock Out roseKeep an eye on roses when it’s hot and dry. That’s when spider mites do their worst damage, say rosarians at the Nashville Rose Society, and they can turn a lovely rose bush into an ugly mess.

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.

Keep snails from snacking on the garden

I grow herbs and flowers in brick raised beds around my patio. In the evenings, I often see dozens of snails around the bricks and in the beds around the plants. How do you keep snails from eating everything in the garden?

snail 4The best way to keep snails (and their slimy mollusk cousins, slugs) from dining in your garden is to keep them out of the beds in the first place. Garden experts and home gardeners have a variety of tips and techniques for this, mostly involving barriers to separate the mollusks from your plants, but also ways to trap them and remedies to reduce snail and slug habitat. The tips here are from two sources, The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food and Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver:

  • Soft-bodied snails and slugs a reluctant to cross scratchy materials, such as pine needles or crushed eggshells. A continuous barrier of that powdery, sharp-edge irritant, diatomaceous earth, should keep snails at a distance. Others have suggested spreading coffee grounds or sharp sand around vulnerable plants.
  • Copper gives slugs and snails a mild electric shock when they come into contact with it, so a strip of copper flashing tacked around the outside of raised beds can be an effective deterrent.
  • Strips of hardware cloth around the bed can also keep snails from crossing. Make sure it extends a couple of inches above the bed, and for extra protection, cut the wire so that it leaves sharp points along the top edge.
  • Set out traps. A shallow pan of beer, or of yeast, sugar and water, lures them in, and they drown. A suggested recipe: 3 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of granulated yeast, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Snails and slugs stay in the shade during the day and come out to dine at night when it’s cool and moist. You can prop a wide board about an inch off the ground to create an alluring daytime shelter, and collect and dispose of them after they’ve gathered there.
  • Reduce snail habitat by cleaning up around the beds. Loose bricks, boards, moist piles of leaves and other garden debris provide dark, cool places for slugs and snails to hang out during the day while they’re waiting for nightfall to come out and dine at your garden buffet.
  • If you normally water the garden in the evening, change your routine to morning watering so the soil surface dries quickly.

If one technique doesn’t work, try another, or try a combination of techniques to reduce the snail population in your garden.

June garden tips & tasks

Lots of bright sunshine, and just enough rain — that’s perfect June weather, and what we always hope for. Here are this months tips and tasks to help you enjoy your time in the garden.

Early June

tomato red

Tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

Have you put off planting seeds in the kitchen garden? You can still plant bush and pole beans, squash, zucchini, cucumber, okra and eggplant, sunflowers, zinnias and other summer favorites.

Remove any leftover foliage of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs, which most certainly has turned yellow or brown by now.

Morning is the best time to water lawns, perennial, annual and vegetable beds. About an inch of water per week is enough to keep most plants and lawns thriving.

Summer tomatoes will begin to ripen. Make sure they receive consistent moisture. Use mulch around the plants to keep them from drying out quickly. Replenish mulch around in all garden beds to help keep plants’ roots moist as the weather heats up.

Snip the growing tips of chrysanthemums. This encourages new, fuller growth, and delays flowering. Plan to pinch them back again next month, which will encourage them to flower better in the fall.

Middle of the month

Japanese beetle

Watch for Japanese beetles on plants and flowers.

Blueberries continue to ripen. If you want to get them before the birds do, cover the plants with bird netting.

Gladiolus and other tall, top-heavy perennials may need stakes to help keep them standing.

Cut basil frequently to use in the kitchen. Pinch out the flowering spikes of the plants to encourage bushier growth.

If you discover Japanese beetles munching away at your favorite plants, flick them off into a bucket of soapy water. Many garden experts discourage using Japanese beetle traps, which may lure more to your yard than they catch.

Vacation plans? Ask a friend or neighbor (or a young gardener looking for a little extra income) to water garden beds and containers if it doesn’t rain.

End of June

hosta 1

If you find holes in your hostas, you can probably blame slugs.

Shrubs and trees planted this spring should be watered regularly to help them continue to adjust to their first summer in the landscape.

Holes in your hostas are probably the work of slugs. Place a saucer of beer or yeast mixed in water near the plants to trap them.

Remove the faded flowers (a task called “deadheading”) to encourage more blooms of daisies, coreopsis and other summer favorites.

If ferns and other hanging arrangements are under shelter and out of the rain, they dry out quickly in the summer heat. Be sure to provide water frequently. You may need to water every day.

Spider mites strike when the weather is hot and dry. On roses, look for them if you begin to see yellow, speckled leaves. If you spot them on roses or other shrubs, blast them with a strong spray of water directed at the undersides of the leaves every two or three days.

In Saturday’s Tennessean: The gardens at The Craighead House, the historic property owned by Nashville landscape designer Steve Sirls, has been placed in the Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Gardens. Read it now at Tennessean.com.

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