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  • May garden tips & tasks


    May 20: Master Gardeners of Davidson County Urban Gardening Festival, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Ellington Agricultural Center Demonstration Garden. Free admission. www.mgofdc.org; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mgofdc.

    June 10: Middle Tennessee Daylily Society show and sale, Ellington Agricultural Center’s Ed Jones Auditorium, 440 Hogan Rd. in Nashville. Sale open at 10 a.m.; show opens to the public at 1 p.m. To learn more about the Middle Tennessee Daylily Society, visit www.middletndaylilysociety.org.

    It’s time to plant those tender herbs and vegetable transplants, such as basil, dill, tomatoes, green peppers, hot peppers, eggplant.

    If tomato transplants are already too tall and leggy, you can plant them on their sides and cover the long stems with soil. The stem tips will turn upward, and the buried stems will sprout roots.

    Sow seeds of bush beans and pole beans, cucumbers, sweet corn, melons, okra, field peas, pumpkin, squash and zucchini. Follow the directions on the seed package for planting depth and spacing. Vegetables grow best in full sun.

    Cut the faded blossoms of peonies. Fertilize the plants lightly in late spring or early summer.

    Remember the basics of watering: morning is best, so plants’ leaves have time to dry before evening. Lawns, perennial borders and annuals like to have 1 – 1½ inches of water per week.

    Many indoor plants enjoy a summer vacation outdoors. Give them a cool, shady spot in the yard, and don’t forget to water them.

    Prune thyme frequently so it will stay full and green in the center.

    Weeding is easiest after a rain. If the ground is too dry and you need to weed, soak the bed first with a hose or sprinkler.

    Whether they’re growing in the ground or in pots on the porch, pinch the tips of geraniums from time to time to encourage them to branch out and to produce more flowers. Geraniums in pots benefit from regular feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer.

    Remember that mulch can be a gardener’s best friend. Pine straw or composted leaves are good alternatives to hardwood mulch.

    Harvest herbs as they reach their peak. Dry small leaves on a screen, hang small bunches of long-stemmed herbs in a warm, dry room out of the sunlight.

    Plants growing outdoors in containers dry out quickly when it’s hot. Check them daily, and water as needed.

    Don’t go near hydrangeas with the pruning shears unless all you’re cutting is dead branches. If the bigleaf hydrangeas look like they’re not going to bloom, it could be that the buds were nipped in a late cold snap, or the plant was pruned too late last year.

    As the flowers of Shasta daisies begin to open and then to fade, keep them clipped off. This prolongs the blooming season of daisies (and most other annuals and perennials), and keeps the plants looking better, as well.

    Watch for aphids on shrubs and perennials. A strong blast of water from a hose will remove many of them, or spray with insecticidal soap.

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Flowers are a no-show

Our dogwood tree has not flowered the past 2 years.  Do we need to feed it or treat the soil?  Otherwise, it is alive and well.  

Flowering dogwood. Photo by Jeff McMillian @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

This question came to The Garden Bench early last week, and I have a couple of follow-up questions: How old is the tree? Has it bloomed before? Is it planted in sun or shade?

IMHO, flowering dogwoods are one of the best things about spring. But you plant a young one hoping for a big display of blooms, then you wait, and wait until – nothing. What a disappointment.  

Here are some things you should know about dogwoods that may help answer the question. The North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension offers a list of Top Five Reasons That Dogwoods Don’t Bloom:

  • It’s not old enough. It may take a dogwood up to six years to bloom. This could be a source of disappointment in a tree that started out as a seedling in another part of the yard, for instance.
  • It’s not getting enough sun. Dogwoods grow well in the partial shade at the edges of forests and woodlands, but they need some sunlight to produce flowers. In heavy shade, they don’t flower as well, or maybe not at all.
  • It’s affected by drought.  Dogwood trees need water, about an inch a week from rain or other irrigation sources. If it was too dry last year, no flowers this year.
  • It’s been pruned. Dogwoods set their buds on the previous year’s growth, so if you prune heavily in fall or winter, you have probably cut off a lot of the flowers for this year.
  • It’s been extremely cold. That’s usually not a problem in this area. All else being okay, dogwoods here seem to bloom no matter how cold it got in the winter.

There are more things to consider: If the tree is growing in a lawn, and you’ve fertilized the lawn with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, that could be part of the problem. Nitrogen encourages growth of foliage at the expense of flowers.

In general, here’s what a dogwood needs to grow and thrive, and eventually bloom: Light shade or full sun, and moist, acid, well-drained soil with a lot of organic matter. Remember how well they grow in a forest? Use mulch under the tree to help keep moisture in the soil – but don’t pile the mulch up around the trunk. The roots are shallow, so they are susceptible to drought in summer. Water deeply during summer dry spells.

Flowering dogwoodCornus florida

Have a garden question? Send me an e-mail.


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