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  • May garden tips & tasks

    GARDEN EVENTS IN MIDDLE TENNESSEE

    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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One more way to say ‘early spring’

I bought three primroses in February and they are surviving (which is unusual for me!). When do I plant them? I know they like cool temps, but I don’t want to lose them to our unpredictable weather. I also don’t want to keep them too long inside and lose them that way. Do they like shade? – Patty O.

Primroses in spring. Photo by Marilyn Stretch.

So many types of primroses! There are the hybrid primroses sold in grocery stores in winter as gift plants, and the tough and somewhat weedy evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), which grows in open fields and in the gravel along the side of the road. I assume what you’re asking about is one of the many “garden variety” primroses (Primula, is the scientific name) that can pop up in late winter and early spring.

They all seem to be cool-weather plants, so it’s probably a good time to plant them. The American Primrose Society’s site at www.americanprimrosesociety.org shows several varieties. In general, they prefer to grow in light shade, and some are good for woodland settings. They are perennials that thrive in cool, humid air, so they may do better grown as annuals in Middle Tennesse gardens.

I’ve never grown primroses, so I’d love to hear from readers who have and who would like to share your experience. Success? Failure? Feel free to comment.

And… Transplants, the easy way

An early disaster with starting tomato transplants from seeds has kept me from trying again. But now, there may be an easier way. See Turning Toward the Sun: A Garden Journal.

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