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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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Shut down the bunny buffet

Question: Do rabbits eat strawberry plants?

This, dear Readers, is a question from my own garden, because I noticed that the strawberry patch that has been growing like gangbusters for the past couple of years is

Cute? Most gardeners won't think so.

looking a little, um, sparse. New leaves are coming out from under the pine straw, but what the heck happened to that thick mat of foliage that was there when I came inside for the winter?

The answer to the question about whether rabbits eat strawberry plants, I found out, is: Rabbits eat just about anything they find that tastes good, foliage-wise. So, probably. And I saw at least a couple of rabbits out in the back yard this winter.

The University of Tennessee Extension has a booklet called Managing Nuisance Animals and Associated Damage Around the Home (find it at https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/pb1624.pdf), and here’s what they say about rabbits and gardens: “Most people consider viewing rabbits pleasurable; however, that cute bunny quickly becomes a @#&% rabbit when the vegetable garden or flower garden begins to suffer! Rabbits can cause a considerable amount of damage to ornamental flowers and tree seedlings as well.” Really?

They suggest building a tall chicken wire fence to keep rabbits out, buried in the ground because rabbits burrow, too. They say you can trap them, but they breed like, well, like rabbits so even if you catch one, there are more where that one came from. Most wild rabbits only live about a year, but a pair of rabbits can produce up to six litters a year, with two or three bunnies per litter.  

Here’s what I found that seems to keep the rabbits off: A stinky but effective product called Liquid Fence. Spray it on the leaves, and the rabbits leave them alone. Some garden forums suggest that blood meal sprinkled in the bed also will keep them away. The problem with both those ideas is that they only work until rainwater or sprinkler spray washes them away.

But if I want to save the strawberries, I should do something — and fast, before those @#&% rabbits drop in for dinner.

Getting the Garden Ready: Not a how-to, but a poet’s reflection on the change of seasons. Click over to Turning Toward the Sun.


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