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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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You can never have too many peonies

Peonies bloomed beautifully this spring.

I have some peonies that I inherited but they are under a big tree. Just this year they have bloomed and I love them. I know from experience that they don’t like to be moved so I am going to leave these where they are. I would, however, like to plant more. Any advice on light, soil, position in garden, and any problems they are prone to? – Patty O.

This was apparently a good year for peonies. Everyone who has them says they bloomed beautifully, and many who don’t have them say they’d like to add them to the garden. Now that their season in the sun has come and gone and their lovely flowers are just a fragrant memory, it’s no wonder a gardener might want to plant more. Here, again, are the basics:

Light: Full sun, but they can manage with a little shade in the afternoon. Soil: Work in plenty of organic material, because they must have good drainage. Position in the garden: Try not to make them compete with the roots of nearby trees and large shrubs.

Problems? Watch for botrytis, a common fungal disease that causes plants to wilt, leaves to develop black splotches and buds to dry up or turn brown and mushy. It doesn’t kill the plant, but it’s best to clean up around it as soon as you can. Remove and destroy infected leaves, and in the fall, cut the stalks down to the ground and dispose of them to prevent the disease from overwintering in the bed. To prevent the problem, The Southern Living Garden Book suggests spraying with a copper fungicide as new growth emerges in spring. (Always, always follow directions on the label of any chemical you use in the garden.)

Planting: Dig the soil deeply and work in plenty of organic matter, but plant the roots so that the eyes are only 1 inch below the surface; peonies that are planted too deep may not flower as well.

Waiting: Peonies are finicky, and often – usually – don’t bloom the first year. Be patient.


2 Responses

  1. We don’t have peonies where I live but we did when I was growing up. I love them and agree that you can never have too many.

    • Sometimes I wish peonies bloomed all summer — but then they wouldn’t be as special. I enjoy them as long as I can, then reluctantly let them go.

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