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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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The easiest orchid

I received a moth orchid as a gift a couple of years ago. It was blooming at the time, but nothing since then. How do I get it to bloom again? – Sarah M.

Phalaenopsis, commonly knows as the moth orchid.

Orchid experts say that the moth orchid – phalaenopsis – is the easiest and best for non-experts and beginners, since they tend to do well in average home temperatures and conditions. At the Web site of the American Orchid Society the experts say that insufficient light is the most common reason an orchid fails to re-bloom. That’s general information about all orchids, but here are more specifics about phalaenopsis:

They grow well in a bright window – an east window is ideal, south or west window if you provide a little shade. The main blooming season for moth orchids is late winter into spring.

Moth orchids like it warm. Temperatures should usually be above 60 at night, and between 75 and 85 or warmer during the day. High humidity is good, too. Lower night temperatures for several weeks in the fall, around 55 degrees, can help flower stalks get started. If temperatures fluctuate, buds that are ready to open can drop.

Phalaenopsis doesn’t have a way to store water, so it shouldn’t be allowed to dry out completely. But they shouldn’t sit in water, either. Water thoroughly, then don’t water again until the plant is nearly dry. To keep it from rotting, water in the morning so the leaves are completely dry by nightfall. Humidity is also key, and the recommendation is between 50 and 80 percent.

American Orchid Society suggests fertilizing on a regular schedule, especially during warm weather when moth orchid is growing. If the plant is in a bark-based medium, use a high-nitrogen fertilizer (30-10-10). A high-phosphorus product (10-30-20) can promote blooming.

If you need to re-pot a moth orchid (and that should happen when the potting medium starts to decompose, or every one to three years), do the job in the spring, immediately after the orchid finishes flowering. Remove the old medium, trim soft or rotted roots, and spread the remaining roots over a handful of medium in the bottom of a new pot. Fill the rest of the pot with medium, working it in among the roots. The junction of the roots and the stem should be at the top of the medium.

One final thing about moth orchid: of the orchids commonly available, it’s the only one that will re-bloom from its old flower spike. When the last flower fades, don’t cut the spike, or cut off the stem leaving two nodes – the lines on the stem below the flowers. One of the nodes may initiate flowers within eight to 12 weeks. It might not work, but it’s worth a try.

If you really get into growing orchids, check out the regular meetings and events of the Orchid Society of Middle Tennessee. I’ve added a link to their site in the Local Garden Organizations listings in the column on the right.


2 Responses

  1. Great explanation on how to grow a Phalaenopsis aka Moth Orchid.

  2. You have a great article on how to grow the orchid. Really good.

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