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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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The trouble with roses

The leaves on my climbing roses developed little black spots and now all the foliage has dropped off. What is this?

For questions on roses, I always go to the helpful experts at the Nashville Rose Society, and their Web site. It looks like there are at least two fungal diseases that cause black spots on the leaves of roses: one appropriately called black spot, and the other, anthracnose. You can tell the difference by looking at the edges of the spots. Black spot has the feathery margins, which give rise to some of its other names: leaf blotch or star sooty mold.

Both make a rose look really bad for awhile, which is why people who are serious about growing fancy, beautiful roses stick to such a rigid schedule of spraying. Fungicides are to ward off the ugly fungal diseases, pesticides to keep away chewing and sucking bugs.

Both blackspot and anthracnose overwinter on the plant and develop in the incubator of a cool, most spring. Cleaning up around rose bushes (getting rid of dead leaves and decaying matter), pruning out affected canes, giving the rose bushes plenty of air and reducing the amount of time water stays on the leaves can go a long way toward reducing the development of disease spores. Fungicides, applied on a regular schedule in early spring, can help prevent infection.

The problem of dealing with and preventing rose diseases is one reason landscapers and gardeners plant so many of the ‘Knock Out’ varieties, which bloom all summer and are resistant to most of the ugly diseases that plague garden roses.

Which leads to another question a friend asked not long ago:

Are ‘Knock Out’ roses real roses?

I understand the reason for the question, because it does seem impossible, doesn’t it? Given all that you hear about how you have to prune, spray and coddle rose bushes to get them to look their best, how can there be these easy-care upstarts, this ‘Knock Out’ series that seems poised to take over the rose universe? To get a rose expert’s view on the topic, I talked to Anne Owen, a Nashville Rose Society consulting rosarian.

“They are, in fact, a really true rose, in the genus Rosa,” she said. “The fact that they don’t require spraying for fungal diseases puts them in a category with very few others.”

Most rose enthusiasts, she said, like the challenge of growing the big, show-stopping roses – the ones in striking colors and with exceptional fragrance. And those are the ones that require coddling. “If you want a great big cabbage rose or a big hybrid tea, you’re going to have to spray.”

But a ‘Knock Out’ finds a place even in the most serious rose gardens.

“I think most rosarians have a ‘Knock Out’ or two because they are such great plants,” Owen said.

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