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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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Tomato troubles

I have two questions for The Garden Bench:

1. The tomatoes on one of my tomato plants keep turning flat and black on the bottom before they get anywhere near ripe.  Any idea why that is and what to do about it?
2. When is the best time to dig up the garlic I planted last fall? — Anne-Marie Farmer

Soil with sufficient calcium produces prettier tomatoes, without blossom end rot.

The tomato question is a timely one, Anne-Marie, because it’s July, when most gardeners who grow things to eat think about tomatoes. So, to answer your questions here:

1. The tomatoes have a condition called blossom-end rot. It’s fairly common, and is due to a calcium deficiency in the soil. Try adding a bit of pelleted garden lime. It may not help immediately, but it will add calcium to the soil that will be available to plants in the future. You can also work crushed eggshells into the soil.

Recently I read the suggestion to put about 3 cups of whole milk (not 2%, not skim) into a hose sprayer and use it to spray the soil around the plants. Try not to get milk on the leaves, and rinse it off with plain water if you do.

2. Dig up the garlic after the leaves have started to turn yellow. Let the bulbs dry in the sun for a few hours, then lay them out on screens where they can cure for a couple of weeks. After they are cured, brush off as much soil as you can, but don’t wash them. You can braid the bulbs together and hang them to dry, or dry them in mesh bags. If any are damaged, use them as soon as you can.

Early-spring planting, early-summer harvest: Click over to A Garden Journal to see what we pulled out of the ground.


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