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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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All leaves, no flowers

QUESTION: I have five plants that I’ve been told are ‘Mini Penny’ hydrangeas. Last year they had lots of white blooms. This year they are growing very well with lots of green leaves etc, but only very few (3) blooms. I have fertilized with an acid balanced Miracle Grow fertilizer as well as a root stimulator. Can you suggest any reason for the lack of blooms this year? – George Carr

First, let’s consider the hydrangea variety that goes by the name ‘Mini Penny.’ A Web search shows that it’s one of the French hydrangeas, a compact, slow-growing mophead variety that blooms pink if the soil is alkaline, or powder blue in acid soil. You say yours had white blooms, so perhaps it’s something else.

Still, we can talk in general about why hydrangeas don’t bloom. The hydrangea expert Judith King, who runs the Web site hydrangeashydrangeas.com (I referred to this site a couple of weeks ago, writing about ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas), says there are three common reasons why mopheads fail to bloom. 1) If a late spring freeze kills the developing buds, which grow on last year’s stems; 2) If you pruned the shrub too late last year, cutting off the stems that held this year’s buds; 3) If you have a variety that is not suited for this area.

This year, a late spring freeze is probably not the problem. It was cool in late spring, but we didn’t get a freeze, and I’ve seen some gorgeous hydrangeas blooming in gardens around town.

Did you prune? Buds for the following year start forming on French hydrangeas in the summer, so if you pruned the shrub in late summer or fall, you may have cut off all but a few (3) buds.

The third reason – the plant is not suited for the area – can’t be considered until you know what variety you have.

One more note about fertilizer: King advises using a balanced product such as10-10-10, applying it once or twice during the summer. Use caution and follow the package directions, because too much fertilizer can damage the shrubs. It’s also best to fertilize before August, she says, so that any new growth has a chance to harden before winter. Remember, too, that too much nitrogen can cause a plant to grow lots of greenery, but does little to aid in flowering.



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