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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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New plants from old rosemary

QUESTION: I’ve recently moved a large rosemary plant from a friend’s yard to mine. It has not liked the move. I’ve started rooting some cuttings in water, and they seem to be doing well. How long should I let the roots grow before moving them to dirt? Do you recommend potting them in soil in a clay pot during this heat until they mature? Can I save what is left of the big plant in my flower bed?  — Charles W.

It may take several weeks, but stem cuttings of rosemary can root in water.

Good idea to root cuttings from the rosemary plant. Once they get a good growth of healthy roots — six to eight roots per cutting, 1 to 1 1/2 inch long — put them in a container in good potting soil. If they’re going to be outdoors, I don’t recommend a clay pot because in this heat, clay dries out very quickly; plastic containers may hold the moisture longer. Place them in a protected spot out of direct sun until they become acclimated to their new environment. If you have enough cuttings and the roots seem big enough, you could try to plant cuttings directly into a prepared bed in the garden. Wherever you put them, make sure they have good drainage, and get adequate moisture while they are acclimating to their new home.

If the big plant already looks like it’s dying, it may be too late to save it – rosemary is notoriously hard to transplant. But here’s one thing you could try: cut the branches back, which may allow the plant to put more energy into establishing new roots instead of maintaining a lot of top growth. This may not work, but it’s worth a try.

This is a good place to describe the process of propagating plants from cuttings. Start by cutting off 2 – 3 inches of the tender top growth of an established plant. Remove the leaves from the bottom end of the cutting, and dip the stem in a rooting hormone powder (such as Rootone). Place the cuttings in a damp rooting medium that drains well, and make sure the medium doesn’t dry out.

With rosemary cuttings, roots should form in about three weeks, and can be planted into individual pots. Pinch out the top of the cutting to encourage branch development.

Or, stick a few cuttings of new growth in a glass of water and wait for the roots to appear. Strip the leaves that will be below the water line, and change the water frequently. In fact, it’s a good idea to change the water every day. When roots develop, plant the cuttings in potting soil.

More from the garden:

The Creeper returns, at Turning Toward the Sun: A Garden Journal.

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