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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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Best time to tame a rose

Question: When is the best time to prune roses? I have a bush that needs trimming, but don’t want to damage it by pruning at the wrong time.

If the rose is out of control, it won’t hurt to get out the clippers now. This advice comes from Annie Owen, a Master Rosarian and member of the Nashville Rose Society: “If the bush is overgrown, this is an okay time to prune it back, as long as it gets plenty of water.” In fact, if you reduce the size of the bush, you reduce its need for water, she said.

This goes for most types of roses, even those with finicky personalities and special fertilizing and spraying needs, as long as they’re healthy. If it’s a Knockout rose, no worries at all. “If it’s a Knockout, you can’t kill those things,” Owen said.

The Nashville Rose Society offers these pruning guidelines: Use sharp bypass pruning shears, which will make a clean cut without crushing the stem. Start by taking out older wood, along with any dead or dying canes. Remove any canes that rub or cross each other, or any twiggy, unnecessary growth. Make each pruning cut about ¼-inch above an outward-facing bud eye, where the leaf is attached to the stem.

Rose enthusiasts who winterize their prized roses will do more severe pruning in the fall. To begin the winterizing process, stop fertilizing roses now to allow the plant to slow down production of new growth. Early in October, stop cutting the dead flowers and leave the rose hips in place. In late November or early in December, cut the canes back to 2 to 3 feet, and place a mound of mulch around
the bush. This will hold them until spring, when you should prune lightly again to get new growth.

For general good advice on pruning and anything else that has to do with roses, visit the Nashville Rose Society’s Web site, www.nashvillerosesociety.com.

It’s too hot to garden, but all is not lost over at Turning Toward the Sun.


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