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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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Gardenia is a high-maintenance beauty

QUESTION: I have an issue with a gardenia plant/tree that I purchased this summer. It was blooming nicely and looked to be very healthy, but when I brought it home I transplanted it out of the 3-gallon bucket to a larger pot and

Photo by Forest and Kim Starr

placed it on our porch, and it started to show a yellowing of the flowers and then stopped producing flowers. It was getting direct morning sun till about 10  a.m. and shade for the rest of the day. I moved the plant to the basement with no direct sun but plenty of light and much cooler temps. It still does not seem to be recovering. I water it every few days but careful not too water too much because the leaves turn brown if I do so. What do you suggest I do to revive this beautiful plant? – Rick

Gardenias are beautiful and their sweet fragrance is almost intoxicating, but they present a challenge
even in the best environment. I spent some time leafing through gardening books and looking around the Web for information, and it looks like you are experiencing a typical reaction to bringing a gardenia home. It sulks, and stops producing flowers.

Of course, a gardenia has a limited flowering season, typically spring into early summer, so it may be that yours was coming to the end of its flowering cycle when you brought it home. Plus, remember that gardenias grow better in the South’s lower regions, where winters don’t get as cold.

In our area, they should be treated as house plants, which means that you will have to bring it indoors or into a greenhouse and baby it through the winter or it will sulk some more. In the house, it becomes a magnet for mealybugs, mites and whiteflies.

So, if you still want to revive this temperamental beauty, here’s what it needs: acid soil, good drainage, full sun or partial shade, regular watering, high humidity, and nighttime temperatures of 50 – 55 degrees in winter and spring if you want flowers.

By the way, the most common gardenia, G. jasminoides (G. augusta), is said to be hardy to about 10 degrees, and may survive to zero degrees, but will likely die back to the roots. There are several varieties that may be hardier in colder climates: ‘Chuck Hayes,’ ‘Grif’s Select,’ and ‘Klein’s Hardy’ are  said to be slightly more tolerant of cold weather. Good luck.

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