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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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Keep Rosemary happy

I have a small  rosemary bush that is thriving, and hope it lives through the winter. What is the best way to care for it so it survives?

Rosemary cuttings can root in water.

More and more, I was hearing gardeners say their rosemary, which does not always make it through winter outdoors in this area, was getting through the cold just fine. Then last year, many gardeners I talked to said their rosemary – which may have been growing for years in the same spot – died. Mine did, too.

Herb experts say that the survival of rosemary can be hit-or-miss. It depends on the kind of winter we have, the kind of rosemary that’s growing in your garden, and even where it’s planted.

If we experience a series of very cold days with very low wind-chill temperatures, rosemary may not stand a chance. If the plant is in the ground on the south side of the house, where it’s protected from a cold north wind, it has a better chance of survival. If it’s near a concrete driveway, brick walkway or a stone wall – anything that reflects a little of the sun’s warmth – there’s an even better chance it’ll make it through unscathed.

It’s best chance is if it happens to be one of the hardier varieties that’s planted on the south side of the house and protected from the wind. The Herb Society of Nashville lists the varieties ‘Arp,’ ‘Hill Hardy’ and ‘Salem’ among the best choices for this area. The National Arboretum adds a few more to the list; check out their choices here.

You may be tempted to dig up the rosemary and bring it indoors for winter, but that’s a bad idea. Rosemary is a shrub and won’t take kindly to the dry air and heat inside the house (which is why so many of those cute rosemary topiaries that people give as gifts die so quickly). If you want to try to bring some of your rosemary inside, you may try to snip a few cuttings and keep them inside in a vase of water, where they may grow roots. Change the water every day or two.

 

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