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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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Definitely not stars in your lawn

QUESTION: Every year, the small white flowers called star-of-Bethlehem pop up in our lawn. The flowers are cute, but they’re everywhere! It makes an ugly lawn. How can I get rid of it?

Star-of-Bethlehem: Get rid of it if you can.

This time of year, star-of-Bethlehem shoots up in lawns, on creek banks, in wild meadows. They are indeed everywhere – even in gardens, where unsuspecting gardeners may plant them because they are a pretty little wildflower. The bad news is that once they get a foothold in your lawn, they are tough to eradicate.

Star-of-Bethlehem is a cool-season perennial that grows from small bulbs. The foliage resembles wild garlic, and the small white flowers each have six petals. The bulbs multiply rapidly, and are spread easily. After it blooms, the plant dies down and remains dormant until next spring.

As you might expect, it’s considered an invasive exotic here. The plant is native to North Africa, parts of Eastern Europe and western Asia. UT’s Institute of Agriculture notes that it has become a weed problem on athletic fields and golf courses. Even more bad news: the flowers and bulbs of star-of-Bethlehem are poisonous.

You could try digging it up, but that would be a monstrous task because you need to get every little bulb. UT Extension has a list of control products (most of which are to be used only by professionals). There may be very little you can do except wait it out, and don’t spread them around. The USDA Forest Service is very clear about this: “Do not plant this species.”

 

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