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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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Poppies next spring

I saw beautiful poppies in gardens this spring and summer and would like to grow some of my own. When and how do you plant them?

There are several types of poppies; some are perennials, some are cool-season annuals. A few of them can be grown from seed sown in the fall, so start planning now to have a garden of poppies next year. Here’s a short list of the possibilities, according to the editors of the Southern Living Garden Book:

Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule) is a short-lived perennial with cup-shaped blooms of yellow, orange, salmon, pink, white or cream. Sow seeds or set out transplants in the fall.

Oriental poppy (P. orientale) has large, crinkled blooms in scarlet, orange, pink, salmon or white that grow from bushy clumps of foliage. The blooms may be black at the base. Plant dormant roots in the fall.

Shirley poppy, or Flanders Field poppy (P. rhoeas) is an annual poppy with single or double flowers in white, pink, salmon, red, scarlet, lilac or blue. Sow in the fall by mixing seeds with an equal amount of sand and broadcast it where you want them to grow. Note: The Southern Living Garden Book says this is a “notorious self-sower,” which is usually a gentle way to say it could take over your garden whether you want it to or not.

Alpine poppy (P. alpinum) is a perennial that grows better in fast-draining, gritty soil. It has smaller flowers (1 ½ to 2 inches in white, yellow, orange or salmon. It, too, self-sows freely. Sow seeds in fall or early spring.

To plant poppy seeds, prepare the soil in a bed in full sun and simply scatter the seeds on top, or barely cover the seeds. Water the ground carefully, and kept the area moist throughout the fall.

 

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