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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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Cut winter-brown monkey grass before spring

QUESTION: The monkey grass that borders some of our beds has turned brown. If we cut it down, will it come back next spring?

monkey grass 2One reason monkey grass is so popular in landscapes is because it’s tough. It begins to turn brown around the tips and edges this time of year and can look pretty bad by the end of winter, but it sprouts new growth in the spring.

You can mow the plants down, or clip them close to the ground. Best to do it in winter before new growth begins. If you wait too late to mow, you may clip off the tips of the new leaves. In a warm climate, you may begin seeing new growth as early as late February or early March.

Monkey grass (Liriope muscari is the botanical name; it’s also known as lily turf) can be divided in early spring. Dig it up and pull the roots apart, or cut through the clumps of roots with a sharp spade.

Something new for the library

One of the books I’ve consistently used as a reference for more than ten years is the Tennessee & Kentucky Gardener’s Guide by garden writer Judy Lowe. This fall, Cool tn ky garden guideSprings Press published a new version of the book with updated photos and more features. The subtitle is “The Best Plants for a Tennessee or KentuckyGarden,” and recommendations are based on the 2012 version of the USDA Hardiness Zone map (she says she could not have imagined recommending gardenias outdoors in our zones a few years ago, for example, but now, here they are!)

The plant-by-plant format covers annuals, bulbs, groundcovers and vines, lawngrass perennials, shrubs, trees and water gardens and still gives the when-where-how to plant information, growing tips and care, and how to use plants in the landscape. There’s also information on pruning, planting, pests and diseases, weeds, making compost, starting seeds and other gardening basics.

Keep it in mind if you’re still shopping for the gardeners on your list.

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