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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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Easy herbs for a beginning gardener

QUESTION: What are some of the easiest herbs to grow in a new herb garden?

Let’s start with five of the most-used culinary herbs in a kitchen garden, as suggested by gardener Sara Plummer, a member of the Nashville Herb Society:

Basil

gb Basil GenoveseNeeds: Warmth, sun, well-drained soil; water regularly.

Varieties: Sweet basil is the most well-known, but there are other varieties with distinctive colors and flavors, including cinnamon, lemon, ‘Spicy Thai,’ ‘Purple Ruffles’ and many more.

Use in: Pasta sauces and salads, with mild cheeses, in rice dishes, and to make pesto.

Note: Basil is very tender and will be killed by cold temperatures, so don’t be in a rush to plant it if the temperature is not consistently warm. Basil is an annual, but if you let it flower and go to seed in the fall, the seeds will drop to the ground and likely will sprout next year when the ground warms.

Chives

gb ChivesNeeds: Moist soil in a sunny location; water regularly.

Varieties: The most common chives have purple globe-shaped flowers, but there are also pink- and white-flowered varieties, and garlic chives.

Use in: Eggs, salads, soups, potatoes, broiled meat or fish.

Note: Clip the long, tubular leaves as needed. Cut chives can last in the fridge about seven days; for longer storage, chop them and store them in the freezer. This hardy perennial grows from bulbs, and may need to be dug up and divided every few years.

Rosemary

gb Rosemary fitcNeeds: Well-drained soil in a sunny location. This is a tender shrub that may be damaged during extreme cold; some varieties are hardier than others (‘Arp’ and ‘Hill Hardy’ are two that do well here).

Use in: Meat, chicken and lamb dishes, fish, casseroles, tomato sauces, egg dishes, vinegars and oils.

Note: Rosemary is evergreen, so you can use fresh leaves all winter if the plant doesn’t succumb to extremely cold weather.

Thyme

gb Thyme motherNeeds: Well-drained soil, but thyme is tolerant of poor soil and dry weather.

Varieties: There are many species and different “flavors.” Popular varieties include ‘Silver Queen,’ lemon thyme, wild creeping thyme, wooly thyme and others.

Use in: Stews, stocks and marinades, stuffing, sauces, herb butters, oils and vinegars.

Note: Some thyme varieties are upright, some have a creeping habit. Trim thyme often to keep it from becoming woody. Harvest the leaves before the plant flowers.

Oregano

gb Oregano GreekNeeds: Well-drained soil in a sunny location.

Varieties: Some species are more flavorful than others, and some are more suited to decorative uses than culinary, so choose carefully. Greek oregano is a good, flavorful choice.

Use in: pizza, meat, tomato dishes, vegetables, oils and vinegars.

Note: Oregano is a perennial plant, but some are more hardy than others. Pick the leaves whenever you want to use them for cooking. They can also be dried or frozen.

 

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