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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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Peonies may suffer in wet weather

QUESTION: Some years our peonies bloom beautifully for several weeks, but sometimes the buds die before they open, or black spots develop on some of the plants and the leaves curl and die. Can you tell me what I’m doing wrong?

Peonies may develop botrytis, a fungal blight, in cool, wet weather.

Peonies may develop botrytis, a fungal blight, in cool, wet weather.

Sometimes it’s not anything you’re doing wrong. You may be able to blame the peony’s problem on the weather. Wet, cool weather provides perfect conditions for a fungal disease called botrytis, or gray mold.
Extension agents note that botrytis flourishes on a lot of plants this time of year if there is not enough sunshine and a lot of wet weather. There is a specific fungus, Botrytis paeoniae, that infects only peonies.
The blight can infect the young shoots as they emerge early in spring, and can infect buds or flowers at any stage. On plants that are in bud, the buds may swell but will die before they open. The infection can move into the stem and cause spots and discoloration. If the infection is severe, the leaves will turn brown and die back prematurely.
Good garden practices can help keep Botrytis from damaging the peonies. Inspect the plants and remove any parts covered in gray mold; place them in a bag to be discarded (don’t put them in the compost). Do this on a day when the weather is dry to avoid spreading the fungus. In the fall, clean up dead foliage and debris, cut the peony stalks at ground level and discard the debris to reduce the chance of the fungus spores returning the following spring.

May Garden  Calendar

May is planting time in Middle Tennessee. Food or flowers? Why not both? See the May Landscape & Garden Calendar in The  Tennessean for five ornamental and edible plants for your landscape.
Garden events in Middle Tennessee
May 4
Carmen Johnston, a Garden Lifestyle Expert for Southern Living Plant Collection, will host a session on spring-inspired ideas using the Southern Living Plant Collection Designer Series container gardens. The event starts at 10:30 a.m. at Home Depot on Moore’s Lane in Brentwood.
May 10
National Public Gardens Day at Cheekwood, celebrating public gardens and Cheekwood’s role in promoting environmental stewardship, plant conservation and community education. Live music in the Herb Garden 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.; guided garden tours on the hour. Special presentation with Cheekwood president Jane Offenbach at 1 p.m. Learn how to receive free admission at http://www.nationalpublicgardensday.org. More info at http://www.cheekwood.org.
May 11: Spring Festival & Plant Sale presented by the Wilson County Master Gardener Association. Guest speakers, demonstrations, food and concessions, gift baskets, crafts, gifts; flower garden and arboretum tours by tram. 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon, Tenn. Free admission and free parking.
May 11
Middle Tennessee Hosta Society sale, dozens of hosta varieties available. Sale opens at 8 a.m. at the Maryland Farms YMCA in Brentwood.
May 11
Robertson County Master Gardeners plant sale, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. (rain or shine), County Extension Plaza, 408 North Main St. (corner of North Main & 5th Ave.), Springfield, Tenn. For information: http://www.rcmga.org.
May 11: Wilson County Master Gardeners Spring Festival & Plant Sale, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center, Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon, Tenn. Speakers, demonstrations, food and concessions, crafts, gifts; garden and arboretum tram tours. Free admission and parking. http://wcmastergardener.org.
May 21: Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee meets at Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall. Speaker is Jimmy Williams from Paris, Tenn, on “The Perennial Border from February through December.” Refreshments at 6:30, meeting at 7 p.m.
May 23: Middle Tennessee Hosta Society meets at Cheekwood’s Potter Room, 7 p.m. Featured speaker is Jason Rives, owner of Petals From the Past in Jemison. Ala.; topic is “Incorporating Antique Roses into the Hosta garden.”

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