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  • May garden tips & tasks


    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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Aphids: a ‘green’ goodbye

My new tomato plants already have tiny green bugs on them. I think they are aphids. What can I put on the plants that is safe (no chemicals or poisons), but that will get rid of them?

Young tomato plants are vulnerable to aphid infestation.

Young tomato plants are vulnerable to aphid infestation.

You are probably correct that the tiny bugs are aphids. They tend to hang out in clusters on the tender new growth of many plants. If the infestation is heavy, it’s best to try to get rid of them because they use their piercing mouthparts to suck the plants’ fluids – a bad start for struggling new tomato plants.
Many garden information sources suggest knocking the bugs off with a strong spray of water. Spray all parts of the plants, including the undersides of leaves. One of the reliable resources I use, Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver, suggests blasting them with the water spray twice a week. They also suggest a garlic or hot pepper spray to deter the bugs, either a commercial product or a concoction that you make at home.
As a last resort, spray the plants with insecticidal soap. There are several commercial brands available (Safer is one that is commonly found at nurseries and garden centers), or make your own.
One recipe suggested by “green” garden expert Joe Lamp’l is this, from his book The Green Gardener’s Guide: Mix a teaspoon of dishwashing soap (not detergent), a teaspoon of cooking oil and one quart of water in a spray bottle. He adds a note of caution: “Insecticidal soaps can be phytotoxic (having a tendency to burn) to certain plants, so be sure to test a small area before applying on a larger scale.” Lamp’l also cautions that soaps are nonselective, and you may also be destroying beneficial insects, so use this solution sparingly.
Garden events in Middle Tennessee
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.”
Fridays in June and July: Visitors to Cheekwood gardens can enjoy them in a new way on Fitness Fridays, with a variety of workout activities held in the gardens and on the grounds.
-7:30 a.m. Yoga in the Gardens, led by certified trainers from the Green Hills YMCA
8:30 a.m. Sculpture Trail Hike, a mile-long hike through Carell Woodland Sculpture garden led by certified trainers.
9:30 a.m. Stroller Strides, a vigorous workout for moms and dads up and down the paved driveways an din the garden.
Gates open at 7 a.m. Fitness Fridays are free to Cheekwood members; non-members pay the regular Cheekwood gate admission.


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