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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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Spiderwort: Love it or loathe it?

QUESTION: We have clumps of spiderwort popping up all throughout the perennial beds. The little flowers are pretty, but the plants are taking over parts of the beds, and more I pull up the more they grow. How do you get rid of them?

Spiderwort 3It is hard to remain neutral about spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) if you’re a gardener. Either you love it for its pretty blue flowers and the fact that it grows without complaint just about anywhere, or you hate it because it’s a thug that muscles its way in and runs over everything else in the garden.

The individual blooms last only for a day, but the buds grow in large clusters, and some are always blooming. That’s one of the good things about spiderwort. It reproduces by letting its seeds blow all over the place, which is why you’ll find spiderwort suddenly growing up in inconvenient places – through the center of a clump of favorite daylilies or in the middle of the iris bed, as they do in my garden, for example. Not so good.

Getting rid of it is not easy. The roots are strong and fleshy and grow in large, wide clumps so pulling it out only works when the plants are very young. Digging is required, and you must dig up every bit of it because what’s left in the ground will grow into more spiderwort. If you feel you must bring in the chemicals, use a product that contains glysophate (such as Roundup), but use it only as the label advises, and keep it from drifting onto other plants.

It may be easier to control spiderwort if you deadhead it (cut off the flowers before they can disperse seeds), and pull up new shoots as soon as you see them emerge from the ground.

Spiderwort 1I remember visiting a friend’s shade garden several years ago and seeing a vigorous clump of spiderwort growing at the edge of the path. She was surprised when I told her that I dig it up and toss it out whenever I find it in my beds. “The little flowers are pretty,” she said. “And it grows so well in the shade!”

Yes, that’s the part to love. Just remember how watchful you have to be to keep it from taking over your yard.


4 Responses

  1. I always wondered what that plant was! Thanks for all of the great info.

    • There’s a plant that looks similar called dayflower (I think) that blooms later and also is pretty aggressive. I’m already pulling them up whenever I find them.

  2. I love mine! It grows in a shady bed that gets dry into July/Aug, so that seems to keep it under control and it provides pretty blooms from May-July.

    • The blooms are pretty, aren’t they? I also discovered that rabbits nibbled it in early spring, and maybe that keeps it from getting too much out of control.

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