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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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Keep geraniums on the sunny side

QUESTION: Every spring I buy pots of geraniums to place in the planters on our front porch, which is shaded by a couple of tall trees. They look great for a couple of weeks, then the lower leaves begin to turn yellow and the flowers become scraggly and sparse. The neighbors’ geraniums always look great! What am I doing wrong?
Geranium 2
Geraniums seem to be on porches and in planters everywhere in summer, so they should be fairly easygoing – and easy-to-care-for plants, right?

Right. As long as you provide what they need to grow and thrive: sun, enough (but not too much) water, and perhaps a bit of fertilizer every now and then.

These are, no doubt, the so-called “common geranium” (Pelargonium x hortorum) that you can find at every nursery and garden center, grocery store and roadside stand in the spring. Notice that in the growing tips that are usually provided, “sun” is the first item on the list. The recommended dose is five to six hours of full sun, so if your geraniums are on a porch that is in the dappled shade of tall trees most of the day, they will not get the sunlight they need to bloom well.
Geranium 1
Move them to a sunny spot, and the geraniums likely will respond with a burst of new blooms. Clip dead flowers off to encourage continued blooming.
Water the plants when the soil is dry or just barely moist. Don’t let the plants become waterlogged, though, and make sure the container drains well to avoid rot and fungus that may develop. Feed container plantings lightly every few weeks with water-soluble fertilizer.

By the way, sources note that common geraniums may stop blooming during extended hot weather, and in that case will benefit from light shade in the afternoon. They should begin to bloom again when the weather is cooler.

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