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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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For mums, just a pinch

QUESTION: I bought pots of mums last fall and planted them in the ground after they finished blooming. They died back over the winter, but grew back this spring. I’ve heard that they should be trimmed after they start to grow, but how much should they be cut?

MumsThose ubiquitous pots of cheerful chrysanthemums that appear in garden centers in late summer are referred to as florists mums. Planted in full sun in good, well-drained garden soil, they should indeed return year after year.

The shoots can begin to appear early in spring. Garden experts advise pinching off the tips of florists mums after they reach 5 – 6 inches tall. As they continue to grow, keep pinching, nipping off the top pair of leaves, throughout the spring and early summer to encourage more lateral growth (making the plants fuller and bushier). This will also delay flowering until late summer and fall, when these bright spots of color will be welcome in the garden.

Keep pinching until about mid-July, then allow the plants to begin to form buds, which will start to flower as fall approaches, about the time many other things are beginning to shut down.

Mums seem pretty resilient. In my own garden, which is more dappled sun and shade than full sun, the mums quickly grow tall and rangy, and I cut them back more severely – sometimes as much as three or four inches off the tops of the plants (I’ll give them a final trim this week). Still, they continue to grow tall, and flop over to cover the garden in a patchwork quilt of colors each fall.

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