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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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Dayflower gives gardens the blues

QUESTION: There’s a weed spreading through my perennial bed, under the trees and even growing out of a pile of stepping stones in my yard. It has small, two-petal blue flowers and long, pointed leaves. What is it? And more importantly, how can I get rid of it?

DayflowerIt sound like you are describing Asiatic dayflower, a weedy annual that grows and spreads quickly and will consume anything in its path if you allow it to proceed. It blooms summer into fall, opening its flowers in the morning (it actually has three petals; two blue and one smaller petal that’s smaller and more pale) and closing up tight by late afternoon. It reproduces from seeds dropped each year, but it also spreads vegetatively, rooting at the leaf nodes on moist soil. Common Asiatic dayflower is in the same family as spiderwort.

Dayflower grows in a variety of conditions, but really spreads aggressively in moist, shady spots. As explained in the Illinois Wildflowers database site, “At favorable sites, the Asiatic Dayflower forms colonies that can exclude other species of plants.”

Dayflower patchSo yes, you may want to try to eliminate dayflower from your garden. It won’t be easy. Glyphosates (Roundup and other non-selective herbicides) don’t faze it, apparently. Gardeners who have struggled with it say that it’s easy to pull out of the ground, but even if you think you’ve gotten every single leaf, stem and root, it likely will come back. It’s easiest to pull up when it’s young and small. Diligence is advised.

Here are some comments I read in a forum at Dave’s Garden as I researched Commelina communis:

“It seems to grow several inches over night and can overwhelm an area in little time.”
“Invasive as they get — one of my biggest pests!”

“This plant is a superweed!”

But let’s end with a couple of good things to know about Asiatic dayflower and its blue blooms: Usually, flowers we call “blue” are closer to violet or purple. The flowers of Asiatic dayflower are truly blue, a color that is found in few other plants. And a commenter at the Dave’s Garden forum says this: “It is extremely invasive; but at least it is edible. The young leaves and stems can be added to salads or boiled for 10 minutes and served with butter.”

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