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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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Grow favorite herbs indoors

QUESTION: We love fresh herbs and grew basil, rosemary, parsley and sage in the garden this summer. Can we dig them up and bring them inside to grow all winter?

You can bring basil indoors to grow during winter.

You can bring basil indoors to grow during winter.

With the right conditions and consistent care, it’s certainly possible to bring herbs inside and keep them through the winter. Some fare better indoors than others. Here are details for bringing your favorite herbs indoors:

Basil: An easy way to keep basil for growing indoors is to root cuttings now and plant them in pots later. The Herb Society of America suggests cutting 4-inch portions of stems before they flower, remove the bottom leaves, and place the stems in a small container of water. Place it on a windowsill and change the water every day. After roots form, plant the cuttings in a clean, well-drained pot in good potting mix. To grow successfully indoors, basil needs strong light (this usually means a south or west window, or grow it under artificial light). Keep the soil evenly moist and provide fertilizer about once a month.

Rosemary: This is a plant that may be happier outdoors all winter than in the dry air of a heated house. If you’ve planted one of the more hardy varieties, it should survive the winter outdoors, especially if it’s in a protected location in the garden. But rosemary can also be rooted in water or in moist potting soil, planted in potting mix and place in a sunny location indoors. Mist it frequently to keep the air moist, or set the pot on a layer of stones in a tray of water.

Parsley: This is an herb that may be easier to grow indoors from seed. Parsley is a biennial that grows a long tap root, which makes it more difficult to dig up and repot. Soak the seeds in warm water overnight, and sprinkle them onto good potting mix in pots that drain well. Cover the seeds with about ¼ inch of potting mix and keep the soil evenly moist. Place the pot in a bright (south-facing) window or under fluorescent lights. Parsley seeds are slow to germinate, so be patient. Plants grown indoors may be more spindly, due to lower light levels, but the flavor is just a good.

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One Response

  1. Variegated Flowering Maple overwintered last yearOkay, so you’ve decided to overwinter, and maybe even propagate some of your tender plants inside. You’ve found a good spot to keep your plants, and have a good source of natural or artificial light. You’ve decided which plants to bring in, and have the supplies you need on hand which may include a quality potting mix, water-tight saucers or trays, nursery pots in various sizes (or more decorative containers if you prefer,) safe insect controls, sharp pruners, Ziploc bags (or more economical generic zip-type bags,) maybe some rooting hormone, and a watering can or hose*. If you don’t have nursery pots, clean deli, yogurt, cottage cheese, or other plastic containers will work just fine as long as you make some drain holes in the bottoms. Save the lids and they can be used as saucers! Persian Shield, overwintered last yearIndividual specimens can be brought inside in the same container they were in while outside. With mixed containers, you’ll need to decide whether to bring in the whole thing, or just select individual plants. You could also opt to take only cuttings of certain plants rather than bringing the entire plant indoors. Coleus and Iresine are good candidates and examples. If you opt to break down the container and bring in only certain plants, and cuttings of others, this is where the extra nursery pots or other containers come in, and they can also be used for propagating later, after your plants are already inside. If you’re transferring a plant into a new pot, be sure to choose one that allows room for some root growth while not being too big. An extra inch or two larger than the root ball is probably about right. Too small and the plant will get rootbound, too large and it may rot.

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