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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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What’s blooming indoors? Gloxinia

QUESTION: A friend gave me a gloxinia with purple and white flowers as a Christmas gift, and told me it’s a houseplant that’s easy to grow. How should I take care of it?

Sinningia ‘Peridots Darth Vader’ . Photo courtesy Tennessee Gesneriad Society

Sinningia ‘Peridots Darth Vader’ . Photo courtesy Tennessee Gesneriad Society

Gloxinia is in the plant family of gesneriads, a family that includes hundreds of tropical blooming plants. Many of them have found favor as houseplants – including their more familiar cousins, African violets.Florist gloxinias (Sinningia is the botanical name) are favored for their showy, trumpet-shaped flowers and velvety leaves. They need sufficient light to grow and bloom well, says Julie Mavity-Hudson of the Tennessee Gesneriad Society, so placing them near a south-facing window with filtered light (not direct sun) is ideal. If that’s not an option in your home, you may be able to provide the light they require to bloom by placing them under a two-tube fluorescent fixture. Gloxinias do best in average room temperature, with the soil kept moderately moist.

While they have been grown as perennial plants that die back and return after a period of dormancy, it’s good to know that most gloxinias from florists and retailers are hybrids that are grown as annuals, bred to be showy for awhile but not long-lived – a brief but lovely life. The bloom period may last about two months, then the plant will begin to fade, so don’t be disappointed that it may soon look ready for the compost bin.

And if you want to explore more about the family of gesneriads, check out the Gesneriad Society web site to learn more about these beautiful and unusual plants.

 

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