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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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Spring lawn repair: mow and sow

Question: There are several bare spots in our lawn. Is it too early to sow fescue grass seed?

Lawn repair wheat straw

Sprinkle wheat straw over areas of newly patched lawn.

If the bare spots are just that – bare, ragged patches in an established lawn of cool-season grass such as fescue, and not an entire lawn — then March is a good time to fill in and overseed by sowing new grass seed. Here are the steps to take, provided by Judy Lowe, author of Month by Month Gardening in Tennessee & Kentucky:To overseed, mow the grass at the lowest mower setting and rake the clippings, then mow and rake again to expose as much of the soil as possible. Use a hard metal rake to rough up the soil. Even with much of the soil exposed, the seed won’t all come into contact with the soil, so sow one-and-a- half or two times the amount of seed recommended for a new lawn. Rake lightly over the area, and if possible, sprinkle a ¼-inch layer of topsoil or compost on top. Water the overseeded lawn every day to keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.

To patch a bare or ragged patch of lawn, first remove grass and weeds from the area and square off the edges. Dig the soil six inches deep and remove any rocks, roots and debris. Mix organic matter into the soil, rake the area, and then water. Sow grass seed at the rate recommended on the bag, then smooth the soil with the back of a rake to make sure the seed comes into contact with the soil. Cover the area with a light layer of wheat straw and water it often to keep the soil moist while the seeds germinate.

These steps can get your lawn through the summer in fairly good shape if it receives adequate moisture throughout the season. For complete renovation of a fescue lawn, which is easier to establish in cool weather, wait until fall.

If your lawn is a warm-season grass such as zoysia or Bermuda, wait until the soil warms up to do any planting.

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