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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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Divide Solomon’s seal

I have a patch of variegated Solomon’s seal in a shady garden bed that needs to be divided. When is the best time to do that?

Solomons sealFall is the best time to divide Solomon’s seal. Dig up a clump and divide the rhizomes with a knife, then replant in moist, fertile soil amended with plenty of organic matter – that’s what it enjoys in a woodland setting, where it thrives.

This is a plant that stands out in a shady setting. In spring, it produces graceful stems and large leaves that last until frost; the variegated variety (Polygonatum odoratum var. thunbergii) has white margins on the leaves. In spring, small white flowers dangle from the stems, and if you stand close, you may catch a whiff of the delicate fragrance. Dark berries form after the flowers fade. Make note, though, that all parts of the plant are poisonous

To grow well, Solomon’s seal needs a little sun but grows best in partial shade. It also needs consistent moisture. It is said to be resistant to deer.

Book giveaway winner!

Outwitting scanThe Garden Bench held a book giveaway a couple of weeks ago for the new edition of a book by Bill Adler, Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels. The book is a laugh-out-loud funny look at what many bird-lovers consider a serious problem. There’s good information for gardeners whose efforts are frustrated by squirrels, too. Check out the details of the book here.

And the winner is: Heather S. of Port Townsend, WA. Congrats!

Watch for another book giveaway at The Garden Bench in a few weeks.

May Garden Calendar: The May Garden Calendar and Garden tips and tasks suggest many ways to get out and enjoy spring in the garden. Check it out at Tennessean.com.

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