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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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Tulip bulbs: It’s not too late to plant

I bought tulip bulbs in the fall but didn’t have time to plant them. Is it too late to put them in the ground now?

Tulips

Tulip bulbs planted now will bloom next spring.

Good news: Unless the ground is frozen and you can’t dig, it’s not too late. Tulip bulbs apparently prefer cooler planting conditions. But don’t wait much longer; otherwise, blooming will be delayed. Try to get the bulbs in the ground before the end of December.

Here are general planting guidelines from the National Gardening Association:

Prepare a well-drained bed in full sun. Plant tulip bulbs – pointed end up – about six inches deep – or a couple of inches deeper if voles are a problem in your garden. Space bulbs about 5 inches apart, and apply a granular bulb fertilizer. Firm the soil and water thoroughly.

National Gardening Association suggests planting five bulbs per square foot for a nice display. When you plant a grouping, be care to plant all the bulbs at the same depth to ensure they will all bloom at the same time.

You can also plant tulip bulbs in pots. Fine Gardening magazine suggests this technique: For the best visual impact, select a container with an outside diameter of at least 18 inches that is at least 15 inches tall. Fill the container about two-thirds with lightweight potting mix, and place the bulbs (pointed end up) close together in a tight circular pattern. Cover them with soil, leaving about an inch of space at the top.

In my yard, squirrels try to find hidden treasure by digging in unprotected containers, so I cover the soil with poultry wire cut to fit the pot. Fine Gardening magazine suggests a wire grid such as peony support. Cover the wire with a thin layer of soil; when the bulbs begin to sprout, they will grow through the open grid.

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