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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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Poinsettia season

I bought a large, beautiful poinsettia for the holiday that I’d like to keep as long as possible. How long will it last? I’d like to keep it growing until spring and plant it outdoors when the weather is warmer.
Poinsettia

To keep a poinsettia looking its best through the holidays, here are the basics: Place it in a spot in the house that gets indirect light in a room that’s not too warm – 68 to 70 degrees is best. Make sure it’s not near heating vents or in a place where there’s a cold draft. Keep the soil moist, but don’t let the pot sit in water. In fact, if there is a foil wrapper around the plastic pot, remove the wrapper when you water to let it drain. When a poinsettia wilts, that may be an indication that it’s staying too wet.
If you take care of it, the poinsettia should last through the holidays and well beyond.

Poinsettia is a tropical plant, native to Mexico, so don’t be in a rush to get it outside. As spring approaches, cut it back to about eight inches tall and fertilize with an all-purpose plant food. After there is no longer any danger of frost, re-pot the poinsettia and set it outdoors, or plant it in the ground where it will grow into a nice, interesting green plant that will last until the first frost.

What we think of as poinsettia flowers are technically bracts, or modified leaves. The yellow flowers are in the center of the bracts. Some gardeners are able to “re-bloom” a poinsettia plant, but it takes patience and impeccable timing to provide the right conditions of light and dark needed to produce the colorful bracts.
Want to know more? The University of Illinois Extension offers a wealth of interesting information about this tradition of the season at its Poinsettia Pages.

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