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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Rose of Sharon is an easy summer favorite

I remember a large Rose of Sharon shrub that grew in my grandmother’s yard that had big, pretty flowers every summer. I’d like to have one for my own garden. Can this shrub be started from cuttings?

Lil Kim Proven Winners

Lil’ Kim Rose of Sharon (H. syriacus) from Proven Winners Plants.

The old-fashioned rose of Sharon, or shrub althaea (Hibiscus syriacus), is easy to grow, and often pops up in unexpected places from dropped seeds. It can also be propagated from stem cuttings. Here are general guidelines for taking cuttings of rose of Sharon and other woody ornamentals:

Cut lengths of softwood (soft, succulent new growth) or semi-hardwood (partially mature wood of the current season’s growth) about six inches long from a healthy host plant. Remove the bottom leaves, and dip the cut ends in rooting hormone powder. Stick the cut ends about one-third their length into a rooting medium that drains well, such as perlite or vermiculite. Cover the cuttings with some sort of plastic covering to maintain a humid environment, and place them in indirect light.

Keep the rooting medium moist until roots develop. It will likely take several weeks, but you’ll know the cuttings have grown roots when you tug gently on the cuttings and feel resistance. Transplant them into containers to allow them to grow to a larger size before you plant them in the garden.

Rose of Sharon grows and blooms best in full sun, and thrives in almost any well-drained soil. Once established, it tolerates heat and drought. Flowers bloom on new growth, so if it needs pruning, you can do that task in winter.

Spider mites can ruin your roses

What could be stripping the leaves off the branches of my roses? I spray with a product that is supposed to protect roses from insects and diseases, but it hasn’t helped.

Knock Out roseKeep an eye on roses when it’s hot and dry. That’s when spider mites do their worst damage, say rosarians at the Nashville Rose Society, and they can turn a lovely rose bush into an ugly mess.

The tiny creatures get on the undersides of leaves and feed on the plant’s juices. The damaged leaves look speckled, turn yellow and fall off.

Spider mites are not insects; they are more closely related to spiders, so insecticides won’t have any effect. You can use a miticide, but it can be expensive. The best and cheapest way to control them is with a blast of water directed at the undersides of the leaves, rosarians say. If you do this every three days for a week or so, you break the mites’ gestation cycle.

Here’s a little more information about the tiny arachnids: Adult mites are less than 1/50 inch long. They use their mouthparts to pierce individual plant cells and remove the liquid. They produce webs that can coat the foliage with a fine silk that collects dust, making the leaves look dirty.

You can’t see them, but you can certainly see the damage. Heavily infested plants will be discolored, and if they are not controlled, the rose can be stunted, or even killed.

Keep snails from snacking on the garden

I grow herbs and flowers in brick raised beds around my patio. In the evenings, I often see dozens of snails around the bricks and in the beds around the plants. How do you keep snails from eating everything in the garden?

snail 4The best way to keep snails (and their slimy mollusk cousins, slugs) from dining in your garden is to keep them out of the beds in the first place. Garden experts and home gardeners have a variety of tips and techniques for this, mostly involving barriers to separate the mollusks from your plants, but also ways to trap them and remedies to reduce snail and slug habitat. The tips here are from two sources, The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food and Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver:

  • Soft-bodied snails and slugs a reluctant to cross scratchy materials, such as pine needles or crushed eggshells. A continuous barrier of that powdery, sharp-edge irritant, diatomaceous earth, should keep snails at a distance. Others have suggested spreading coffee grounds or sharp sand around vulnerable plants.
  • Copper gives slugs and snails a mild electric shock when they come into contact with it, so a strip of copper flashing tacked around the outside of raised beds can be an effective deterrent.
  • Strips of hardware cloth around the bed can also keep snails from crossing. Make sure it extends a couple of inches above the bed, and for extra protection, cut the wire so that it leaves sharp points along the top edge.
  • Set out traps. A shallow pan of beer, or of yeast, sugar and water, lures them in, and they drown. A suggested recipe: 3 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of granulated yeast, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Snails and slugs stay in the shade during the day and come out to dine at night when it’s cool and moist. You can prop a wide board about an inch off the ground to create an alluring daytime shelter, and collect and dispose of them after they’ve gathered there.
  • Reduce snail habitat by cleaning up around the beds. Loose bricks, boards, moist piles of leaves and other garden debris provide dark, cool places for slugs and snails to hang out during the day while they’re waiting for nightfall to come out and dine at your garden buffet.
  • If you normally water the garden in the evening, change your routine to morning watering so the soil surface dries quickly.

If one technique doesn’t work, try another, or try a combination of techniques to reduce the snail population in your garden.

June garden tips & tasks

Lots of bright sunshine, and just enough rain — that’s perfect June weather, and what we always hope for. Here are this months tips and tasks to help you enjoy your time in the garden.

Early June

tomato red

Tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

Have you put off planting seeds in the kitchen garden? You can still plant bush and pole beans, squash, zucchini, cucumber, okra and eggplant, sunflowers, zinnias and other summer favorites.

Remove any leftover foliage of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs, which most certainly has turned yellow or brown by now.

Morning is the best time to water lawns, perennial, annual and vegetable beds. About an inch of water per week is enough to keep most plants and lawns thriving.

Summer tomatoes will begin to ripen. Make sure they receive consistent moisture. Use mulch around the plants to keep them from drying out quickly. Replenish mulch around in all garden beds to help keep plants’ roots moist as the weather heats up.

Snip the growing tips of chrysanthemums. This encourages new, fuller growth, and delays flowering. Plan to pinch them back again next month, which will encourage them to flower better in the fall.

Middle of the month

Japanese beetle

Watch for Japanese beetles on plants and flowers.

Blueberries continue to ripen. If you want to get them before the birds do, cover the plants with bird netting.

Gladiolus and other tall, top-heavy perennials may need stakes to help keep them standing.

Cut basil frequently to use in the kitchen. Pinch out the flowering spikes of the plants to encourage bushier growth.

If you discover Japanese beetles munching away at your favorite plants, flick them off into a bucket of soapy water. Many garden experts discourage using Japanese beetle traps, which may lure more to your yard than they catch.

Vacation plans? Ask a friend or neighbor (or a young gardener looking for a little extra income) to water garden beds and containers if it doesn’t rain.

End of June

hosta 1

If you find holes in your hostas, you can probably blame slugs.

Shrubs and trees planted this spring should be watered regularly to help them continue to adjust to their first summer in the landscape.

Holes in your hostas are probably the work of slugs. Place a saucer of beer or yeast mixed in water near the plants to trap them.

Remove the faded flowers (a task called “deadheading”) to encourage more blooms of daisies, coreopsis and other summer favorites.

If ferns and other hanging arrangements are under shelter and out of the rain, they dry out quickly in the summer heat. Be sure to provide water frequently. You may need to water every day.

Spider mites strike when the weather is hot and dry. On roses, look for them if you begin to see yellow, speckled leaves. If you spot them on roses or other shrubs, blast them with a strong spray of water directed at the undersides of the leaves every two or three days.

In Saturday’s Tennessean: The gardens at The Craighead House, the historic property owned by Nashville landscape designer Steve Sirls, has been placed in the Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Gardens. Read it now at Tennessean.com.