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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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September garden tips & tasks


Cooler weather entices the gardener back outdoors for another gardening season. Here are tasks to consider in September.

Early in the month

Plant a fall garden of vegetables that thrive in cooler weather: spinach and lettuce, cabbage, greens, turnips and radishes. Heat, weeds and insects are garden challenges (it’s still summer, after all), so plan carefully.

Seed packetsSave seeds for next year’s garden. Allow beans to dry on the vine; remove pepper seeds and spread them on a paper towel until they are dry; allow okra pods to turn brown on the plant, but harvest the pods before they split and drop the seeds on the ground. They key to successful seed-saving is to make sure the seeds are completely dry before storing them.

It’s time to work on that cool-season (fescue) lawn. Reseed or refurbish an established lawn, or plant a new lawn between now and the end of the month. Remove thatch (the buildup of organic material at soil level) before sowing to improve seed contact with the soil. Keep the soil moist as seed germinates.

Plant a bed of garlic. Plant individual cloves (pointed end up) two inches deep and about 4 inches apart in a sunny location with well-drained soil. Harvest the bulbs next summer.

You may not have to water container gardens as often, but it’s still smart to keep an eye on them so they don’t dry out completely.

Mid-September

Continue to deadhead perennials that are still blooming to keep them flowering as long as possible.

Coleus and mintRoot cuttings of coleus, geraniums, begonias and other summer annuals to grow indoors in a sunny window over the winter. Plan to plant them outdoors again next spring.

Continue to harvest basil to use with late-summer meals and to make pesto to freeze and use later.

Cut dead leaves and dried stalks of daylilies. Continue to water the plants so they go into winter with a strong root system.

Begin clearing out dead foliage, twigs and other garden debris from perennial and vegetable beds. This helps keep insects and disease from wintering-over in the garden.

If you have houseplants outdoors, begin preparing them to come back inside. Transfer them to a shady area and clean the pots, remove dead or damaged foliage, and treat for insects that might hitch a ride into the house.

 

Late September

Use potted mums to bring fall colors to porches, patios and garden beds. Mums growing in containers should last for weeks if they are watered regularly. Clip off dead flowers as needed.

MumsMulch is still a gardener’s best friend, even in fall. It helps keep soil moist and weeds at bay. Add mulch to perennial beds and around roses to help protect plant roots this winter.

Before things disappear from the garden, place plant markers where they’re needed to mark the location of perennials that die back to the ground during winter.

Keep that new or refurbished cool-season lawn watered so that it establishes a good root system. Provide about an inch to an inch and a half of water a week, using a sprinkler if it doesn’t rain.

Go ahead and buy those spring-flowering bulbs, but wait until the soil cools a bit to put them in the ground. You can begin preparing the beds now so they will be ready when the time is right.

Take a tour of your own garden. Begin to make notes of this year’s successes, challenges, chores for the to-do list and ideas for next year.

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