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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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The beauty of beautyberry

A friend gave us a cutting from a beautyberry shrub a couple of years ago, and the new shrub bloomed and produced berries for the first time this year. When can we take cuttings to plant more of them?

beautyberry 2You can increase your plantings of American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) by taking softwood stem cuttings in summer or fall, according to the USDA Plants Database. Cut 4” – 6” long stems, dip the cut ends into rooting hormone and stick them into potting mix or other rooting media. Water the cuttings and cover them with plastic to keep the material moist. Roots should develop in a few weeks.

After rooting begins, remove the plastic for longer intervals each day for a week or so, finally removing it permanently. Plant the rooted cuttings and water them well.

The mature fruit — those beautiful berries — can also be planted in the fall to germinate next spring.

Beautyberry, which also goes by the names sourbush, bunchberry and French mulberry, is an easy-to-grow perennial shrub that is native to the U.S. Several special of birds are drawn to the purple berries in late summer and fall, as are squirrels, raccoons, possums and deer.

And interesting note from the USDA Plant Database: farmers in the early 20th century crushed the leaves and rubbed them on themselves to repel mosquitoes and other biting bugs. Native American cultures also used the roots, leaves and branches for medicinal purposes, to treat malarial fevers, rheumatism, stomach aches, dysentery and colic.

October in the garden: Click here for a list of October garden tips & tasks.

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