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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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Japanese anemone can be an attractive nuisance

We planted Japanese anemone a few years ago and it’s beautiful now that it’s blooming again, but it’s also spreading all over the place and taking over the garden bed! We’ve tried digging it up and cutting it back, but it just grows more. What can we do to keep it from spreading?

Japanese anemoneHere is an example of a plant that you can fall in love with once a year. The rest of the year, you may find you want to rip it out of the ground.

Japanese anemone has a lot to recommend it. It’s a perennial that grows in sun but is also happy in partly shady conditions. It doesn’t mind acid soil. The foliage grows tall (2 – 4 feet) in attractive mounds. Deer and rabbits don’t seem to care for it, and it blooms reliably in fall, opening masses of pretty white or pink flowers that sway in the breeze after summer-blooming perennials have given up for the year.

It’s a little finicky about soil; it requires good drainage and may languish during periods of drought, but the main complaint gardeners have is that it’s aggressive. It can take a couple of years for it to get established, but once it’s settled in and conditions are right, the plant spreads rapidly and forms dense clumps that take over whatever else might be in its way in the garden bed. Some have called it, generously, a “nuisance” plant.

Here in Zone 7a, Japanese anemone dies back after frost but it’s one of the first things to peek out of the soil in later winter, and once the weather warms, it takes off again. In my garden, it comes up through gravel paths, between rocks in a stacked stone wall, and is making its way into nearby raised beds in the kitchen garden.

It takes diligence and a sharp tool to keep it within bounds. Where you don’t want it to grow, dig it up. Try to get as much of the root as possible (which can be difficult, because the roots break easily). If you want to divide it to share with friends, spring is a good time for that task. Be sure to warn anyone who receives your gift of Japanese anemone that it can become an attractive nuisance.

Betty brown tree trailThe Betty Brown Tree Trail & Arboretum, Nashville’s first downtown arboretum, honors Elizabeth Moorhead Brown’s work to advocate for the city’s urban forests. Read the story in Saturday’s Tennessean.

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