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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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Hellebores for winter blooms

Every year I see Lenten roses blooming in my friends’ gardens in December, and I intend to grow some in my own garden. When is the best time to plant them?

Hellebores The Garden Bench

The blooms of Lenten roses – hellebores – are welcome in a garden when everything else is dormant. They are tough plants, with evergreen foliage and flowers that bloom in January and February (or, as you note, as early as December). The flowers of established plants generally last well into spring.

Middle Tennessee plantsman Troy Marden includes hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus) in his Southern Gardener’s Handbook, in the chapter on Perennials for the South. He notes that fall is a good time to plant Lenten roses. They can grow in a bed that’s partly shady, and they do best in rich, well-drained soil.

Hellebores may grow slowly at first, but once they’re established they quickly get bigger. Marden suggests a dose of composted manure or organic fertilizer in spring to encourage lush growth and abundant blooms the next year. They also self-sow, and the young seedlings can be dug up and transplanted in spring.

Reminder: It’s tree-planting time

Fall’s cooler weather signals the start of tree-planting time.

“It’s better to plant while the tree is dormant, after the leaves are gone,” says Randall Lantz, landscaping and horticulture superintendent for Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation. Strong root growth is important for the tree’s survival, and after leaf drop, the trees can put their energy into growing roots without having to support the top, he explains.

ball burlap treesSurvival also depends on planting the right tree in the right place.

“Look at your neighborhood and see what’s thriving all around, and also determine what kind of space you have,” says Lantz. “Think about whether you need a small tree or a ‘canopy’ tree, which can be very large.

When it’s time to plant, keep these guidelines in mind:

∙ Most trees need good drainage, so make sure the spot you select drains well.

∙ Don’t plant too deep. A young tree with its root ball wrapped in burlap should be planted a couple of inches higher than the soil level. “Trees tend to settle after they’re planted,” Lantz explains.

∙ Dig a hole that is several inches wider than the root ball (ideally, it should be about twice as wide), with a flat bottom, at a depth that is an inch or so less than the height of the root ball. Place the root ball in the hole and backfill with native soil.

∙ Finally, water the newly planted tree well to settle the soil around the root ball. Trees planted in fall and winter will be ready to grow and thrive next spring.

In Saturday’s Tennessean: Belmont Mansion’s Central Parlor goes back in time; Adelicia would feel right at home.

Enjoy the crisp fall weather. Tap here for a list of garden tips & tasks for November.

 

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