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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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March gardening tips & tasks

March can be fickle. Will it be warm? Or will we feel bone-chilling blasts of cold wind? Are there sunny days? Or does the rain fall nonstop for days on end? Will there be tornadoes? Whatever is in store weather-wise, we can be sure that winter is on its way out, spring is about to arrive. Get back out in the garden with these late-winter/early spring garden tasks.

Early this month

Carrots are among the cool-season vegetables to plant in March.

Carrots are among the cool-season vegetables to plant in March.

It’s time to order seeds. Pull out the seed catalogs (or visit your favorite company’s web site) to find what you want and get those orders in so you’ll be ready to plant when the time comes.

Now that winter’s on its way out, assess the damage done by the cold temps and heavy snowfall.

Remove winter-killed plants, prune dead branches, clear out broken twigs and limbs, replenish mulch.

Most trees and shrubs are still dormant, so it’s a good time to do any necessary pruning, especially for shrubs that flower on new stems. Do not prune shrubs that flower on last year’s growth – azaleas, hydrangeas and other ornamentals that bloom early in the spring.

Run the mower over beds of liriope (monkey grass) or mondo, and cut back other ornamental grasses before new shoots emerge.

Prepare new garden beds, and replenish old vegetable beds by adding compost or other soil amendments. If you are planning to build raised beds, gather materials now and begin building to have them ready when planting time arrives.

Sow seeds of lettuce, sugar snap peas, radishes, carrots, beets and spinach as soon as the soil can be worked.

Plan for summer-grown vegetables, and start seeds indoors of garden favorites that will be set out in the kitchen garden in April and early May.

Mid-March

Enjoy daffodils in the garden, but cut some to bring inside, too.

Enjoy daffodils in the garden, but cut some to bring inside, too.

If you need to overseed or repair patches of your fescue lawn, do it now, before it gets too warm. Keep the newly planted areas well-watered. If you want to plant a new lawn, it’s best to wait until fall.

Set out transplants of cool-season vegetables (lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage).

Add an inch or two of mulch around shrubs. Don’t pile the mulch against the trunks of shrubs or trees.

Cut long twigs of spring-flowering shrubs (such as forsythia or flowering quince) to coax into bloom indoors.

Enjoy the daffodils in the garden, but cut some to bring inside, too. As soon as the flowers open, use sharp scissors to cut the stems close to the ground and place them in water. Before you arrange them in a vase, snip off a half-inch of the stem and place them in the water-filled vase right away. The freshest daffodils should last indoors four or five days, especially if they are kept in a cool room.

Shape up some of those hardy herbs. Now is a good time to prune rosemary and sage.

Plant azaleas. Choose a spot with moist, well-drained soil that gets filtered sunlight. Azaleas prefer acidic soil rich in organic matter. Dig a hole about 12 inches deep and about twice as wide as the pot it was grown in and mix in leaf mold or peat moss (both add acid to the soil). Place enough soil in the hole so that the top of the rootball is just above the surface level of the soil. Fill the hole and water well, and add mulch over the plant’s root zone. Keep newly planted azaleas watered.

Later this month

Dig chickweed -- roots and all -- before it forms flowers and spreads seeds.

Dig chickweed — roots and all — before it forms flowers and spreads seeds.

Winter annual wildflowers (or “weeds,” as some call them), such as chickweed and henbit, continue to sprout; dig them up – roots and all, if you can — before they bloom and scatter their seeds.

Dig and divide perennials as needed. Share extras with friends. Fluff up the mulch around azaleas and other shrubs in the landscape, and add an inch or two if necessary.

Do any necessary pre-season mower maintenance; clean and sharpen your garden tools.

Early spring is a good time to prune and shape boxwoods.

Apply a light dose of fertilizer to perennials that are beginning to emerge.

Mowing should begin soon (if you haven’t already started). Don’t cut the grass too short. For best results throughout the year, keep the mower blades sharp, and cut only about a third of the lawn’s height each time.

After daffodil flowers fade, allow the foliage to remain until it turns brown. This will take several weeks, but it’s necessary for the bulb to renew itself to bloom again next year.

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