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  • May garden tips & tasks


    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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A daisy dilemma

I planted a perennial garden several years back. In the past two years, the Shasta daisies have spread and are taking over the whole garden. I have dug several up but the roots are numerous. Should I just spray them to kill them?

DaisiesWhen you read comments about Shasta daisies on garden websites, it’s clear that gardeners either love them or hate them. Love them because these daisies (Leucanthemum, in botanical nomenclature) are easy to grow and bloom reliably year after year; hate them because they can be aggressive and can, indeed, muscle out plants that are more well-behaved.

Spraying is risky, and I never recommend it. I assume you’re thinking about using something like Roundup or other weed killers that contain glyphosate. It would most likely kill the daisies, but since it’s a non-selective herbicide, that means it will kill or damage everything else it happens to drift onto. Plus, the ingredients in these products have been found to have adverse health effects. I wouldn’t recommend using it. If you decide to try it, be sure to follow directions on the label.

In my own garden, the daisy bed is encroaching on a patch of ‘May Night’ salvia, a small new hydrangea and a prized peony, but it’s a small enough patch that I can dig up or rip out about half of it every year and that keeps it within its boundaries. Daisies are tough and long-lasting. You can be ruthless in your digging and dividing, and they seem to always come back stronger. A few years ago, I dug up and mailed plants to a gardening friend at the other end of the state, and she reports that they are doing just fine.

I keep them around because they are so reliable, have a long blooming period, and are perky and cheerful in the mid-summer heat. My garden gets less than full sun where the Shasta daisies are planted, but they tolerate the lightly shaded conditions and bloom well. Butterflies love them, and they are great as cut flowers because they last a long time in a vase.

If you no longer want the daisies, you could also dig them up and dispose of them, unless the patch is so large now that it’s an impossible task. How about inviting gardening friends over to dig up what they want and take them out of your garden?


2 Responses

  1. I want some, I want some! I do not have daisies but I have a good placer for them–but this reply is really about garden-sharing. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a notice on our neighborhood website inviting neighbors to come over for monarda, yarrow, gold moss sedum, iris, English ivy, liriope, and Heavenly Bamboo nandina. I was thinning, and I cannot bear to throw out a live plant.

    Four new friends, young, first-time homeowners, came for the plants over the weekend. We talked gardening and lifted plants to fill buckets, bags, and wagons. Some took baby crape myrtles and lily-of-the-valley in addition to the others. One brought me lemon balm. All promised to take–and share–photos of their gardens year after year.

    On Wednesday, I saw a post on Craigslist for free plants: daylilies, thyme, anemone poppies, hypericum, scented geranium, French tarragon…. It was the tarragon that grabbed me. No phone number and advice not to email, just “come on over, I’ll be outside.”

    Nancy, a Master Gardener, and I became fast friends. I came home with all of the above and more, especially a great admiration for fellow gardeners. I was rewarded ten-fold!

    • Diana, it’s amazing how quickly gardeners can become friends, isn’t it? I also have daisies to dig up. Come on over if you want some of them!

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