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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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Ants on peonies: Welcome visitors or creepy pests?

I love peonies, their flowers and their fragrance. But when ours are blooming they always seem to be covered with ants! They crawl all over the buds. Sometimes they are small ants, and sometimes large black ants. How can we get rid of them?

Ants crawl on peoniesYou don’t want to get rid of them. The ants are not harming the peonies, and in fact they may have a part to play in helping to open the dense flower buds of some varieties. According to the Heartland Peony Society, it is believed that peonies produce nectar that attracts them for this purpose. It’s normal, and temporary. After the peonies are open, the ants often disappear.

What you may want to know is how to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation: using your cut peonies in an indoor arrangement and having ants crawl out of the flowers and across the dinner table!

I found this suggestion at Growing For Market, a website of resources for market farmers: cut the peonies before they open, and shake off the ants. Then put the peonies in water and let them bloom inside. The bud is developed enough to open after it’s cut when it shows color and is as soft as a marshmallow. Indoors, it should open in about two days.

And here’s a bonus bit of information from Growing For Market that’s worth trying at home: at this soft bud stage, peonies can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks. Wrap them loosely in a plastic bag with the cut stems exposed and place them at the back of the fridge. When you are ready to use them, cut an inch from the stem and place them in warm, deep water. Depending on how tight the bud was when it was cut, it may take eight to 48 hours to open.

Congratulations, Cheekwood

For the second time, Nashville’s Cheekwood Botanical Garden has been named one of the Best Public Gardens in North America in the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice contest. President and CEO Jane MacLeod is thrilled: “Each year, our gardens are host to hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to Cheekwood for the world-renowned art exhibitions and spectacular seasonal festivals that make us one of Nashville’s great treasures,” she says. “We are honored by this designation and thank everyone who voted for Cheekwood.”

Cheekwood was one of 20 gardens nominated for the award, a group that included Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, New York Botanical Garden in Brooklyn, and Chicago Botanical Garden. The the top 10 winners were determined by a public vote held on USA Today’s 10Best website in March. The winners are promoted at usatoday.com/travel.

Cheekwood-in-Bloom-web

Each spring, hundreds of guests enjoy the gardens during the Cheekwood in Bloom festival. Information about the gardens and events all year are at Cheekwood’s website.

 

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