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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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May garden tips & tasks

May is a busy and beautiful time in the garden. Here are tasks and tips to keep you busy this month.

Early in the month

If you haven’t already gotten those warm-season vegetables in the ground, plant them now! Tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra, beans, eggplant and other favorites will get off to a fast start now that the weather is warm.

zinnias-1

Set out bedding plants of zinnias and other summer annuals.

Set out bedding plants of zinnias, celosia, snapdragon, begonias, petunias, coleus – all the favorite summer annuals.

Plant plenty of basil in a sunny location to use in summer recipes. Clip and use it frequently, which allows the plants to grow sturdier. Snip off flowers as they begin to form.

Use mulch in perennial and annual beds and borders to keep weeds in check, and to retain moisture in the soil.

Here’s a reminder for mowing: set the mower to cut only about a third of the height of the grass, which results in a healthier lawn. By the way, grass clippings make good mulch, but allow them to decay before you use them on beds and borders.

Mid-May

If the foliage of daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs has turned brown, cut it down.

Azalea pink

If you need to prune azaleas, do the job shortly after they finish blooming.

If you need to prune azaleas, do it now; don’t wait any longer, or you risk cutting off next year’s flowers, which will begin to form soon.

Watch for aphids that may cluster on tender new growth of plants. Spider mites may find your roses and other shrubs if the weather turns hot and dry. A strong spray of water from the hose every few days will help keep both under control. On roses, especially, concentrate on the undersides of leaves.

As perennials flower and fade, cut the dying blooms. This will encourage the plant to bloom longer.

There will always be unwanted plants (sometimes known as weeds). Pull or dig them out of garden beds before they form seeds. Weeds are easier to root out after watering or after a rain, when the soil is moist.

Later this month

irises

Divide bearded irises after they finish blooming.

Divide hellebores. Dig up as much of the root ball as possible and gently separate the roots. Replant right away, or share with friends (reminding them to plant as soon as possible).

Divide bearded irises after they finish blooming. Cut the leaves to about five inches, then lift the tubers with a spading fork. Separate the rhizomes and cut off damaged portions, then replant the rhizomes close to the soil surface.

Gardens and lawns need about an inch of water a week. If it doesn’t rain, use sprinklers early in the morning. Soaker hoses placed throughout garden beds are an efficient way to deliver moisture to the plants’ roots.

Container gardens dry out quickly in hot weather, so if your “garden” is a collection of pots on the deck or balcony, they need to be watered frequently.

As summer approaches, make sure spring-planted trees and shrubs continue to get enough moisture. Provide about an inch of water a week — by hose or sprinkler if it doesn’t rain.

 

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