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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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Gardenia is worth pampering

I received a gardenia plant in a 3-gallon plastic pot and a large, beautiful ceramic pot to plant it in for Mother’s Day. It’s outdoors in an area that receives part sun. Only one bloom has opened, but it’s full of buds and will be covered in white flowers soon, I hope. When should I repot it into the new pot? Are gardenias hardy in Middle Tennessee?

GardeniaIf buds have formed since you received this lovely gift, I’d wait to repot it until after it has finished blooming. Gardenias don’t always settle into a new environment easily, and a typical response to such a move is to stop flowering.

After the flowers fade, get ready to pamper this temperamental beauty. I spent some time gathering information about growing gardenias in our area (Middle Tennessee is in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a), and must report that “finicky” is a word often used to describe this beautiful, fragrant shrub.

Gardenias grow best in the ground in Zones 8 – 10, the lower south. For those of us living up north – that is, north of Birmingham or Atlanta – gardenias are not hardy, so they should be treated as house plants, which means that when the temperature drops below 55 degrees, you will have to bring it indoors or into a greenhouse and baby it through the winter. Take it back outdoors when the temperature is consistently warm next spring.

In the house, gardenia requires a sunny spot that gets about eight hours of indirect sunlight. It also becomes a magnet for mealybugs, mites and whiteflies, so you should remain vigilant, and be prepared to treat for pests before they get out of hand.

In spite of the challenges, it’s still worth growing this lovely shrub. Here’s what it needs to thrive: acid soil (one information source suggests good potting soil with a handful of coffee grounds mixed in), good drainage, full sun or partial shade, regular watering, high humidity, and nighttime temperatures of 50 – 55 degrees in winter and spring if you want flowers. Good luck.

 

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