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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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Jay Turman on daylilies: ‘They are very forgiving’

Jay and Peggy Turman's garden contains 400 different species of daylilies.

Jay and Peggy Turman’s garden contains 400 different species of daylilies.

June is the big month for daylilies in Middle Tennessee, and Jay and Peggy Turman are in a good place to enjoy it. They are daylily collectors, and in the relatively small space of their Nashville front yard they grow 400 different cultivars of daylilies, which begin opening in late May each year and continue into July.

Today, they’re enjoying the view of a garden full of daylilies blooming in a range of colors and sizes, and looking forward to the Middle Tennessee Daylily Society’s annual show and sale, which takes place next Saturday (June 18, 2016) at Crievewood United Methodist Church.

The Turmans started MTDS in their living room 27 years ago: “In November, we had 11 for that first meeting. The very next June, we had our first show,” Jay said. “Two years ago, Middle Tenn. Daylily Society had the second largest daylily show in the country, with about 350 entries.”

They’ve become experts over the years, and patiently describe to a visitor the path of development of the 80,000 registered Hemerocallis cultivars that have been hybridized from species daylilies since the 1930s, explaining the genetics of diploids and the importance of tetraploids in the creation of this vast array.

Their mentor, who was at that first meeting, was the late Virginia Peck, a noted English professor at Middle Tennessee State University. She was also an internationally acclaimed daylily hybridizer, and had suggested starting a local organization for daylily enthusiasts. “She hybridized the first ruffled tetraploid in 1976, ‘Dance Ballerina Dance,’ Jay said. “It’s still used in hybridizing.”

Jay Turman shows Hemerocallis 'Jay Turman.'

Jay Turman shows Hemerocallis ‘Jay Turman.’

The Turmans’ daylily garden is laid out in winding paths, with tags marking each of the different species. At the front edge of one of beds is a collection of Hemerocallis that have been named in their honor: Hemerocallis ‘Jay Turman; (a red daylily); H. ‘Peggy Turman,’ (double pink); H. ‘Siloam Peggy Turman’ (a copper shade hybridized by Pauline Henry of Siloam Springs, Ark.); H. ‘Siloam Jay Turman’ (cream with a pink eye zone); and H. ‘Peggy & Jay’ (an almost-white daylily).

Like the rest, they are reliable, low-maintenance perennials that sound a graceful note in a summer garden every year. “That’s the beauty of daylilies – they are very forgiving,” Jay says. “You can’t kill them!”

Here are Jay’s tips for growing daylilies:

Sun: “They prefer full sun, but they will grow in any condition; full sun produces maximum bloom.”

Soil: “They appreciate any amendment you give them. We don’t add much, except every few years we use soil conditioner as mulch.”

Fertilize: “We don’t fertilize; a lot of people who do use Osmocote (a slow-release fertilizer). …Virginia Peck used what she called “cow tea” (cow manure steeped in water and used to water the plants).

Water: “We water sometimes. If God provides extra water, we appreciate it.”

After they’re established, daylilies grow year after year with very little attention needed. “That’s the beauty of daylilies – they are very forgiving,” Jay says. “Virginia Peck would say, ‘It’s the survival of the fittest, honey’.”

Read more of what Jay says about daylilies and about the Middle Tennessee Daylily Society’s show and sale in Saturday’s (June 11) Tennessean. Details about the June 18 Middle Tennessee Daylily Society sale are at the group’s web site, www.middletndaylilysociety.org.



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