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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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July garden tips & tasks

Things are heating up! Here’s a to-do list to keep the garden at its best this month.

Early in the month

It’s time for summer tomatoes! The fruits tend crack when watering is inconsistent, so keep the soil around tomatoes evenly moist.

 

ColeusColeus’ beauty is in the foliage, so when it begins to bloom, pinch off the flower spikes to encourage the plant to grow fuller and bushier. Wax begonias also benefit from periodic pinching to keep them from becoming leggy.

For the best flavor, pick squash and cucumbers while they are still small and tender. You can plant a second crop of bush beans, zucchini and cucumber, summer veggies that grow quickly.

Watch for slugs and snails that may chew holes in the leaves of some plants. Slugs seek out the damp, cool areas in a shady garden. Hostas are particularly susceptible to slug dining. To trap them, set out a shallow dish filled with beer.

Run sprinklers in vegetable, perennial and annual beds in the morning. Better still, use soaker hoses for more efficient watering.

Mid-July

glads orange garden benchGladiolus, hollyhocks, foxglove, dahlias and other tall-growing summer favorites may need staking to keep them from toppling during a strong summer shower.

Cut the stems of mums before they begin to form flowers. Doing so now will encourage fuller plants and more flowers this fall, when they become the stars in the garden.

Mid-July is a good time to divide bearded irises. Cut the leaves to about five inches tall, and gently lift the rhizomes from the ground and separate them. Cut away any rotting or diseased parts, and replant them in a prepared bed right away and water well. Share extras with friends.

Make sure the trees and shrubs you planted in spring get plenty of water. The Nashville Tree Foundation advises that trees planted in the last three years should receive 10 gallons per week per inch of tree caliper. Water your trees slowly with a bucket, soaker hose, slow drip hose or watering bag. www.nashvilletreefoundation.org.

Compost is really “cooking” in this heat. Add dried leaves or other “brown” material along with your kitchen scraps. Turn the compost periodically to help it break down faster.

Later this month

Summer annuals and perennials such as daisies, glads, zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos and others make beautiful summer bouquets. Cut them early in the day when they’re at their freshest and put them in water in a vase right away. Change the water daily to keep them fresh longer. Continue to clip off spent flowers of annuals and perennials to keep them blooming longer.

A tobacco hornworm covered with wasp cocoons, and one without.

A tobacco hornworm covered with wasp cocoons, and one without.

Garden pests to watch for include tobacco hornworms on tomato plants and Japanese beetles on just about everything else. Pluck the worms off the tomato plants and dispose of them. (If you see one with its back covered with white eggs, leave it; it is being parasitized by a tiny wasp.) Knock Japanese beetles off plants into a bucket of soapy water.

Lawn growth (and lawn mowing) may slow down as the heat increases. Continue to mow as needed, but don’t cut the grass too short. Provide about an inch of water if it doesn’t rain.

Don’t let mosquitoes become a problem. Empty anything that can collect water. Refresh the water in bird baths every couple of days. Use mosquito dunks in rain barrels and other containers of standing water.

It’s hot, but you may still have to get out there and pull weeds. Pick your favorite tool and get to work. Mulch in the garden beds helps keep weeds at a minimum, and also keeps the soil moist longer.

Take a daily walk around the garden to enjoy the scenery, but also to spot problems with weeds or bugs before they get out of hand.

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2 Responses

  1. If a hookworm is covered by wasp eggs, why not get rid of it? We don’t want wasps, do we? Wasps aren’t pollinators like honeybees, are they?

  2. Yes! These wasps are also pollinators. Plus, these tiny Braconid wasps are considered beneficial insects as a biological control for tobacco hornworms. They are parasites that kill the hornworm by laying their eggs under the skin of the caterpillar — the hornworm. The eggs hatch, and the larvae feed on the hornworm that would otherwise be devouring the tomato plant.

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