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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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August garden tips & tasks

It’s hot, so get out early in the day for these mid-summer garden tips and tasks:

Early in the month

summer flowersContinue deadheading summer-flowering perennials and annuals, cutting off the spent flowers to encourage the plants to keep blooming. Be sure to cut fresh flowers, too, to enjoy in bouquets indoors.

Nothing’s more frustrating that finding that birds have poked holes in your prized tomatoes. To discourage pecking, pick tomatoes before they are fully red and let them ripen indoors.

Petunias may start to look ragged. Cut them back and fertilize lightly, and they should soon rebound with fresh blooms.

Continue to watch for Japanese beetles, which are attracted to many of your favorite ornamentals. Pick off any you find on your prized plants, and plunk them into a bowl of soapy water.

Depending on your hardiness zone, you may be able to plant seeds of fast-growing bush beans to provide a late harvest of beans this fall. Check the “Days to maturity” note on the seed packet.

Reduce the mosquito population by regularly emptying everything that collects water. Change the water in birdbaths every day or so. Use natural mosquito control products in ponds and rain barrels.

Mid-August

There’s a saying: One year of seeds; seven years of weeds. If you can’t dig out the weeds frequently enough, at least cut the tops to keep them from flowering and setting seed.

SquashBegin gathering seeds of your favorite annuals or vegetables to plant next year. Dry seeds thoroughly, package, label and date them, and store them in a place that’s cool and dry.

Continue to harvest and use basil frequently to keep the plant from setting seed too early.

Summer vegetables – tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, summer squash, peppers — will continue producing if you harvest regularly. Okra, especially, should be picked every day or so, before the small tender pods grow large and tough.

If the weather is hot and dry, watch for spider mites on roses. They thrive in these conditions and can quickly defoliate a rosebush. A strong spray of water on the undersides of the leaves every two or three days for a week should help keep them under control.

Later this month

Parsley curledSome summer herbs can be frozen to use later. Try freezing fresh sprigs of parsley, oregano, sage, tarragon and dill. Rinse the herbs and pat them dry, then place them in separate freezer bags or containers with tight-fitting lids. Use them within four months.

Provide ample water if it doesn’t rain. It’s still hot, and you may need to water frequently. In fact, you may need to douse container gardens every day.

Keep vegetable beds clean of dead or dying foliage and rotting vegetables. A tidy garden bed means fewer places for destructive insects to overwinter.

Avoid planting new trees and shrubs in the hottest part of summer. Be sure that trees, shrubs and perennials planted this spring are receiving enough water during long hot spells.

Begin planting a cool season kitchen garden — spinach, greens, kale, lettuces and other favorites. Keep beds or containers watered as seeds sprout, and watch for late-summer insect pests.

 

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