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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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The garden’s second season

QUESTION: When should we start planting a vegetable garden for fall?

seed packetsStart now! As summer vegetables begin to dwindle and fade, make space in garden beds for kitchen garden favorites that grow in cooler weather. Here are suggestions and tips from garden authors and extension agents:

Broccoli: If you can buy transplants, make sure they are short and compact and have good, green color. Be sure they’re not transporting pests or disease. Plant them in full sun about 18 inches apart, with about 36 inches between rows. Water as needed to keep the plants from wilting, and apply a complete fertilizer when they are about 10 inches tall.

Cabbages: Set out transplants in full sun and well-drained soil. Space the transplants 12 to 18 inches apart with 24 inches between rows. Fertilize the plants when they’re about half grown, and harvest when the heads reach full size. For the best flavor, use it fresh.

Collards: Sow seeds or set seedlings in full sun and well-drained soil, 12 to 18 inches apart, with 20 inches between rows. Provide regular water (about an inch of water a week) and harvest by cutting the outer leaves as they reach full size.

Leaf lettuce: Begin now to sow seeds in successive plantings every two or three weeks. Sow in rows 12 inches apart, and thin to 4 – 6 inches apart when seedlings appear. Seeds can also be sprinkled over the soil in large pots and planters. Harvest when the leaves are large enough to use.

Spinach: Sow seeds in full sun in rows that are 12 inches apart, and thin then seedlings to one plant every 6 inches after they begin to grow. Provide regular water, and harvest when the leaves are large enough to use.

Turnips (greens or roots) Sow seed in full sun and well-drained soil, ½ inch deep, eight to ten seeds per foot in rows 12 inches apart. When the seedlings are 4 inches tall, thin them to about three inches apart. You should have greens to harvest in about five weeks. If you grow turnips for the roots, harvest them when they are about 2 – 3 inches in diameter.

 

Tomatoes: How late is too late?

QUESTION: I have some tomato transplants from spring that have not been planted. They are tall and skinny, but still look healthy. Is it too late to plant them now?
tomatoes green

Ideally, healthy tomato transplants should be planted in mid to late April or early May (or after the last frost date in your area). To wait until late June to get the transplants in the ground is asking for trouble, but if you have the space to plant and the time to coddle them through the summer heat, you might as well try. Plant them deep, or dig a trench and lay the stem on its side with the leaves at the top of the stem above the soil. Provide a dose of water-soluble fertilizer, water them well and keep the soil moist.

Planting in the heat of summer, you are likely to encounter problems with insects, slower growth, delayed blooming and soil that dries out too quickly for the young plants to grow well. But if the plants pull through the worst of it, you may be rewarded with a small crop of fall tomatoes.

If you’re late to start a garden this year and still want to have home-grown vegetables and herbs, consider these quick-start choices that should come up right away from seed: cucumbers, bush beans, summer squash, beets, carrots, scallions, basil, dill. Keep the bed moist after you sow.

And look ahead to fall when you can plant lettuce, turnip and mustard greens, cabbage, spinach, kale, and other favorite cool-season vegetables.

Easy herbs for a beginning gardener

QUESTION: What are some of the easiest herbs to grow in a new herb garden?

Let’s start with five of the most-used culinary herbs in a kitchen garden, as suggested by gardener Sara Plummer, a member of the Nashville Herb Society:

Basil

gb Basil GenoveseNeeds: Warmth, sun, well-drained soil; water regularly.

Varieties: Sweet basil is the most well-known, but there are other varieties with distinctive colors and flavors, including cinnamon, lemon, ‘Spicy Thai,’ ‘Purple Ruffles’ and many more.

Use in: Pasta sauces and salads, with mild cheeses, in rice dishes, and to make pesto.

Note: Basil is very tender and will be killed by cold temperatures, so don’t be in a rush to plant it if the temperature is not consistently warm. Basil is an annual, but if you let it flower and go to seed in the fall, the seeds will drop to the ground and likely will sprout next year when the ground warms.

Chives

gb ChivesNeeds: Moist soil in a sunny location; water regularly.

Varieties: The most common chives have purple globe-shaped flowers, but there are also pink- and white-flowered varieties, and garlic chives.

Use in: Eggs, salads, soups, potatoes, broiled meat or fish.

Note: Clip the long, tubular leaves as needed. Cut chives can last in the fridge about seven days; for longer storage, chop them and store them in the freezer. This hardy perennial grows from bulbs, and may need to be dug up and divided every few years.

Rosemary

gb Rosemary fitcNeeds: Well-drained soil in a sunny location. This is a tender shrub that may be damaged during extreme cold; some varieties are hardier than others (‘Arp’ and ‘Hill Hardy’ are two that do well here).

Use in: Meat, chicken and lamb dishes, fish, casseroles, tomato sauces, egg dishes, vinegars and oils.

Note: Rosemary is evergreen, so you can use fresh leaves all winter if the plant doesn’t succumb to extremely cold weather.

Thyme

gb Thyme motherNeeds: Well-drained soil, but thyme is tolerant of poor soil and dry weather.

Varieties: There are many species and different “flavors.” Popular varieties include ‘Silver Queen,’ lemon thyme, wild creeping thyme, wooly thyme and others.

Use in: Stews, stocks and marinades, stuffing, sauces, herb butters, oils and vinegars.

Note: Some thyme varieties are upright, some have a creeping habit. Trim thyme often to keep it from becoming woody. Harvest the leaves before the plant flowers.

Oregano

gb Oregano GreekNeeds: Well-drained soil in a sunny location.

Varieties: Some species are more flavorful than others, and some are more suited to decorative uses than culinary, so choose carefully. Greek oregano is a good, flavorful choice.

Use in: pizza, meat, tomato dishes, vegetables, oils and vinegars.

Note: Oregano is a perennial plant, but some are more hardy than others. Pick the leaves whenever you want to use them for cooking. They can also be dried or frozen.