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  • Upcoming Garden Events

    Sept. 30: The Nashville Herb Society presents Through the Garden Gate: A Glimpse of Edwardian England, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Cheekwood Botanic Hall. Celebrate the gardens, foods and flowers that delighted Downton Abby family and friends at the turn of the 20th century. The event begins with a hearty Edwardian breakfast, followed by three speakers: Marta McDowell on Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life; Geraldine A. Laufer on Tussie Mussie – Victorian art of expressing yourself in the language of flowers; and Terry White, The English Garden event florist . Registration includes breakfast, box lunch in the garden with music, English tea and cookies. To learn more or to register, visit www.herbsocietynashvlle.org.

    Tips & tasks – September

    Cut the dead tops of coneflowers, but leave enough for goldfinches to enjoy the seeds.

    Plant cool-weather vegetables for a fall crop: spinach, mustard and turnip greens, radishes, leaf lettuce.

    Start a new lawn of cool-season grass, such as fescue, or refurbish or repair establish lawns.

    Don’t let the soil of newly planted grass dry out. New grass needs about an inch of water per week.

    It’s still warm, so continue to water and weed garden beds as needed.

    Remove dead foliage, spent flowers and other garden debris; replenish mulch as needed.

    Continue to harvest produce, which may be getting a boost now from slightly cooler weather. Keep watering sage, rosemary and other perennial herbs so they’ll be in good shape to get through winter.

    Prepare to bring houseplants back indoors: remove dead leaves, scrub soil from the sides of the pots, treat for insects. Bring tropical plants in before nighttime temperatures dip to 55 degrees.

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Too late to trim

Our Knockout roses and other shrubs really need one more trim before winter sets in. Is it safe to trim this late in the year?

Knock Out rose

Photo from Star Roses and Plants

The best time for shrub-trimming depends on what you have, but now that we’re rushing headlong into winter, it may be best to wait a few more weeks — until late winter or early spring — to take the shears to anything. If you have spring-flowering shrubs, especially, wait until after they finish flowering, to avoid cutting off the buds.

Rose experts generally say that the Knock Out rose varieties don’t need to be trimmed every year. Some garden specialists recommend removing about a third of the old branches every two or three years to encourage new growth. They can also be cut back to reduce the size of the plant. Whatever pruning or shaping you need to do, late winter is a good time for the task.

(Photo of the Knock Out® rose Rosa‘Radrazz’ is from Star Roses and Plants)

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Tomatoes out of control

QUESTION: I grow tomatoes every year, and in the past I have used cages – first the round ones commonly available at the big box stores, and later some of the square type. Even with the square ones the plants always overcome the cage. They get leggy and end up coming out of the cages on the sides and then bend over the wires. This year I tried staking the plants and did not use cages, but I encounter the same issues, the side growth spreads out and I have to tie them every which way. What am I doing wrong? — Wayne

Tomato plants quickly overwhelm flimsy wire cages.

Those flimsy wire cages – the round ones – must be some kind of joke. Anyone who grows tomatoes knows that they don’t do much to support a full-size plant. Even if the vine doesn’t grow out over the top, the weight of a bumper crop of ‘Better Boys’ will topple those supports. The square cages are a little better, but they still won’t contain all those wayward limbs.

If you want to use cages, the best bet is to build your own, using sturdy wire fencing (or some suggest panels of concrete mesh, which has openings large enough to reach your hand through). Using the cage in addition to a tall, sturdy stake should keep the tomatoes standing upright and within bounds a little better.

Still, if the tomatoes are indeterminate varieties – that is, they continue to form tomatoes throughout the growing season — it helps to do a little pruning. As the plant grows, it will develop “suckers” in the angles between the main stem and the side stems. You should pinch or snap or cut these suckers off to keep the plant from getting too bushy. As the tomato plant grows taller, tie the main stem loosely to the stake.

By the way, it’s best to install stakes and cages at planting time. It’s surprising how quickly a tomato plant can grow out of control. Keep that in mind for next year.

 

Boxwood pruning, and May fairs, sales & tours

If boxwoods need trimming, try to get the job done in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins.

QUESTION: Our boxwoods have a few limbs at the bottom that have lost their leaves and appear dead. Is it safe to trim boxwoods at this time of year?

If the limbs are dead, cut them off. No matter what time of year it is, dead limbs serve no useful purpose. If the rest of the shrub seems healthy, those lower limbs may have died because they haven’t received enough sun, or from mower damage. “But boxwoods are pretty good about repairing themselves,” says Randall Lantz, a horticulturist who has a lot of experience with these popular landscape shrubs.

The ideal time to trim boxwood is late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. It’s not a good idea to trim late in the summer. New growth that may follow the trim will not have a chance to harden before winter, and tender new leaves could be killed. Pruning out dead limbs now shouldn’t be a problem, thought. “They’re very forgiving shrubs,” Lantz says.

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