Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sunny Days are Here Again

After last nights freeze, I didn't see much damage at all. But some Hosta foliage was looking like it got nipped. Surprisingly, tulip blooms looked great. One night of frost didn't treat them too badly.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tonight's Weather...Freezing Temperatures on April 15th...

Because I am getting these questions from several folks in Nashville TN: 

Do you need to cover everything in your yard tonight when it may drop below freezing temperatures?

For plants ....mostly you don't need to cover stuff.
However, here's some things to consider covering: warm weather loving plants or tropicals. For example if you already planted tomatoes, peppers, petunias, vinca, annual begonias...summer stuff, cover it. Cover your elephant ear. If your azaleas and rhododendrons have buds, showing color, then the frost could damage the bud, but not really harm the plant..just maybe you don't get flowers. 
Tulip blooms may freeze and then they're done, but the foliage is fine. Leave it alone until it browns. Just like your daffodils.

One night of frost/cold wont do anymore damage than has already been done. If we had this warm up and then a week of freezing, yes we might be more concerned about damage to other shrubs and plants. That is to say, most of the damage is already done from the brutal winter.

Cover with cloth (old sheets and dropcloths) not plastic. Or use cardboard boxes. You are trying to create an insulating layer of air. I think plastic is bad if it touches your plant tissue.

Related: Later in spring or summer, you may see shrubs or small diameter young trees with split bark. This could be (although there can be other causes) a result of the winter. On very warm winter days, trees and shrubs with good southern exposure may leave dormancy and start to generate fluid movement up their bark. The plant tissue becomes sap -filled. Then if we get extreme cold immediately, the fluid may freeze causing the outer bark to split or be damaged. The damage may not be evident for awhile. Depending on the amount of damage the plant may heal itself.
There's debate about 'wrapping' these damaged areas with cloth or paper. The plant should really by able to heal the edges of this injury itself if not too severe. But it does create a vulnerability for insect/disease damages.

This is life as a plant-loving person!

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Spring! Get Busy!

 Spring Events to keep on your calendar:

Fermentation Classes and Foodshops in April at  Double N Farms in east Nashville
Herb  Society Plant Sale, April 12 at the Fairgrounds
Urban Gardening Festival presented by the Master Gardeners, May 17 at Ellington Agricultural Center,
Home Gardening Basics classes at Grassmere at the Zoo, presented by Master Gardeners,

On to the many choices of fun to have in your garden and yards...........

We are not quite past the risk of hard freezes but get ready to plant warm season vegetables around April 15- May 15. Start plants from seed or buy as plants (and you can buy them at the Urban Gardening Festival, see above!)   If your garden plot is new or the soil seems hard to work and you're not going to till it, add handfuls of composted manure with each plant. Mulching will help keep the roots cool and delay the weeds. I like to use wheat straw. You can also underplant taller plants (tomatoes, peppers, etc) with a 'green mulch' of lettuce, radishes, herbs, marigolds, borage etc.
Most of the summer vegetables need a lot of sun...6 or more continuous hours of full sun exposure. Water regularly, in the morning, if we don't receive an inch of rain each week.

Prune any shrubs that have finished flowering. For example, forsythia can be pruned. Or not. If you want to control the size of the forsythia, prune by removing a quarter of the main stems, randomly selected from the interior, or cutting the larger, older stems; cut them all the way to the bottom. If you're wanting to take the power hedge shears to may be the wrong plant for that location.Or maybe you just like the boxy shape and that's alright too

Young dogwood trees can be pruned for deadwood or structure.
Remember the rule of pruning: think twice, cut once; think once, curse twice.

Weeding and pre-emergents
For all the trouble weeds give us, they should be simpler to control. But we have to identifythe weeds and their life cycles to control them effectively, and to not waste money or over-medicate the environment.

Weeds can be annual or perennials.
Annual weeds can be winter or summer annuals. The big crop you're seeing now are probably winter annuals like chickweed, henbit, purple deadnettle which germinated in late fall and are coming to maturity. Summer annuals (spurgesbedstraw,knotweed, Japanesestiltgrass etc.) are just little seeds germinating now and you likely cant see them, yet. You can help to prevent annual weeds by distributing a pre-emergent herbicide in fall and spring. Always read the labels and don't over-apply.
Perennial weeds include: ground ivy, dandelion, sedges, plantains, clover. Controlling perennials weeds takes a little more effort, including hand weeding and selective use of post-emergent herbicides.

Here are some links about weeds that might be helpful:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014



Bell Peppers
Potatoes, carrots
Collards Sweet Potatoes spinach
Basil, Sunflowers, Marigolds, Cilantro, Parsley
A fruit is the fleshy body surrounding the seeds of a plant. It’s actually a ripened plant ovary. A vegetable is the other fleshy or leafy material of a plant, like a leaf or root. You can grow them all in your garden and we call most of them vegetables. You might have some other plant-friends in your garden like culinary herbs or spices, or flowers which are edible or provide some other purpose like repelling certain unwanted insects. Or inviting certain wanted insects.

Winter Vegetable Gardening
Now through March you can plant winter vegetables and plant seeds indoors in small containers to get summer vegetables started.
Winter vegetables, or ‘cold-season’ vegetables prefer cool temperatures, and will not survive into the heat of summer in middle Tennessee. Plant now: collards, kale, turnips, radishes, onions, potatoes, broccoli.
This past 3 weeks I have planted onion sets, beets, and spinach. I may plant some greens (collards and kale) if I have time and space.
Planting much later and it will get too warm for your winter greens and broccoli, which may bolt before they are ready to eat.
Now is the time to be planning your summer vegetable garden, which should be planted after April 15 or May 1.
Summer, or ‘warm-season’ vegetables are not tolerant of freezing temperatures and must be seeded or (‘starts’ set out in the garden) after the last hard frost. Make a plan for these summer vegetables: Tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, corn, squashes and melons, beans and peas, annual herbs such as parsley and basil.

Fertilize at planting time with an all purpose organic fertilizer, or fertilize every couple of weeks with an organic liguid fertilizer like fish emulsion or  compost tea.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Any Minute Now

     The last day or two of sunshine have been so inspiring. Temperatures are going to warm up quickly. I predict daffodils will bloom within 7-10 days, maybe even sooner if they are in full sun. Pansies may or may not recuperate from this brutal winter. I have been itching to get into my vegetable garden but admit that either frozen ground or chilly temperatures have deterred me. Before we know it, we’ll have wonderful work temperatures and more than enough to do in our yards.

February Gardening Projects:
                Pruning Liriope (monkey grasses)
                Cutting back winter burn/last year’s leaves on Helleborus
                Pruning cool season ornamental grasses if you can trim back a few inches and see new green growth. Don’t’ prune sedge/Carex and Festuca
                Evaluating tree health and having large tree pruning done
                In the vegetable garden
                If you can work the soil, you can plant onion sets, spinach, collards and kale and turnips, beets, broccoli.
                Do your soil test now to determine pH and any macronutrient needs for lawn/ornamental/vegetables.
                And make plans for these fun events: 
Nashville Lawn & Garden Show at the Nashville fairgrounds  Feb 27 - March 2

Urban Gardening Festival, sponsored by DC Master Gardeners May  17 at Ellington Ag Center in Nashville.
Community: there are many volunteer and learning opportunities at Nashville area gardens, through Hands On Nashville, Davidson County Master Gardeners, and probably in your local schools.

Here comes the sun!

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Or, Why Are the Trees Black?

I noticed a gooey sticky feeling when I leaned up against my truck yesterday. Depending on your garage and driveway too may be noticing the black haze on your car (patio furniture, umbrellas, cats, etc).

What is going on? Well, this happens every year in the fall when the aphids are getting extra busy. The aphids excrete.......well, they excrete secretions. Commonly called honey dew. The honeydew falls on everything below their excretory location, and then  black sooty  mold (Capnodium, a type of fungus) grows in the secretions. The black sooty mold (Capnodium) does not itself harm the trees, or your lawn furniture. It may shade the leaves somewhat, inhibiting nutrition slightly, but probably not to a great degree.
Aphids (of which there are many species) live in all kinds of trees and shrubs but are particularly fond of hack berry trees and crape myrtles. I expect the excess of rain and moisture this year has contributed to: more aphids, more greenery, more moist conditions.

There's no need for pesticides, most of this will be washed away with weather. Once again, this is in the category of No Need for Alarm; Just an Annoyance. Take your car to the car wash. Scrub the lawn furniture with a general cleaner. Always use less strong products then go to stronger ammo if you need to.
Thanks as always to the wealth of free information from state Extension Services.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall Wildflowers

Fall wildflowers along Little Swan Creek in Lewis County TN. Late September:
Axillary Goldenrod (Solidago caesia, or perhaps S. curtisii), Hearts-a-Bustin (Euonymous americanus),and a Rudbeckia form.

Also seen: Hydrangea arborsecens, various ferns, Asters, Joy-Pye Weed (Eupatoreum fistulosum), and Rhus toxicodendron
All photographs copyright 2013 Mary Boyd.