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  • Upcoming Garden Events in Middle Tennessee

    March 1 – 4: Nashville Lawn & Garden Show, Fairgrounds Nashville. The annual all-indoors garden event that features live garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs and special programming Wine Festival featuring Tennessee wines is Saturday (March 3), noon – 5 p.m. For more information on the events and the complete lecture schedule, visit www.nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com.

    April 7: Perennial Plant Sale hosted by the Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee  at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Find newly released and hard-to-find perennials along with a wide range of tried and tested varieties, all from top local nurseries. The sale opens at 9 a.m. and usually sells out by early afternoon. For more information, visit www.ppsmtn.org.

    April 14: Herb & Plant Sale hosted by The Herb Society of Nashville, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., at The Fairgrounds Nashville Sports Arena building. The sale offers common and rare varieties of herbs and heirloom vegetables and handmade pottery and herb markers by artist Roy Overcast for sale. For more information and a list of available plants, visit herbsocietynashville.org.

    May 12: Hosta sale hosted by the Middle Tennessee Hosta Society. Proceeds from the sale support the club’s activities. More information about the MTHS is at www.mths-hosta.com.

    May 19: Urban Gardening Festival hosted by Master Gardeners of Davidson County, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden at Ellington Agricultural Center (5201 Marchant Drive in Nashville). The free event includes information about a variety of gardening methods and techniques, local artisans, exhibits, growers and more. For information, visit www.mgofdc.org/ugf.

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March into the garden with these tips and tasks

Gardeners in Middle Tennessee (home of The Garden Bench) know that, in spite of what the calendar says, early spring has arrived. It’s almost March, and buds are swelling, bulbs are up and many are blooming, tips of favorite perennials are poking up through the mulch. And while we know that winter can – probably will – visit us again in a few days, we can get outdoors and enjoy the emergence of the new season with these early-spring tips and tasks.

Spanish bluebells emerging

Prepare new garden beds: Have the soil tested (check with your county’s Extension service to learn how). Remove grass and dig or till soil 8 to 10 inches deep and mix with soil amendments and organic matter to improve drainage.

Add a dose of fertilizer to perennials as soon as you see new growth. Keep it light; too much fertilizer may result in lanky growth.

Cut back liriope and other ornamental grasses. It’s easier now that it will be once new growth emerges.

If your fescue lawn looks a little skimpy, overseed early this month. Fescue grows best when the weather is still cool. It’s best to wait until early fall for a complete lawn renovation.

Plant lettuce and other cool-weather crops

Herb transplants that don’t mind cool weather — parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano – can go in the ground now. And of course you can also plant seeds and transplants of radishes, lettuce, spinach and other cool-season vegetables.

Clip dead stems from perennial herbs – thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary (if your rosemary survived; many Middle Tennessee gardeners’ rosemary plants succumbed to the cold this winter). Pruning those perennial herbs encourages vigorous new growth. Remove mulch or leaves that may be covering perennials in garden beds.

If you need to prune nandinas, flowering quince and other airy shrubs, don’t shear the shrubs. Reach in and remove about a third of the branches at ground level.

Give pansies a light dose of fertilizer as they continue to bloom through early spring.

When you cut daffodils and other early-spring flowers to bring inside, cut the stems at an angle and place them in water right away. Change the water in the vase daily to keep them fresh longer.

Coming up: Nashville Lawn and Garden Show

The annual Nashville Lawn and Garden Show is what signals the arrival of spring for many Middle Tennessee gardeners. This year’s show will be March 1 – 4 at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The all-indoors event includes live gardens from top landscape designers, displays, vendors, a floral gallery and an extensive lecture series. This year’s featured speaker is Brie Arthur, author of “The Foodscape Revolution,” who will present lectures on March 3 and 4. For my interview with Brie and more details on the show, see the story here at Tennessean.com, and in Friday’s Tennessean.

 

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Planting tulips in winter, try containers

I have a bag of tulip bulbs from last fall that I never got around to planting. Is it too late? They’ve been in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, and some of them have started to sprout in the bag.

Ideally, of course, tulip bulbs should have been planted last fall, at the very latest by early winter. But even at this late date, those bulbs would probably be happier in soil than in the bag. Placing them in the fridge is a good idea; tulips need time to chill before they start to grow in spring (which is why you should plant them in the fall).

Since you’ve got nothing to lose, why not try experimenting, planting the bulbs in a pot? Gardener Elizabeth Licata, writing for Fine Gardening magazine, suggests this technique: Continue reading

Stevia sweetens a garden

Have you grown stevia? The University of Tennessee Gardens has named this plant, touted as a natural, no-calorie sweetener, as it Plant of the Month for September, and provided information on how to grow and use it.

UT Gardens kitchen garden manager Holly S. Jones submitted the article about Stevia rebaudiana, which is a tropical perennial native to the mountainous regions of Brazil and Paraguay. It has been used in South America and many regions for a long time, but was approved by the FDA as a “Generally Recognized as Safe” substance in the U.S. in 2008. It was only then that food manufacturers could begin adding it to their products, Jones says. Since then, it has become more common.

And yes, you can grow it in your own garden. Continue reading

Tomatoes are ripe, but not ready

The tomatoes I grow ripen nicely and come off the plant easily, but when I cut them to use, the flesh is white and firm. Can you advise?

It’s certainly disappointing to cut into what appears to be a ripe tomato and find it still white or green inside. Garden experts suggest several possible causes, including nutrient deficiencies in the soil, insect damage, or even adverse weather conditions. Continue reading

Leafrollers make a meal of cannas

My cannas were growing well and I thought should be about to bloom when I noticed that the leaves hadn’t opened, and they looked like they’d been stitched together! When I unrolled the leaves, I found a little grub and some other black substance. What is that? What can I do about it?

Your cannas have become host to a fairly common creature throughout the southeast called a canna leafroller, and it can do quite a bit of ugly damage to this summer-flowering favorite.

The grub you see when you unroll the leaves is the larval stage of a little brown moth. Continue reading

Queen Anne’s Lace in an early-summer garden

I like to see Queen Anne’s Lace growing along the roadsides in summer. How can I get it to grow in my garden?

It’s not hard to get Queen Anne’s Lace started in a garden bed. In fact, the reason you see so much of it in open meadows along the side of the road is that it’s a prolific self-seeder.

After they bloom in late spring and early summer, the lacy clusters of white flowers fold up into a cup-shaped clump of seeds. Continue reading

Cut flowers to bring summer indoors

With summer in full bloom, those daisies and black-eyed Susans, zinnias and sunflowers, coneflowers, dahlias and others make beautiful bouquets to enjoy indoors. To make those bouquets last longer, it’s best to start early.

“I definitely always cut before the heat of the day sets in,” says Tallahassee May, owner of Turnbull Creek Organic Farm in Bon Aqua, Tenn. “This is better than in the evening, when the flowers still seem to hold heat from the day, even after the sun has set.”

The secret to long-lasting bouquets from the garden, May says, is to keep things clean. Continue reading