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  • March garden tips & tasks

    If your fescue lawn looks a little skimpy, overseed early this month. Fescue grows best when the weather is still cool.

    Clip dead stems from perennial herbs – thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary. Pruning encourages vigorous new growth.

    Prune nandinas, flowering quince and other airy shrubs by reaching in and removing about a third of the branches at ground level.

    Remove mulch or leaves that may be covering perennials in garden beds.

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

    Add fertilizer lightly to perennials as soon as you see new growth. Too much fertilizer may result in lanky growth.

    Herb transplants that don’t mind cool weather -- parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano – can go in the ground now.

    When you cut daffodils 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.

    Save the date - Middle Tennessee garden events

    The Perennial Plant Society's annual Plant Sale will be April 8, opening at 9 a.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale offers newly released and hard-to-find perennials from top local nurseries -- more than 450 varieties of perennials, vines, grasses, shrubs and annuals. The event supports local scholarships for Tennessee horticulture students and monthly gardening programs, open to the public, at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. For information visit www.ppsmtn.org.

    The Herb Society of Nashville's annual Herb Sale will be April 29, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale will offer heirloom vegetables, rare varieties of perennial and annual herbs, handmade pottery herb markers and more. To learn more, visit herbsocietynashville.org.

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Flowers are a no-show

Our dogwood tree has not flowered the past 2 years.  Do we need to feed it or treat the soil?  Otherwise, it is alive and well.  

Flowering dogwood. Photo by Jeff McMillian @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

This question came to The Garden Bench early last week, and I have a couple of follow-up questions: How old is the tree? Has it bloomed before? Is it planted in sun or shade?

IMHO, flowering dogwoods are one of the best things about spring. But you plant a young one hoping for a big display of blooms, then you wait, and wait until – nothing. What a disappointment.  

Here are some things you should know about dogwoods that may help answer the question. The North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension offers a list of Top Five Reasons That Dogwoods Don’t Bloom:

  • It’s not old enough. It may take a dogwood up to six years to bloom. This could be a source of disappointment in a tree that started out as a seedling in another part of the yard, for instance.
  • It’s not getting enough sun. Dogwoods grow well in the partial shade at the edges of forests and woodlands, but they need some sunlight to produce flowers. In heavy shade, they don’t flower as well, or maybe not at all.
  • It’s affected by drought.  Dogwood trees need water, about an inch a week from rain or other irrigation sources. If it was too dry last year, no flowers this year.
  • It’s been pruned. Dogwoods set their buds on the previous year’s growth, so if you prune heavily in fall or winter, you have probably cut off a lot of the flowers for this year.
  • It’s been extremely cold. That’s usually not a problem in this area. All else being okay, dogwoods here seem to bloom no matter how cold it got in the winter.

There are more things to consider: If the tree is growing in a lawn, and you’ve fertilized the lawn with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, that could be part of the problem. Nitrogen encourages growth of foliage at the expense of flowers.

In general, here’s what a dogwood needs to grow and thrive, and eventually bloom: Light shade or full sun, and moist, acid, well-drained soil with a lot of organic matter. Remember how well they grow in a forest? Use mulch under the tree to help keep moisture in the soil – but don’t pile the mulch up around the trunk. The roots are shallow, so they are susceptible to drought in summer. Water deeply during summer dry spells.

Flowering dogwoodCornus florida

Have a garden question? Send me an e-mail.

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