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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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Shut down the bunny buffet

Question: Do rabbits eat strawberry plants?

This, dear Readers, is a question from my own garden, because I noticed that the strawberry patch that has been growing like gangbusters for the past couple of years is

Cute? Most gardeners won't think so.

looking a little, um, sparse. New leaves are coming out from under the pine straw, but what the heck happened to that thick mat of foliage that was there when I came inside for the winter?

The answer to the question about whether rabbits eat strawberry plants, I found out, is: Rabbits eat just about anything they find that tastes good, foliage-wise. So, probably. And I saw at least a couple of rabbits out in the back yard this winter.

The University of Tennessee Extension has a booklet called Managing Nuisance Animals and Associated Damage Around the Home (find it at https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/pb1624.pdf), and here’s what they say about rabbits and gardens: “Most people consider viewing rabbits pleasurable; however, that cute bunny quickly becomes a @#&% rabbit when the vegetable garden or flower garden begins to suffer! Rabbits can cause a considerable amount of damage to ornamental flowers and tree seedlings as well.” Really?

They suggest building a tall chicken wire fence to keep rabbits out, buried in the ground because rabbits burrow, too. They say you can trap them, but they breed like, well, like rabbits so even if you catch one, there are more where that one came from. Most wild rabbits only live about a year, but a pair of rabbits can produce up to six litters a year, with two or three bunnies per litter.  

Here’s what I found that seems to keep the rabbits off: A stinky but effective product called Liquid Fence. Spray it on the leaves, and the rabbits leave them alone. Some garden forums suggest that blood meal sprinkled in the bed also will keep them away. The problem with both those ideas is that they only work until rainwater or sprinkler spray washes them away.

But if I want to save the strawberries, I should do something — and fast, before those @#&% rabbits drop in for dinner.

Getting the Garden Ready: Not a how-to, but a poet’s reflection on the change of seasons. Click over to Turning Toward the Sun.

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