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    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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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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