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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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For asparagus, a good bed is the best way to begin

Question: I want to start an asparagus bed in my garden. Where can I get some plants? – James W.

Before we talk about plants, let’s talk about where to put them. I’ve pulled out my copy of the Guide to Tennessee Vegetable Gardening by Walter Reeves & Felder Rushing and turned to the “Asparagus” page. The first thing the authors say here is, “Planning is essential for these plants because a well-prepared asparagus bed can last many years before needing reworking.” After that, Rushing and Reeves instruct to “Plant asparagus as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring.” Asparagus is a cool-climate plant, and we are about to slide into the hot season, so maybe now is not the time to rush out to buy plants, especially if you haven’t already prepared a place to put them.

But maybe you have. Here are the details: The bed should be in full sun, away from trees or shrubs whose roots would complete with the asparagus. It has to be well-drained, because if it’s boggy or soggy the plants will rot and die out. The recommend planting in sandy soil, but any well-drained soil will do.

In this bed, dig a 6-inch deep trench, about 15 inches wide. Asparagus plants are sold as crowns, clusters of roots. Set the crowns in the trench about 1 foot apart, spread the roots out and cover with soil. Water and wait.

Growth in the first year will be spindly, and you shouldn’t harvest any the first year. Keep the soil moist throughout the first year, and pull weeds as they appear. Mulch will help keep weeds under control. Cut the ferns back in the spring before new growth begins. In the second year, harvest a few spears in mid-spring. The third year is the time for a bigger harvest – 4 to 6 weeks, and every year thereafter harvest asparagus for 6 to 8 weeks in the spring.

Now, the plants. Local nurseries that offer vegetable starts are likely to have asparagus crowns for sale. There are several different types, and you may find different varieties at different locations. Or check garden catalogs/Web sites. Several 2011 mail-order companies offer asparagus crowns. The variety called ‘Jersey Knight’ seems to be a popular favorite. Check Seeds of Change, The Cook’s Garden, Burpee Gardening, Territorial Seed Company or any others for asparagus crowns.

 

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