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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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The easiest orchid

I received a moth orchid as a gift a couple of years ago. It was blooming at the time, but nothing since then. How do I get it to bloom again? – Sarah M.

Phalaenopsis, commonly knows as the moth orchid.

Orchid experts say that the moth orchid – phalaenopsis – is the easiest and best for non-experts and beginners, since they tend to do well in average home temperatures and conditions. At the Web site of the American Orchid Society the experts say that insufficient light is the most common reason an orchid fails to re-bloom. That’s general information about all orchids, but here are more specifics about phalaenopsis:

They grow well in a bright window – an east window is ideal, south or west window if you provide a little shade. The main blooming season for moth orchids is late winter into spring.

Moth orchids like it warm. Temperatures should usually be above 60 at night, and between 75 and 85 or warmer during the day. High humidity is good, too. Lower night temperatures for several weeks in the fall, around 55 degrees, can help flower stalks get started. If temperatures fluctuate, buds that are ready to open can drop.

Phalaenopsis doesn’t have a way to store water, so it shouldn’t be allowed to dry out completely. But they shouldn’t sit in water, either. Water thoroughly, then don’t water again until the plant is nearly dry. To keep it from rotting, water in the morning so the leaves are completely dry by nightfall. Humidity is also key, and the recommendation is between 50 and 80 percent.

American Orchid Society suggests fertilizing on a regular schedule, especially during warm weather when moth orchid is growing. If the plant is in a bark-based medium, use a high-nitrogen fertilizer (30-10-10). A high-phosphorus product (10-30-20) can promote blooming.

If you need to re-pot a moth orchid (and that should happen when the potting medium starts to decompose, or every one to three years), do the job in the spring, immediately after the orchid finishes flowering. Remove the old medium, trim soft or rotted roots, and spread the remaining roots over a handful of medium in the bottom of a new pot. Fill the rest of the pot with medium, working it in among the roots. The junction of the roots and the stem should be at the top of the medium.

One final thing about moth orchid: of the orchids commonly available, it’s the only one that will re-bloom from its old flower spike. When the last flower fades, don’t cut the spike, or cut off the stem leaving two nodes – the lines on the stem below the flowers. One of the nodes may initiate flowers within eight to 12 weeks. It might not work, but it’s worth a try.

If you really get into growing orchids, check out the regular meetings and events of the Orchid Society of Middle Tennessee. I’ve added a link to their site in the Local Garden Organizations listings in the column on the right.

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2 Responses

  1. Great explanation on how to grow a Phalaenopsis aka Moth Orchid.

  2. You have a great article on how to grow the orchid. Really good.

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