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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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Suffering from a summer brown-out

QUESTION: Why is my fescue grass turning  brown? I water 2 to 3 times a week and have it professionally treated  (fertilized and weed control). The lawn company says that’s just the nature of  cool weather grass in the summer heat. What do you think? — Charlie

A cool-season lawn may suffer in summer.

I’m not a lawn expert, but I do a lot of research to answer readers’ questions. Here’s what I’ve found:

It is the nature of fescue, which is a cool-season grass, to turn brown in the summer during hot weather, especially during dry periods. It goes dormant, and will green up again when the weather gets cooler.

However, there is also a fungal disease called “brown patch” that may affect fescue lawns. The symptoms include small brown patches that get bigger. It might start with a ring of brown grass with a patch of green in the middle. Individual blades of grass will be brown, but the plant will be green at soil level. If this symptom isn’t present, it may just be the summer heat. It’s a good idea to know for sure what the problem is before applying unnecessary fungicides.

Lawns do well with about an inch of water a week. They don’t need to be watered every day, but water deeply maybe once a week if it doesn’t rain. (Too much water may do as much harm as too little). It’s also a good idea to cut the grass higher. If it’s cut too short, it leaves the lawn vulnerable to more weeds and diseases.

I found this garden expert’s web site that may offer a little more information: http://www.walterreeves.com/lawn-care/fescue-diseases.

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How much are garden-grown stringbeans worth? Plenty, if you have to protect them from marauding rabbits. See my solution over the garden journal, Turning Toward the Sun.

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