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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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Best time to tame a rose

Question: When is the best time to prune roses? I have a bush that needs trimming, but don’t want to damage it by pruning at the wrong time.

If the rose is out of control, it won’t hurt to get out the clippers now. This advice comes from Annie Owen, a Master Rosarian and member of the Nashville Rose Society: “If the bush is overgrown, this is an okay time to prune it back, as long as it gets plenty of water.” In fact, if you reduce the size of the bush, you reduce its need for water, she said.

This goes for most types of roses, even those with finicky personalities and special fertilizing and spraying needs, as long as they’re healthy. If it’s a Knockout rose, no worries at all. “If it’s a Knockout, you can’t kill those things,” Owen said.

The Nashville Rose Society offers these pruning guidelines: Use sharp bypass pruning shears, which will make a clean cut without crushing the stem. Start by taking out older wood, along with any dead or dying canes. Remove any canes that rub or cross each other, or any twiggy, unnecessary growth. Make each pruning cut about ¼-inch above an outward-facing bud eye, where the leaf is attached to the stem.

Rose enthusiasts who winterize their prized roses will do more severe pruning in the fall. To begin the winterizing process, stop fertilizing roses now to allow the plant to slow down production of new growth. Early in October, stop cutting the dead flowers and leave the rose hips in place. In late November or early in December, cut the canes back to 2 to 3 feet, and place a mound of mulch around
the bush. This will hold them until spring, when you should prune lightly again to get new growth.

For general good advice on pruning and anything else that has to do with roses, visit the Nashville Rose Society’s Web site, www.nashvillerosesociety.com.

It’s too hot to garden, but all is not lost over at Turning Toward the Sun.

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