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  • Upcoming Garden Events

    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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Fall — and aphids — in the air

QUESTION: Sometimes we see white, wooly-looking bugs in the air and all over the hackberry trees in the fall. At the same time, there is a black coating of something on everything under the trees. What is this?

These are Asian wooly hackberry aphids, which have been flying around Middle Tennessee for about a decade after making their way to the U.S. sometime in the mid-1990s. The aphid has a tiny mouth that resembles a beak, with which it pierces the leaves to extract the plant sugars. Then, like all aphids and
plant-sucking insects, they excrete a sweet, sticky waste product called honeydew, and in the heat of late summer, that substance grows sooty mold, the black substance you see on patio furniture, plants and anything else under a hackberry tree that is playing host to the insects.

I talked to U.T. Extension agent David Cook about the insects several years ago. He said that the feeding doesn’t cause serious damage to the tree. It’s considered mainly a nuisance pest.

If you feel the need to control the insects, Cook has suggested a systemic insecticide, applied around the tree’s root zone in the spring.

IF YOU THOUGHT last month seemed hotter than usual… you were right. Bobby Boyd at the National Weather Service sent me a list of factoids that made me sweat just to read them. Consider this:

August 2011 in Nashville was the 25th hottest on record. There were 24 days when the temperature was 90 degrees or higher, and one day when it bubbled up to 102. That was August 3, and it broke the record for that date of 100 degrees, which was set in 1952.

The average temperature for August was 1.8 degrees above normal. The average high was 92; the average low was 68.9. Three of the 10 hottest summers in Nashville have occurred in the last five years.

All this makes these past few days of cooler weather even more welcome. Fall, ready or not, is in the air.

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