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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Leafy lawn = free mulch

Our yard is about to be covered with maple and oak leaves. Can leaves be used as mulch in flower and vegetable beds?

After the leaves fall, they can be used as mulch in the garden.

All those trees that are turning brilliant colors are about to flame out and drop their leaves to the ground. Yes, most of them can be used as mulch, and they can benefit your beds. Here are some guidelines for using leaves as mulch from the UT/TSU Extension office:

*Use a 3- to 4-inch layer of shredded leaves around trees and shrubs in annual and perennial flower beds. Notice they suggest “shredded.” Leaves that have been chopped up will decompose faster. They also will, no doubt, stay in place better than whole leaves if a gusty wind comes along.

*Oak leaves may change the pH of the soil over time, making it more acidic, so you may have to apply lime to maintain a favorable number. If your beds are mulched primarily with oak leaves, you should have the soil tested about every three years. Oak leaves are also tougher and decompose more slowly, so it’s especially important to chop them before you use them to cover your perennial beds. Otherwise, when spring comes, a thick layer of oak leaves could smother emerging plants.

*Leaves can be mixed into kitchen garden beds and in beds where you plant annual flowers. Most of the leaves will decompose before planting time next spring. A bonus: if you have heavy clay soil, a thick layer of leaves tilled into the soil will improve the soil structure. Free mulch, plus better soil: win-win.

 

Keep Rosemary happy

I have a small  rosemary bush that is thriving, and hope it lives through the winter. What is the best way to care for it so it survives?

Rosemary cuttings can root in water.

More and more, I was hearing gardeners say their rosemary, which does not always make it through winter outdoors in this area, was getting through the cold just fine. Then last year, many gardeners I talked to said their rosemary – which may have been growing for years in the same spot – died. Mine did, too.

Herb experts say that the survival of rosemary can be hit-or-miss. It depends on the kind of winter we have, the kind of rosemary that’s growing in your garden, and even where it’s planted.

If we experience a series of very cold days with very low wind-chill temperatures, rosemary may not stand a chance. If the plant is in the ground on the south side of the house, where it’s protected from a cold north wind, it has a better chance of survival. If it’s near a concrete driveway, brick walkway or a stone wall – anything that reflects a little of the sun’s warmth – there’s an even better chance it’ll make it through unscathed.

It’s best chance is if it happens to be one of the hardier varieties that’s planted on the south side of the house and protected from the wind. The Herb Society of Nashville lists the varieties ‘Arp,’ ‘Hill Hardy’ and ‘Salem’ among the best choices for this area. The National Arboretum adds a few more to the list; check out their choices here.

You may be tempted to dig up the rosemary and bring it indoors for winter, but that’s a bad idea. Rosemary is a shrub and won’t take kindly to the dry air and heat inside the house (which is why so many of those cute rosemary topiaries that people give as gifts die so quickly). If you want to try to bring some of your rosemary inside, you may try to snip a few cuttings and keep them inside in a vase of water, where they may grow roots. Change the water every day or two.

 

Transplant a peony

When can peonies be separated and transplanted?
Peonies can be kind of fussy about where they’ll grow and what they’ll do if you try to move them. In fact, most garden experts will tell you that peonies seldom need dividing, and recover poorly from any attempt to do so.
That said, there’s a good time to do if, if you must, and that time is late summer or early fall. Make divisions or root cuttings with at least three growing points, then replant the divisions 18 to 24 inches apart. Plant them in a new bed that has been dug 12 inches deep, into which you have worked good compost or other organic matter. Pick a spot in full sun or a place that gets a little afternoon shade. Set plants in the ground at the same level or slightly higher than they were growing before you dug them up.
The cuttings should begin to grow next spring, so make sure they have sufficient moisture when they do. Judy Lowe, the author of Month-By-Month Gardening in Tennessee & Kentucky, suggests placing a half-inch of compost on top of the soil in spring and summer, and applying a slow-release fertilizer in mid-spring.
Then sit back and be patient. Even with this good care, it may take a couple of years for a transplanted peony to recover and bloom well again.