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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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Come in out of the cold

QUESTION: I would  like to know how to “winter over” geraniums.

Geranium photo by Jonathan Hornung.

By now, anything you want to save from frost should be indoors. So, now that they’re already inside, here are general guidelines for keeping geraniums happy. These tips are from garden author Barbara Pleasant’s book The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual:

Ideally, you would have moved your geraniums to a shady spot outdoors in later summer, to begin to acclimate them to reduced light. Even when you do that, they lose many of their leaves inside, so don’t be surprised when they begin to look very bare. Clean up the leaves, and prune off up to half of the long branches.

They do well as houseplants in bright light from a south or west window, in rooms of cool to average temperature, and in good potting soil. Pleasant suggests feeding them every two weeks with a balanced houseplant food. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings but don’t let them get so dry that the plants wilt. Blooming should resume after a few weeks, she says.

QUESTION: Is there a successful way to save  Boston ferns over the winter without bringing them into the house? (Too messy!)

Most information sources say that the best way to save Boston ferns over the winter is to treat them as house plants, but even Barbara Pleasant (see above) says that keeping them healthy through winter can be a challenge. They need bright light and high humidity, so you should plan on frequent misting. Southern Living Garden Book advises to cut back all the side fronds to the rim of the pot and leave the top growth about 10 inches high. Place the pot next to the brightest window you can find, and keep the soil moist. Even with that, fronds will break, leaves will turn brown, and a mess will be made, so keep the broom handy, and send the fern back outdoors after the last frost in early spring.

Time to hang up the tools? For some, maybe, but a gardener can always find a reason to be
outdoors, even in winter. To help you plan, check out the four-month, Fall & Winter Landscape & Garden Calendar in Saturday’s Tennessean. A short list of garden classes and events in the coming months is at Tennessean.com.

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