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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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Rubber tree can bounce back

QUESTION: I have a huge rubber plant that is very old. I’ve had to tie it to stakes in the pot to keep it from growing in all directions and out of control. Can I prune it?

A rubber plant, or rubber tree (Ficus elastica) can be transformed from an unmanageable mess into a more dignified plant. It takes a little planning and observation, but the results can be worthwhile, and can provide more plants in the process.

Before you make the first cut, look at the plant to determine how it might look after it’s pruned. New leaves will grow where you cut it, so keep that in mind as you remove the branches. The cuttings you remove can be placed in water, where they will often form new roots. After they grow a good system of roots, they can be potted in soil.

Houseplant experts also suggest a process called air-layering to prune old plants and grow new ones. This is accomplished by cutting into the plant’s stem where you want to prune it. The cut is then wrapped in moss and plastic wrap, and new roots grow from the cut area. After new roots form, cut off the new plant and pot it separately. Early spring, when the plant is entering a period of active growth, is a good time to try to trim it into shape.

Here are general guidelines for keeping a rubber plant alive and well: bright to moderate light (no direct sun) and average room temperature. Keep the soil evenly moist. A rubber plant probably does not need as much water during the winter. It can spend summer outdoors in a protected location, but be sure to bring it in before temperatures begin to drop in the fall.

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