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  • February garden tips & tasks

    Fight cabin fever by getting on a sunny day to pick up sticks, leaves and other garden debris that has accumulated.

    Keep bird feeders filled to attract a wide variety of winged visitors to your garden in winter.

    Plant a tree if the soil isn't frozen. Dig a hole that is slightly wider than the tree's root ball, but no deeper. Place the tree in the hole; replace the soil and water it well. Add mulch, but don't mound it up around the tree's trunk.

    A Valentine's Day bouquet of roses will last longer if you cut off the bottoms of the stems at an angle bfore you place them in lukewarm water in a clean vase. Remove the lower leaves from the stem before you place the bouquet in water.

    Dig winter annuals out of the garden beds: deadnettle, henbit, chickweed and other unwanted plants before they take over the beds.

    Cut back or mow over liriope (monkey grass) before new growth begins.

    Don't overwater your houseplants. Before you add water, check the soil's moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil.

    Provide nesting boxes to welcome birds to your garden Cavity-dwelling birds may start a family in a simple box with 11/2-inch entry hole.

    Grow your own transplants indoors under lights. Start seeds of cool-weather plants now to have sturdy transplants to set out in a few weeks.

    Save the date - Middle Tennessee garden events

    Planners of the ever-popular Nashville Lawn & Garden Show announce that next spring's show will be March 2 - 5, 2017 at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The theme will celebrate Gardens of the Future with garden displays, lectures, vendors, floral designs, and special features for children. The centerpiece of the all-indoors event is, as always, the walk-through, interactive garden displays from some of Middle Tennessee's top landscape and gardening companies. Free lectures are planned each day on a range of garden-related topics, and visitors can shop the Marketplace with more than 150 vendors. Complete details will be available soon at http://nashvillelawnandgardenshow.com, where you can also sign up for the email newsletter and receive updates.

    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.ppsmt.org.

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Keep African violets blooming

QUESTION: My African violets were blooming beautifully when I got them a few months ago, but no longer. How can I get them to bloom again?

It’s easy to love those dainty clusters of blossoms rising from rosettes of downy leaves. African violets look like they’d be fussy plants, but quite the opposite: “They’re easy to grow if you know a few secrets,” says Julie Mavity-Hudson of the Nashville African Violet Club.

One of those secrets may surprise you: African violets tend to bloom better when they’re slightly root-bound, so don’t rush to move them to larger pots. They thrive in bright, indirect light and average room temperatures, in soil that is kept slightly moist. “The thing that kills more African violets than anything is overwatering,” Mavity-Hudson says.

Failure to bloom might be because the plant is not getting enough light. In winter, when the light is low, try moving it to a south or west window where the light is brighter, but move it away from the window when the light is more intense. Direct sun will burn the leaves of African violets.

A light feeding of high-phosphorous plant food every few weeks may also help. Houseplant expert Barbara Pleasant (The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual) suggests adding a light pinch of Epsom salts to water to push balky plants into bloom.

To get together with other African violet aficionados, check out the Nashville African Violet Club, which meets the first Sunday of most months,1:45, at the Green Hill Women’s Center,10905 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet. The meetings are open to the public.

 

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