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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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The squash and the bees

I planted squash plants among my flowers. They look great and are blooming, but they’re not setting any squash. The blossom falls off before the squash begins to grow. Any help?

Squash grows after it has been pollinated by insects or by hand.

When squash plants bloom without producing squash, it probably means they need help with pollination. Squash plants produce male flowers at first, followed by female flowers a few days later. (You can tell the difference this way: male flowers have a single stamen in the center; female flowers have a four-part pistil, and appear swollen just beneath the blossom.)

According to information at GardenGuides.com, if the female flowers drop off without growing a squash, it means that it didn’t get pollinated by the bees or other pollinators that visit the garden.

Squash flowers are big, so if the bees aren’t doing an adequate job, you can do it yourself.  Use a cotton swab or a small, soft brush to gather the pollen from inside the male flower, and transfer it to the female flower. Or pick a male flower, remove the petals and swirl it around inside the female flower. (Look here for pictures of how this is done). With luck, a squash is born!

 

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