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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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Cut winter-brown monkey grass before spring

QUESTION: The monkey grass that borders some of our beds has turned brown. If we cut it down, will it come back next spring?

monkey grass 2One reason monkey grass is so popular in landscapes is because it’s tough. It begins to turn brown around the tips and edges this time of year and can look pretty bad by the end of winter, but it sprouts new growth in the spring.

You can mow the plants down, or clip them close to the ground. Best to do it in winter before new growth begins. If you wait too late to mow, you may clip off the tips of the new leaves. In a warm climate, you may begin seeing new growth as early as late February or early March.

Monkey grass (Liriope muscari is the botanical name; it’s also known as lily turf) can be divided in early spring. Dig it up and pull the roots apart, or cut through the clumps of roots with a sharp spade.

Something new for the library

One of the books I’ve consistently used as a reference for more than ten years is the Tennessee & Kentucky Gardener’s Guide by garden writer Judy Lowe. This fall, Cool tn ky garden guideSprings Press published a new version of the book with updated photos and more features. The subtitle is “The Best Plants for a Tennessee or KentuckyGarden,” and recommendations are based on the 2012 version of the USDA Hardiness Zone map (she says she could not have imagined recommending gardenias outdoors in our zones a few years ago, for example, but now, here they are!)

The plant-by-plant format covers annuals, bulbs, groundcovers and vines, lawngrass perennials, shrubs, trees and water gardens and still gives the when-where-how to plant information, growing tips and care, and how to use plants in the landscape. There’s also information on pruning, planting, pests and diseases, weeds, making compost, starting seeds and other gardening basics.

Keep it in mind if you’re still shopping for the gardeners on your list.

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