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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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Plan your squirrel deterrents

We’re about to plant tomatoes again in our small garden, and it reminds me that last year the squirrels got most of the tomatoes before they had a chance to get ripe. Is there anything we can do to keep that from happening again?

This tomato might be tempting to a thirsty squirrel.

This tomato might be tempting to a thirsty squirrel.

When you find that several of your green tomatoes has disappeared from the vine overnight, it’s a pretty good bet the squirrels have been at work. What’s even worse is finding half-eaten green tomatoes on the ground. I’ve had it happen, and I’m sure most other tomato gardeners have, as well.
Suggested deterrents range from blood meal or cayenne pepper sprinkled on the ground around the garden, to bird netting cages built to enclose the plants as they grow.
Some gardeners say that they leave a pan of water near the garden to provide the moisture the squirrels are looking for, hoping they’ll leave the tomatoes alone. Others hang aluminum pans and other shiny objects around the garden to scare the squirrels away. Those things may work for a little while, but squirrels are pretty clever and will realize quickly that they’re harmless, so it’s not a long-term solution. Last year, I draped a large inflatable snake over one of the cages, and that may have spooked them a bit; I moved the snake around every couple of days to try to keep them guessing.
Other ideas? Readers of The Garden Bench: If you’ve tried things that work to keep squirrels from grabbing the tomatoes, tell about them in the comments. They’re ideas worth sharing before tomato season arrives.

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