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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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Aphids: a ‘green’ goodbye

My new tomato plants already have tiny green bugs on them. I think they are aphids. What can I put on the plants that is safe (no chemicals or poisons), but that will get rid of them?

Young tomato plants are vulnerable to aphid infestation.

Young tomato plants are vulnerable to aphid infestation.

You are probably correct that the tiny bugs are aphids. They tend to hang out in clusters on the tender new growth of many plants. If the infestation is heavy, it’s best to try to get rid of them because they use their piercing mouthparts to suck the plants’ fluids – a bad start for struggling new tomato plants.
Many garden information sources suggest knocking the bugs off with a strong spray of water. Spray all parts of the plants, including the undersides of leaves. One of the reliable resources I use, Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver, suggests blasting them with the water spray twice a week. They also suggest a garlic or hot pepper spray to deter the bugs, either a commercial product or a concoction that you make at home.
As a last resort, spray the plants with insecticidal soap. There are several commercial brands available (Safer is one that is commonly found at nurseries and garden centers), or make your own.
One recipe suggested by “green” garden expert Joe Lamp’l is this, from his book The Green Gardener’s Guide: Mix a teaspoon of dishwashing soap (not detergent), a teaspoon of cooking oil and one quart of water in a spray bottle. He adds a note of caution: “Insecticidal soaps can be phytotoxic (having a tendency to burn) to certain plants, so be sure to test a small area before applying on a larger scale.” Lamp’l also cautions that soaps are nonselective, and you may also be destroying beneficial insects, so use this solution sparingly.
Garden events in Middle Tennessee
May 21: Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee meets at Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall. Speaker is Jimmy Williams from Paris, Tenn, on “The Perennial Border from February through December.” Refreshments at 6:30, meeting at 7 p.m.
May 23: Middle Tennessee Hosta Society meets at Cheekwood’s Potter Room, 7 p.m. Featured speaker is Jason Rives, owner of Petals From the Past in Jemison. Ala.; topic is “Incorporating Antique Roses into the Hosta garden.”
Fridays in June and July: Visitors to Cheekwood gardens can enjoy them in a new way on Fitness Fridays, with a variety of workout activities held in the gardens and on the grounds.
-7:30 a.m. Yoga in the Gardens, led by certified trainers from the Green Hills YMCA
8:30 a.m. Sculpture Trail Hike, a mile-long hike through Carell Woodland Sculpture garden led by certified trainers.
9:30 a.m. Stroller Strides, a vigorous workout for moms and dads up and down the paved driveways an din the garden.
Gates open at 7 a.m. Fitness Fridays are free to Cheekwood members; non-members pay the regular Cheekwood gate admission.

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