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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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Keep geraniums on the sunny side

QUESTION: Every spring I buy pots of geraniums to place in the planters on our front porch, which is shaded by a couple of tall trees. They look great for a couple of weeks, then the lower leaves begin to turn yellow and the flowers become scraggly and sparse. The neighbors’ geraniums always look great! What am I doing wrong?
Geranium 2
Geraniums seem to be on porches and in planters everywhere in summer, so they should be fairly easygoing – and easy-to-care-for plants, right?

Right. As long as you provide what they need to grow and thrive: sun, enough (but not too much) water, and perhaps a bit of fertilizer every now and then.

These are, no doubt, the so-called “common geranium” (Pelargonium x hortorum) that you can find at every nursery and garden center, grocery store and roadside stand in the spring. Notice that in the growing tips that are usually provided, “sun” is the first item on the list. The recommended dose is five to six hours of full sun, so if your geraniums are on a porch that is in the dappled shade of tall trees most of the day, they will not get the sunlight they need to bloom well.
Geranium 1
Move them to a sunny spot, and the geraniums likely will respond with a burst of new blooms. Clip dead flowers off to encourage continued blooming.
Water the plants when the soil is dry or just barely moist. Don’t let the plants become waterlogged, though, and make sure the container drains well to avoid rot and fungus that may develop. Feed container plantings lightly every few weeks with water-soluble fertilizer.

By the way, sources note that common geraniums may stop blooming during extended hot weather, and in that case will benefit from light shade in the afternoon. They should begin to bloom again when the weather is cooler.

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