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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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For mums, just a pinch

QUESTION: I bought pots of mums last fall and planted them in the ground after they finished blooming. They died back over the winter, but grew back this spring. I’ve heard that they should be trimmed after they start to grow, but how much should they be cut?

MumsThose ubiquitous pots of cheerful chrysanthemums that appear in garden centers in late summer are referred to as florists mums. Planted in full sun in good, well-drained garden soil, they should indeed return year after year.

The shoots can begin to appear early in spring. Garden experts advise pinching off the tips of florists mums after they reach 5 – 6 inches tall. As they continue to grow, keep pinching, nipping off the top pair of leaves, throughout the spring and early summer to encourage more lateral growth (making the plants fuller and bushier). This will also delay flowering until late summer and fall, when these bright spots of color will be welcome in the garden.

Keep pinching until about mid-July, then allow the plants to begin to form buds, which will start to flower as fall approaches, about the time many other things are beginning to shut down.

Mums seem pretty resilient. In my own garden, which is more dappled sun and shade than full sun, the mums quickly grow tall and rangy, and I cut them back more severely – sometimes as much as three or four inches off the tops of the plants (I’ll give them a final trim this week). Still, they continue to grow tall, and flop over to cover the garden in a patchwork quilt of colors each fall.

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