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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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Pampas grass has lost its plumes

Our pampas grass has been beautiful for ten years, but this year it did not produce the feathery plumes. What could be the problem?

Pampas grassThere are several possible reasons pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) doesn’t produce the tall, graceful plumes that we look forward to in late summer. One of the most common seems to be overfertilization. If the grass is near a lawn that was heavily fertilized with nitrogen, it could have affected the plumes. Nitrogen fertilizer tends to grow a lot of greenery at the expense of flowers – or plumes, in the case of ornamental grass.

It may also be due to too little phosphorous in the soil. A soil test can provide the answer, and if it turns out to be a phosphorous deficiency, you can add bone meal to the planting bed. Some sources also say that young clumps of pampas grass may not plume for the first couple of years.

In general, pampas grass grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It’s a good idea to cut the grass (and all ornamental grasses) back every year in late winter before new growth begins. Wear sturdy gloves (pampas grass’s sawtooth leaves can cut you!) and use hedge trimmers or shears to cut the clump to within about a foot of the ground. Over time, grass that is not cut may die out in the center – one more thing that might affect the formation of the tall, graceful plumes.

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