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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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Protect banana trees from the cold

'Texas Star' banana. Photo by Dave G.

‘Texas Star’ banana. Photo by Dave G.

We planted a new ‘Texas Star’ banana tree this spring. It’s growing and looks great, but how do we protect it this winter? We live in Middle Tennessee, and it is planted in an open area near a pool.

The ‘Texas Star’ banana is said to be a cold-hardy variety, but it still needs coddling over the winter here in Zone 7a, where temperatures regularly fall below freezing. Once they’re exposed to a couple of frosty nights, the leaves will be reduced to a wilted mush. The important thing is to protect the underground rhizomes. The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture grows an impressive Hardy Banana in the UT Gardens in Knoxville, and provides this information for overwintering a banana plant:

Just before frost is expected, use a clean, sharp saw to cut the stems and leaves down to about 8 – 10 inches above the ground, then pile a thick layer of mulch over the crown. They say it’s best to use a heavy mulch (pine bark or hardwood), which won’t blow away easily. Others suggest you cover the stump with the leaves you cut from the plant, or wrap the stump with a blanket, and cover it with an overturned plastic garbage can.

In the spring, remove the mulch after the danger of frost is past, and the rhizome will send up new shoots and grow rapidly when the weather has warmed.

By the way, in this area banana trees are grown for their exotic foliage; it takes a long time to grow bananas, and summer here just isn’t long enough (though if you’ve grown bananas here in Zone 7a, I’d love to hear from you!).

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