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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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Time to plant a rose

Question: We want to add roses to our landscape this year. When is the best time to plant them? Is it better to buy bare root plants, or plants in containers?

Rose WebRoses purchased as bare-root plants can be planted in late winter, whenever the soil can be worked. In this area (USDA Hardiness Zone 7a), roses in containers should be planted after mid-April, say the experts at the Nashville Rose Society. Either should grow well and bloom if they’re given the right conditions: lots of sun – six or more hours a day – and good drainage.

Here’s how to plant roses to get them off to a good start:

Before you plant a bare root rose, soak it for 8 – 24 hours in a large bucket of water with root stimulator added. This rehydrates the plant. Dig a hole 18 inches wide and deep. Place ½ cup of superphosphate in the bottom of the hole, and cover it with a mound of soil made up of 1/3 top soil, 1/3 compost and 1/3 sand or perlite. Prune any broken or dead branches or old canes smaller in diameter than a pencil, and prune back any broken or unusually long roots.

Place the roots over the soil mound in the hole and spread them out and downward over the mound. Place the soil mix around the roots to fill the hole about halfway, and pour a gallon of water with root stimulant over the soil and let it drain. After this has soaked in, finish filling the hole up to ground level with soil mix. Cover the soil with mulch to help keep the bush hydrated until the feeder roots begin to grow; remove the mulch gradually as the weather begins to get warmer.

To plant a potted rose (after the last frost date in your area), dig a hole slightly larger than the diameter of the pot and about 18 inches deep. Place ½ cup of superphosphate or bone meal in the bottom of the hole and cover it with 2 inches of soil. Remove the bush from the pot without breaking the root ball (you may have to cut the sides of the pot away) and place the root ball in the hole so that bud union – the knot where the rose was grafted onto the root stock — is just above ground level.

Fill in around the root ball with soil, and water thoroughly with a bit of root stimulator added to the water.

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The Garden Calendar returns in The Tennessean and at Tennessean.com

In March, hope springs eternal in the garden

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