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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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Spring lawn repair: mow and sow

Question: There are several bare spots in our lawn. Is it too early to sow fescue grass seed?

Lawn repair wheat straw

Sprinkle wheat straw over areas of newly patched lawn.

If the bare spots are just that – bare, ragged patches in an established lawn of cool-season grass such as fescue, and not an entire lawn — then March is a good time to fill in and overseed by sowing new grass seed. Here are the steps to take, provided by Judy Lowe, author of Month by Month Gardening in Tennessee & Kentucky:To overseed, mow the grass at the lowest mower setting and rake the clippings, then mow and rake again to expose as much of the soil as possible. Use a hard metal rake to rough up the soil. Even with much of the soil exposed, the seed won’t all come into contact with the soil, so sow one-and-a- half or two times the amount of seed recommended for a new lawn. Rake lightly over the area, and if possible, sprinkle a ¼-inch layer of topsoil or compost on top. Water the overseeded lawn every day to keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.

To patch a bare or ragged patch of lawn, first remove grass and weeds from the area and square off the edges. Dig the soil six inches deep and remove any rocks, roots and debris. Mix organic matter into the soil, rake the area, and then water. Sow grass seed at the rate recommended on the bag, then smooth the soil with the back of a rake to make sure the seed comes into contact with the soil. Cover the area with a light layer of wheat straw and water it often to keep the soil moist while the seeds germinate.

These steps can get your lawn through the summer in fairly good shape if it receives adequate moisture throughout the season. For complete renovation of a fescue lawn, which is easier to establish in cool weather, wait until fall.

If your lawn is a warm-season grass such as zoysia or Bermuda, wait until the soil warms up to do any planting.

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