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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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Shrubs for a good foundation

Question: I plan to replant the bed at the front foundation of the house with new shrubs. I will need about 5 shrubs, evergreen and low maintenance. The front of our house gets morning sun and afternoon shade. What type of shrubs can you suggest?

boxwood shrubs

Boxwoods are a favorite choice of shrubs for foundation plantings.

I talked with Mark Kerske at Gardens of Babylon garden center in Nashville, and he has several good recommendations:

Boxwood is a tried-and-true choice. “It’s one of my favorite plants,” Kerske says. Boxwoods can grow quite large over time, but there are smaller varieties available that grow to more suitable size for foundation plantings. They take full sun but also do well with some shade.

Cryptomeria is a fast-growing conifer with dark green needles that can grow very tall and wide, but there are dwarf varieties (‘Lobii Nana’ and ‘Pygmaea’ are two that are mentioned in the Southern Living Garden Book) that grow only to about 3 – 4 feet tall.

The cherry laurel ‘Otto Luyken’ is also a favorite. It’s a compact shrub with deep green, glossy leaves that grows to about 4 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide.

Whichever shrubs you choose, good soil preparation will ensure that they get off to a good start. Work good compost into the soil to improve the drainage, and use mulch in the planting bed after you plant the shrubs to keep the soil moisture consistent. “You don’t want to keep the soil wet, but just moist,” Kerske says. “That’s the key, maintaining constant moisture.”

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