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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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Shade gardens, ‘Outwitting Squirrels,’ and a book giveaway!

Question: Our garden has a shady, moist area that gets sun late in the afternoon. Can you suggest some things that will grow there?

HostaThere are so many choices of plants that grow in moist shade that it would be hard to name everything, but I’ve asked gardeners what’s growing well in their shady gardens here in Middle Tennessee (USDA Hardiness Zone 7A), and compiled a list:

Ferns, hostas and oak leaf hydrangeas, false Solomon’s seal, penstemon, astilbe and creeping Jenny are all well-known favorites. Some of the spring wildflowers (bought from a reputable source, not dug out of the woods) such as Virginia bluebells, trillium and Mayapple bloom for a short while and disappear, but are very pretty nonetheless. Other spring bloomers – celandine poppies, Solomon’s seal, Jack in the pulpit, woodland phlox, wild ginger — keep their foliage a bit longer.

Summer bloomers include goat’s beard, Spigelia (also called Indian pink), cardinal flower, hardy begonia, spiderwort and sweet flag.

May Garden Calendar: It’s almost May, and planting time! The May Garden Calendar and Garden tips and tasks suggest many ways to get out and enjoy spring in the garden, in Saturday’s Tennessean and at Tennessean.com.

Can you really outwit squirrels?

Outwitting scanTwenty-five years ago, Bill Adler, Jr. wrote the Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels. If you are a bird-lover who likes to attract feathered visitors by putting out feeders, you probably know that the squirrels are still winning.

So Adler has reviewed and updated the stratagems, and Chicago Review Press has published the 3rd edition of the book (“Revised & Even Craftier”) that notes that to outwit squirrels, “we have to observe, think, and look at the world from the squirrel’s point of view.”

It’s a laugh-out-loud book about the many ways a person might try to keep squirrels from breaking into a bird feeder, while at the same time acknowledging that a squirrel has all day to figure out how to break into a bird feeder, and never stops trying. But it’s also a book that provides solid information on how to attract birds, the best types of feeders to use, what seed to use and how to maintain the feeders and keep them clean.

The chapter I was glad to find is “The Unbearable Persistence of Squirrel Appetites,” which is about squirrels and gardens. Our small yard is rich in trees, including a pecan and three black walnuts that produce loads of nuts, which are vital to a squirrels’ diet, every year. No wonder we have so many squirrels!

“The squirrel is the nemesis of the gardener,” Adler writes. “A hungry squirrel – is there any other kind? – will devour any flowerlike growth in sight… Having squirrels in your yard when the first flowers come up is like having a lawnmower run amok.” (And all this time, I’ve been blaming the rabbits.)

There’s also information about attracting squirrels because, yes, some people like squirrels, and find them cute and entertaining. So there’s information about building nesting boxes for squirrels, and how to get along with them without letting them take over your house.

“We are smarter than squirrels. We can win against squirrels. We will win against squirrels,” Adler insists. “And along the way, we’re going to have plenty of fun.”

Book giveaway: Outwitting Squirrels!

Do squirrels enjoy your bird feeders? Leave a comment at the end of this post by 6 p.m. Friday, May 2 to be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Bill Adler, Jr.’s Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels. Don’t forget to provide an email address so I can contact the winner. (The book can only be sent to addresses in the United States and Canada.)

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4 Responses

  1. Yes so I’d really love to win this book!

  2. Me too! Squirrels are cute but they’re also a nuisance… :•{

  3. Who around here doesn’t need a way to outwit squirrels? They have such a large population in Middle TN, I hear they’re on the city council. Add me to the list!

  4. Ha, I love Jennie’s comment above. Here in our neighborhood, I am not sure they are quite so civic minded, although their population is indeed thick. Here they spend their days across the street and down at the river. Then, come evening, they come dragging home to the slightly higher ground of our back yard, the children inevitably complaining that it’s too early to go to bed. And we often wake to their leaping from trees to scamper along our roof…. sign me up!

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