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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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Tulip bulbs: It’s not too late to plant

I bought tulip bulbs in the fall but didn’t have time to plant them. Is it too late to put them in the ground now?

Tulips

Tulip bulbs planted now will bloom next spring.

Good news: Unless the ground is frozen and you can’t dig, it’s not too late. Tulip bulbs apparently prefer cooler planting conditions. But don’t wait much longer; otherwise, blooming will be delayed. Try to get the bulbs in the ground before the end of December.

Here are general planting guidelines from the National Gardening Association:

Prepare a well-drained bed in full sun. Plant tulip bulbs – pointed end up – about six inches deep – or a couple of inches deeper if voles are a problem in your garden. Space bulbs about 5 inches apart, and apply a granular bulb fertilizer. Firm the soil and water thoroughly.

National Gardening Association suggests planting five bulbs per square foot for a nice display. When you plant a grouping, be care to plant all the bulbs at the same depth to ensure they will all bloom at the same time.

You can also plant tulip bulbs in pots. Fine Gardening magazine suggests this technique: For the best visual impact, select a container with an outside diameter of at least 18 inches that is at least 15 inches tall. Fill the container about two-thirds with lightweight potting mix, and place the bulbs (pointed end up) close together in a tight circular pattern. Cover them with soil, leaving about an inch of space at the top.

In my yard, squirrels try to find hidden treasure by digging in unprotected containers, so I cover the soil with poultry wire cut to fit the pot. Fine Gardening magazine suggests a wire grid such as peony support. Cover the wire with a thin layer of soil; when the bulbs begin to sprout, they will grow through the open grid.

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