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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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Holes in your hostas? Suspect slugs

The hostas in my shade garden are ragged and full of holes every year at the end of summer. Is this normal?

HostaIt’s not unusual to find holes in big, leafy hostas. Those large, wide leaves create a cool, moist shelter for slugs and snails, who may rest under them during the heat of the day and come out at night to dine. You can verify their presence by placing a small board beside the hostas where you’ve noticed damaged leaves. In the morning, turn the board over to see how many have gathered on the underside of the board. Dispose of them as you wish. Another option may be to set out a small dish or a shallow aluminum can (such as a tuna or cat food can) filled with beer beside the hostas. Slugs in the area may be lured by the beer to crawl into the can, and you can dump them all in the trash.

The American Hosta Society suggests several solutions for protecting plants from slug damage, one of which is to provide something else for them to eat, such as lettuce. A different strategy focuses on placing a barrier around vulnerable plants. Strips of copper on the ground can be effective because slugs don’t like to cross it; diatomaceous earth or table salt sprinkled around the plants also may keep them away, but be careful about adding too much salt to the soil.

The American Hosta Society mentions a couple of poison baits, but also suggests that a 10% solution of vinegar, sprayed on the slugs, stops them in their tracks – but you have to be out there with the spray when they are out, which is usually at night.

A final suggestion is to set a trap. Place two boards together with a small stick between them, where the slugs can crawl into the cool shade. Then, when the slugs are between the boards, remove the stick to trap and dispose of them.

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The Nashville Tree Foundation announces the opening of the Betty Brown Tree Trail and Arboretum, a leafy respite next to the newly developed Riverfront Park and Ascend Amphitheater in downtown Nashville. The meandering trail, Named after

Betty Brown

Betty Moorhead Brown

NTF’s founding board member and first president, the late Betty Moorhead Brown, includes 236 trees representing 36 different species. A dedication ceremony is planned for later this month, but Nashville Public Television’s Volunteer Gardener program has already taped a segment at the Trail. The segment will air on Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sept. 20 at 9:30 a.m.

For visitors to the Trail, Nashville Tree Foundation has developed a guide pamphlet that lists the tree species and what to look for along the way. When you visit, pick up a pamphlet at the visitor’s kiosk, or download it here at NTF’s website.

**

In The Tennessean — Easy design with herbs: Floral designer Ralph Null has a simple rule for arranging flowers: “My whole approach is what I call easy design.” He will be among the speakers at the Herb Society of Nashville’s annual Herb Day on Sept. 19, and offers tips for using herbs in floral designs in a story in Saturday’s Tennessean.

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