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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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When daffodils don’t bloom

I covered my daffodils in the fall with a heavy layer of pine straw. The leaves have come up but they are not budding or blooming. Is the pine straw too acidic for these plants?

Daffodil copyAfter a long winter, we look forward to the daffodils blooming in spring, and it’s a disappointment when they don’t produce the flowers we expect.

The failure to bloom is not due to pine straw causing acid soil; daffodils – or jonquils, as we sometimes call them — tolerate a range of soil types, as long as it is well-drained and moderately fertile, and some varieties actually prefer slightly acid soil. A lot of garden experts suggest mulching daffodil beds with a light layer of pine straw. Small, early blooming daffodils may not be able to penetrate a thick layer of mulch.

So consider some of the other possible reasons daffodils don’t bloom:

Were they cut down too quickly last spring? After daffodils finish blooming, allow the foliage to remain until it turns yellow. This allows the bulb to gather and store energy for growing and blooming the following spring.

Were they given a high-nitrogen fertilizer? Nitrogen tends to grow a lot of foliage at the expense of flowers. Fertilizer that contains a higher level of phosphorous promotes blooming.

Is the bed too crowded? Bulbs continue to grow and divide underground, and after several years, the bulbs may grow big, lush clumps with few or no blooms. If it’s an old, established bed, it may need to be thinned. Dig the bulbs, separate and replant them.

Too little sun? Daffodils need six to eight hours of sunlight to bloom well. They tolerate dappled shade in early spring, but if they are in dense shade, they likely will not bloom.

These are among the most common causes. The American Daffodil Society has a whole page of reasons that daffodils fail to bloom, which you can read here.

For gardeners in Middle Tennessee (where The Garden Bench calls home), this is a good time to mention that the Middle Tennessee Daffodil Society is holding its annual Daffodil Show March 19 and 20 at Cheekwood Botanical Garden. This is the time to see some of the most perfect daffodils grown and arranged by serious daffodil aficionados. To learn more, visit the MTDS site here.

Spring into action: With warm weather rolling in, it’ time to check the garden to-do list. Read about March garden tips, tasks and events in The Tennessean.

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