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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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April garden tips & tasks

Dogwood blossomsSpring — however capricious it may be — has arrived, and it’s time to head back outdoors, keeping an eye on the weather. Gardeners in Middle Tennessee, Zone 7a, where The Garden Bench calls home, are anxious to get the season started. Warmer areas are already in full swing; if it’s cooler where you are, it’s getting close!

Here’s what’s on your garden to-do list for April.

Early this month

Rosemary

Refresh hardy herbs by trimming dead foliage.

Did your hardy herbs survive winter? Trim dead foliage of sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano and other cold-damaged herbs. Replant those that didn’t make it through the freezing weather.

Trees and shrubs planted in spring need plenty of water during the first year of growth, especially as the weather gets warmer.

Set out hummingbird feeders to welcome the birds back to your garden. Hummingbird nectar recipe: one part sugar to four parts water. It’s not necessary to use red food coloring.

Plant your favorite herbs: parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary can be planted early in the month. Basil and dill are more tender herbs, so wait a bit longer to be sure the weather is warm enough.

To have a big display of flowers in summer, sow seeds and plant summer-flowering bulbs in April: zinnias, sunflowers, cleome, cosmos and other summertime favorites.

Mid-April

Get rid of weeds while they’re small and easy to pull. Use mulch to keep weed growth (and weed-pulling) to a minimum.

coleus

Set out bedding plants after the last frost date.

Mid-April marks the official last-frost date in Middle Tennessee, and it’s usually safe to set out warm-weather bedding plants such as petunias, coleus and begonias, and vegetable transplants — tomatoes, peppers, eggplants. But keep an eye on the weather. Spring is unpredictable!

Sow seeds of okra, cucumbers, squash, beans, melons, and other kitchen-garden favorites.

Don’t skimp on mulch. Use it to keep weed growth (and weed-pulling) to a minimum, and to help keep the soil moist in annual, perennial and vegetable beds.

Remove the dead flowers and stalks of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, but leave the foliage until it turns yellow. This is the time spring-flowering bulbs build up energy to bloom again next year.

Later this month

If you don’t have space for a kitchen garden, at least plant herbs in a pot. Some favorite container combinations for cooks: parsley, basil and thyme; rosemary sage and chives; mint, basil and dill. Remember to water containers frequently as summer weather approaches.

Azalea The Garden Bench

Prune azaleas shortly after they bloom.

The best time to prune azaleas, flowering quince, forsythia, lilac and other early-flowering shrubs is right after they finish blooming. These plants begin forming buds for next year’s flowers on this year’s growth.

Many houseplants thrive in shady, protected spots outdoors. Place them where they won’t get blown by strong winds, pelted by hard rain or disturbed by marauding animals.

If you plant shrubs and trees this spring, make sure they get plenty of water during their first year of growth, especially as the weather gets warmer.

Provide about an inch of water a week to lawns and garden beds.

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