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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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Disappearing columbine

The columbine that I planted about three years ago usually starts coming up in March, but it hasn’t started growing this year. Could something have killed it?

Although it self-seeds, columbine is a short-lived perennial.

Although it self-seeds , columbine is a short-lived perennial.

Columbine (Aquilegia is the botanical name), with its lacy leaves and bell-shaped flowers, is a nice addition to spring gardens. It’s a relatively short-lived perennial, however, that owes any sense of longevity to a habit of prolific self-seeding. The original plant may last only two or three years.

It’s also pretty sturdy, despite its delicate appearance. Different varieties of the plants, with their distinctive spurred flowers, range in shades from pure white and light pastels to yellow, red, orange and purple.

Columbine is susceptible to a couple of problems, though, according to the National Gardening Association. The insect larvae called leaf miners leave tan-colored winding tunnels as they feed inside the delicate leaves. If you see this on the foliage, NGA suggest you cut off and destroy the “mined” leaves after the plants have bloomed. New leaves will grow later in the season.

Powdery mildew, a fungal disease, can also affect the foliage, particularly when daytime temperatures are warm and nights are cool. NGA suggests planting in a location that receives afternoon sun and has plenty of air circulation around the plants. If powdery mildew develops, they suggest cutting back the affected parts.

Despite these issues, don’t hesitate to plant more this spring. Select a spot with fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or light or partial shade, loosen the soil to about 12 inches deep and mix in a generous layer of compost. Dig a wide hole, about twice the diameter of the container it’s in, remove the plant from the pot and place it in the hole with the top of the root ball level with the surface of the soil. Fill in and firm the soil around the root ball, and water thoroughly.

In The Tennessean: Four unheralded herbs, “Herbs you may not know about, but need to,” can add culinary interest to your garden this spring. Tap here to read the story in The Tennessean.

Also in The Tennessean: Three popular plant sales are on the calendar this month.

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