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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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Foxgloves for sun or shade

I planted several transplants of foxgloves in a garden bed last year and they bloomed and grew well. I thought they were annuals and would die when winter came, and I was surprised to see that they have come back. What can you tell me about them?

Foxglove-webFoxgloves, with their low-growing foliage and tall, dramatic flower spikes, are biennials, blooming in their second year, or short-lived perennials, according to the National Gardening Association. In a garden bed that contains foxgloves, the foliage begins to appear in spring, and by late spring or early summer they are usually ready to bloom.

They’re a nice addition to a garden bed because they’re low-maintenance, high-impact plants. They don’t need all-day sun to grow well (in fact, they’re good for gardens in light shade and woodland areas, NGA says). And while individual plants may not come back year after year, they multiply readily by self-sowing, so under the right conditions you can have foxgloves in your garden for years.

Foxgloves grow best in moist, well-drained soil. Plant transplants in early spring, or sow seeds in summer. With seeds, the first season’s growth will be a ground-hugging rosette of leaves; flower spikes will appear the second season, the plant will drop its seeds, and the cycle begins again.

One cautionary note: foxgloves leaves contain digitalis, and are considered poisonous.

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