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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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Moving calla lilies

Question: We live near Crossville, Tenn. and will be moving soon. What is the earliest I can dig up my callas? They have survived well the past three winters without being dug up but they probably need to be separated anyway.

calla-lilyAssuming that your callas are the type that die to the ground each winter and reappear the following spring, the rhizomes can be dug up anytime in the fall and stored for winter.

Callas are native to South Africa, so there is always the chance that the tubers may not survive extremely cold winter in the ground. But most gardeners I talk to in Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a, home of The Garden Bench) say they never dig up the rhizomes, and they come back each year. In Zone 6b (The USDA Hardiness Zone for Crossville), their survival seems a little less certain, but if yours have continued to grow and spread, then they must be in a friendly environment.

Here’s the recommendation for winter storage from the Gardening Know How website: To dig the rhizomes for storage, lift the clump out of the soil and allow them dry for two or three days, brush off the remaining soil and store them in peat moss in a paper bag in a cool, dry location.

Replant them in their new home next spring, after the danger of frost. Callas appreciate slightly acid soil that drains well, and should be watered regularly while they are growing and in bloom. They grow in full sun or partial shade.

The graceful flower bracts of calla lilies, which open about mid-spring or early summer, are lovely and delicate, but don’t be fooled by this. Callas are sturdy plants, and I have seen them escape their bed and push up through the packed gravel of nearby garden paths.

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