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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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March gardening tips & tasks

March can be fickle. Will it be warm? Or will we feel bone-chilling blasts of cold wind? Are there sunny days? Or does the rain fall nonstop for days on end? Will there be tornadoes? Whatever is in store weather-wise, we can be sure that winter is on its way out, spring is about to arrive. Get back out in the garden with these late-winter/early spring garden tasks. Continue reading

Liriope needs a trim before spring

We have thick borders of monkey grass alongside our sidewalk, and winter has been hard on it. It turned brown and a lot of it looks dead. Should we cut it down and allow it to come back? Or is it best to dig it up and replace it?

Monkey grassMonkey grass (also called liriope, or lily turf) turns brown around the edges and tips in winter, but you can be sure that it’s a tough plant, and no doubt will soon begin to sprout new growth. The best time to cut the dead foliage is now, before that new growth begins. You can trim it with clippers, but the easiest way is to mow it down. Cutting it now, before it begins growing again, assures that you won’t shear off the tender new tips of leaves.

Late winter is also a good time to divide clumps of monkey grass. Dig it up and pull the roots apart, or take the advice of garden expert Felder Rushing, the author of Tough Plants for Southern Gardens, who suggests cutting straight down into mature clumps and separating individual crowns. Rushing says plants can be divided every two or three years.

Monkey grass is a landscape staple in some areas because it’s tough. It will tolerate less-than-ideal conditions – dense shade, clay soil, drought – and still spread it roots out to grow more clumps of attractive dark green foliage, accented by stalks of tiny flowers in late summer.

 

 

Plant peonies in spring or fall

Question: I have a flower bed in a spot that gets morning sun, and I want peonies in my garden. Can I plant them now?
peonies gbYes, early spring is a good time to plant peony rhizomes. They can also be planted in the fall. Once they’re established, peonies are finicky about being moved, so it’s a good idea to make sure the new flower bed is in good shape before you put them in the ground.
Peonies prefer a spot in full sun or with light afternoon shade, with good drainage, and away from the roots of trees and shrubs that would compete for water and nutrients. They can be susceptible to powdery mildew, so make sure they are not crowded and there is good air circulation in the bed.
Work plenty of organic matter and a high-phosphate fertilizer into the soil, and set the roots 1 inch deep.
Peonies may not bloom the first year they are planted, but they should bloom every year after that.

In the garden this week

It’s spring in Middle Tennessee (Zone 7a on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map, where The Garden Bench calls home). Here are a few late-March tasks on our gardening to-do list:

  • Replenish mulch around roses, azaleas and other shrubs.
  • Dig and divide, hardy mums, daylilies that have gotten too crowded.
  • Set out transplants of herbs that can stand up to a few more chilly days: parsley, cilantro, sage, chives, oregano are among the garden and kitchen favorites.
  • Trim buddleia or cut it back before new leaves emerge.
  • Last chance to mow over winter-browned liriope; new shoots are beginning to come up from the roots.