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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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Pamper those strawberry plants

I have strawberries that did well in the spring but seems to have suffered a bit over the summer. What’s the best way to prepare the bed for winter? It is okay to use mulch on strawberry plants?
Strawberry plantsStrawberry plants have shallow roots, so it’s possible that they suffered from drought if you didn’t water regularly. They also need to be mulched, which can help suppress the growth of weeds. Pine straw is a good mulch to use in a strawberry bed, because it can cover the soil without smothering the crowns of the plants.

Here’s advice on strawberries from garden expert Barbara Pleasant, from her book The Southern Garden Advisor:

Pull weeds from the strawberry bed in September, then feed the strawberries with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. This should be the heaviest fertilization because strawberries produce latent buds, which become next year’s fruit, Pleasant explains. Water the bed well.

Mulch the bed in November. Pinch off leaves that are discolored and pull up any weeds that may have popped up.

Fertilize again in February, with a lighter dose this time, and prepare to enjoy the berries in April and May.

By the way, Pleasant says she prefers the spring-bearing varieties over those that are everbearing, which don’t produce as well. She recommends four varieties: ‘Earliglow,’ ‘Apollo,’ ‘Cardinal’ and ‘Surecrop.’

October in the garden is anything but dull. Metro Parks offers ways to keep your garden mind entertained. Head Outdoors for Fall  (plus Garden Tips, Tasks & Events) in the October Garden Calendar in Saturday’s Tennessean and at Tennessean.com.

Pampas grass has lost its plumes

Our pampas grass has been beautiful for ten years, but this year it did not produce the feathery plumes. What could be the problem?

Pampas grassThere are several possible reasons pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) doesn’t produce the tall, graceful plumes that we look forward to in late summer. One of the most common seems to be overfertilization. If the grass is near a lawn that was heavily fertilized with nitrogen, it could have affected the plumes. Nitrogen fertilizer tends to grow a lot of greenery at the expense of flowers – or plumes, in the case of ornamental grass.

It may also be due to too little phosphorous in the soil. A soil test can provide the answer, and if it turns out to be a phosphorous deficiency, you can add bone meal to the planting bed. Some sources also say that young clumps of pampas grass may not plume for the first couple of years.

In general, pampas grass grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It’s a good idea to cut the grass (and all ornamental grasses) back every year in late winter before new growth begins. Wear sturdy gloves (pampas grass’s sawtooth leaves can cut you!) and use hedge trimmers or shears to cut the clump to within about a foot of the ground. Over time, grass that is not cut may die out in the center – one more thing that might affect the formation of the tall, graceful plumes.