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Azalea, flame (Rhododendron calendulaceum)
What We Do
Certified Extension Master Gardeners are trained by University of Tennessee (UT) Extension Service professionals to provide sound, practical, research based information in the areas of residential and consumer horticulture.
We strive to promote environmental stewardship and share the joys of gardening by:
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Who doesn’t love a shade garden on a hot summer day? Deep greens, cooling shade…and, more often than not, squirrels! They come with the trees. I know someone who traps them — humanely, of course, and takes them ten miles away. They come back. (Before you ask: She marks them before she carts them off, so she knows.)
Avid gardeners are usually nature lovers and nurturing souls. We attempt to bring back damaged and forgotten plants and we feed birds. Gardeners were among the first to call for "saving the pollinators" since many species of bees and other pollinating insects are being disturbed and displaced today. We should take steps to make the home garden a more inclusive oasis. Native plants have become recognized as important plants to foster pollinators in these gardens, but many other plants are worth trying, too.
One of the best things about Springtime in East Tennessee is the multitude of beauty that can be found on any one of the dozens of hiking trails in the Smokies. I recently hiked Porter’s Creek, a hike that is approximately 4 miles roundtrip from the trailhead at Greenbrier Road to Fern Branch Falls and back. There is a lot of history along this trail reminding us of families who settled in this area in the early 1800s, so it’s an interesting trail as well as a fairly easy one to navigate.
An often repeated pearl of wisdom in the gardening world, and one heard nearly every winter, is that a cold snap will "kill all the bugs". Or, conversely, an unseasonably warm winter will mean that the garden will be chewed to bits come the next growing season. I'm sure I am not alone in having gone along with believing that cold winters means no bugs for quite some time. When a good friend asked me if I knew that this bit of folklore was a myth, it surprised me. So, like the doubting Thomas I am, I looked it up.
January has brought bitter cold and February is off to a gloomy start, but it is never too soon to begin planning for warm sunshine and a great garden this year. Blount County Master Gardeners have announced their first workshop of the year, just in time to help with garden planning for 2018.
African violets are stunningly beautiful plants readily available in your local supermarket or garden center. They can provide year round color with attention to some basic care. This "how-to" article tells you everything you need to know about growing, caring for, and propagating these wonderful plants. Click on the link above to access a .pdf file you can download and print. To go along with this article click here for a set of photo slides that accompany it.
Many gardeners have one or two plants, maybe more, they wish they'd never bought. Plants in the mint family come to mind, or perhaps the unstoppable periwinkle (Vinca) vine. Maybe it was like one of my garden mistakes where I wanted something tough and easy to grow and then spent years removing evening primrose progeny. Maybe you were gifted a healthy (but quite toxic) "pass-along" of Star of Bethlehem?
Early this spring of 2017 BCMG released a vegetable based "Garden in a Box" as the first in a planned series of gardens grown from seed under the REAP program. REAP stands for Realizing Economical Agricultural Potential and was originally developed through the efforts of the Cumberland County Master Gardeners and the Plateau Discovery Gardens.
The kit contains 21 different varieties of vegetable seeds and planting instructions with diagrams for three seasons of harvest. The box garden plans can be used by any gardener wishing to easily add a planned home grown garden but is especially helpful to novice gardeners.
In early spring, Blount County erupts in clouds of white puffballs. Driveways and roads are lined with drifts of white blossoms and many people feel spring is finally here when they see them. In recent years, the more negative aspects of these ubiquitous trees of springtime snow have become obvious.
Spring is in the air and our gardens are awake and growing. We've had lots of rain to erase all thoughts of last year's drought. We've spent the winter months anticipating warm days and sunny skies, and we can't wait to get out and see all the colorful flowers once again! Garden sales and swaps are now enticing us to add to our collection of green things. So now is a good time to think about what we need and what we should be planting and have a plan before we hit those sales.
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Click on the activity title link to see photos:
The Spring Workshop was a great success! The Master Gardeners (MGs) and Interns did an awesome job – eight tables with exhibits were set up. People in attendance rotated from table to table and MGs gave them a short presentation and answered questions. The exhibits included soil testing, seed germination, soil amendments, planting, vegetable gardening, garden tools, drip systems, and REAP kit exhibit.
An apple tree pruning workshop for the students was conducted by Professors Drew Crain and David Ungera of Maryville College. Participation by Blount County Master Gardeners and Master Gardener Interns from the class of 2018 was organized by Donna Dixon. Donna was pleased by the turnout and said after the first day "What a supportive turnout in a steady drizzle to get the task done! We had a class of 23+ students, and the students were great to work with! Our Interns and Certified Members were great instructors.”