Community Education - "Hands in the Dirt" Articles

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Dangers in the Garden = Part 3: Irritating Plants

Problem plants are rarely life threatening even if poison is in their name. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac, are all found in Tennessee and can induce uncomfortable rashes upon contact. Poison Ivy is the only one of the three commonly found in Blount County. Some people are not affected by poison ivy, but most of us develop itchy responses after a few exposures to the Urishiol oils in the plant. Any part of the plant can provoke the allergic reaction because these oils exist on the surface of the leaves, branches or vines.

Dangers in the Garden - Part 2: Plants That Invade the Garden and Be Dangerous to Humans, Pets, or Livestock

Some dangers in the garden come from invading wildflowers and weeds. In Australia they are afflicted with a plant, Dendrocnide moroides, whose touch is "... like being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time." In Tennessee we are more likely to encounter Giant Hogweed, a member of the extensive carrot family. Unlike members of the spurge family and poison ivy which mainly cause itchy irritated skin eruptions, members of the carrot family can cause photo dermatitis. Photo dermatitis occurs when skin is damaged by chemicals that are activated by sunlight.

Dangers in the Garden - Part 1: Common Garden Plants that can be Dangerous to Humans, Pets, or Livestock 

Do you have pets or children who like to wander in your garden? Some plants with medicinal properties can also be toxic to humans or animals.  This article discusses common toxic garden plants, and links are provided to lists of plants poisonous to humans and animals.

Not All Pollinators Are Honey Bees - Planting for Many Pollinators

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.

The Joy of Spring Wildflowers - A Walk In the Woods

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.

Grass HopperMyths About Cold Winters and Fewer Bugs

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.

Bradford Pear Trees?  There Are Better Choices!

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 Plant Sales - Don't Go Without a Plan!

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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Community Service Projects

Master Gardeners provide volunteer service for many Blount County community and civic organizations through projects such as the following (click the links for more information):
We have new signs!  
Be sure and look for them at some of our Community Projects.

Fundraising Activity

Annual Spring Plant Sale

The Plant Sale Committee has been planning the 2019 Master Gardener Plant Sale for many months and have some new and exciting things planned! The Shed at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson at 1820 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville, will again be the location of our April 20, 2019, plant sale from 10 am until 2 pm.  As always we will we have top quality, economical plants for sale donated by Master Gardeners which include annuals, perennials, herbs, trees and shrubs.  Our infamous Back Porch will offer a collection of gardening themed items varying from garden tools to planters to yard art.  This year we will have Information Booths where you will be able to stroll by and ask your gardening questions and pick up ideas for future projects.  Don't miss the opportunity to purchase our latest book, Right Now! Attracting Pollinators to East Tennessee Gardens

Mark your calendars for April 20th, you don’t want to miss the 2019 Master Gardener Plant Sale. For more information, please contact Susan Daffron at

Blount County Extension Master Gardeners


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