Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

August 12, 2013

Get fired up for fall at gardening festival

By Carol Burdett
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Most gardeners look upon August as the “lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer” as the songwriters allude to.  It’s a time out period where we relax and enjoy the fruits of our spring labor. The annuals are blooming and the perennials have been cut back and are now rewarding us with ambitious new growth. The shrubs have all been pruned after their spring and summer efforts of coloring our landscape and it’s time to kick back and enjoy our “sweet tea” and summer barbeques.

But September is coming and along with it is the renewed energy of cooler days and the opportunity to put new plants in the ground. But what will give us the most bang for our buck, the easiest plants to grow with the most rewarding outcomes? Let the Cumberland County Master Gardeners help you make those decisions. Being a part of the University of Tennessee, through their Extension services, the Master Gardeners are charged with getting horticultural information into the hands of homeowners. They are expected to help solve gardening problems and give insight into wise selections for individual situations. Having a wide reaching information day seems to be the best way to accomplish this goal and so our Cumberland County Association is moving forward with their 5th annual fall effort called the Fall Gardeners’ Festival.

Gardeners and would-be gardeners are all invited.  It’s free and along with hourly lectures, you can enjoy many vendors showing off their plants and plant related wares. There will be lunch on the grounds also available.

One of the most popular exhibits is a tent where UT experts from the Plant Sciences Department will be answering your questions. “What is this bug” (hopefully you’ve brought your bug in a plastic sandwich bag or glass jar) is always a good way to start your conversation.  If it’s not immediately obvious, there will be a good microscope and charts to help identify the critter and tell you if it’s friend or foe.  Since two-thirds of the bugs in our gardens are actually good guys that nature has put out there to kill off the bad guys, it’s important to know just what the crawly thing is and how it should be dealt with.

Are you planning to install some blueberry bushes in your yard this year? They are not only beautiful shrubs with great fall color, but also provide us with healthy and delicious fruit. But what is the pH of your soil? Is that something you’ve been meaning to have checked and just haven’t gotten around to it? The success of providing the proper soil for many plants is knowing what the PH is in the planting area. You will get a free analysis of your own soil by bringing a small amount to the soil experts on the grounds that day.

The ever popular wagon tours will also available. The wagons be lined up every hour on the hour to take you on a wheeled tour of the facilities.

And by the way, the day is Aug. 27, the last Tuesday in August. The AgResearch grounds will be open for parking at daybreak as it always is and registration on that day will begin at 9 a.m.  Although the lecture sessions don’t begin until 10, you are welcome to arrive early for a self guided walking tour of the various beds within the Discovery Gardens. (It’s about a ½ mile total.) Free brochures are available to help you find your way around the various numbered sections. The many different plots that comprise what is named Discovery Gardens are envisioned and implemented by every annual Master Gardener class.  It is amazing what each year brings to light in the form of ideas from many different personalities working together.

There will also be educational exhibits so if you can find a time to just wander the grounds, there will be plenty to keep your mind moving in a horticultural sphere.  For a complete list of events, visit the website and click on the link to Fall Gardeners’ Festival.

New this year will be propagation boxes along with a discussion on how to propagate new plants from your old favorites, or from friends’ plants. Each propagation box holds 27 quarts of planting material and will cost participants $10. There will be a limited number of attendees in each class so we encourage you to find the propagation tent and sign up early.  You may attend your choice of one of the 4 time slots and Master Gardeners will hold onto your own box until you choose to pick it up for your trip home.

The Plateau Research and Education Center where this special day will be held is on Hwy. 70N, 6 miles north of the Cumberland County fair grounds.  You may have noticed the large sign advertising  TOMATOES in the past or the black cattle grazing the surrounding farm land. It is the same University of Tennessee center that was formally called the Experiment Station. The Master Gardeners look forward to meeting you there for a great, rewarding day. Aug. 27, beginning at 9 a.m.

The Plateau Discovery Gardens is one of the three University of Tennessee gardens, recently declared by our state legislature to be the state botanical gardens of Tennessee.