Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


March 10, 2014

PLATEAU GARDENING: Got questions? Tennessee Master Gardeners have answers

CROSSVILLE — These encounters brightened my week just before that Sunday night ice storm and snowy Monday got March 2014 off to a roaring start: I saw an old friend in a grocery store parking lot. He stopped to chat and during that conversation asked, “What’s the story with azaleas this winter? Mine are protected up by the house but they look bad.” I didn’t have an immediate answer but have been asking around to see if other gardeners in the area have azalea troubles, too.

A reader phoned to let me know he was glad to see the first "Plateau Gardening" column of the season in the newspaper and enjoys reading the articles. He then asked when boxwoods should be pruned and the best time to cut back tall ornamental grasses. I’ll report my response next week.

One of my gardening buddies from church said she had been out picking up sticks and twigs in her yard and asked if I’d been out in my gardens. My answer was “No.” However, that conversation was just the push I needed to go do lawn and garden clean-up before the bad weather hit.

Some of my favorite things about gardening as a hobby are sharing plants, seeds and garden experiences with other members of the green-thumb brigade. That willingness to share what I grow and what I know along with a desire to learn more about growing conditions in my part of Tennessee motivated me to become a Master Gardener when classes were first offered in my county in 1998.

Tennessee Master Gardener organizations are county-based but operate under guidelines set by the state Master Gardener volunteer program through University of Tennessee Extension. If the idea of becoming a Master Gardener appeals to you, learn more online at the Tennessee Master Gardener (TNMG) home page by selecting one of the Quick Links: Who are Tennessee Master Gardeners? What does a Master Gardener Do? and How do I become a Master Gardener?

TNMG volunteers complete 40 or more hours of training and in return agree to give back 40 hours of public service in horticulture-related areas to earn their initial certification. Each can maintain active-member status in subsequent years by earning the required continuing education credits (CEUs) and logging sufficient volunteer time.

Residents of Putnam County (931-526-4561) or Cumberland County (484-6743) should telephone right away to ask about available space in spring classes for Tennessee Master Gardener training. Smith County (615-735-2900) has not yet offered TNMG training, but residents who follow us in the Carthage Courier can join a class at a neighboring county and then do volunteer service hours in their home county to become certified.

Writing these articles has become my primary TNMG volunteer project. "Plateau Gardening" lets me share my passion for gardening and the latest university-based gardening information with readers in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland region. Twenty years as a home gardener on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau means I’ve many personal experiences to relate. Some of my stories are about what has worked in my yard and gardens or in community projects. Other stories are the result of attempts that didn’t work and lessons learned as a result. But this column isn’t about me. The "Plateau Gardening" vision is to be relevant to readers who garden in the various counties with hometown papers that carry the column.

Help me relate to your garden experiences. Email Send topics you wish to read about. Share garden successes. Ask questions or describe problems. Attach digital images. Be sure to identify your county or city as location affects the typical last and first frost dates, soil type and weather patterns where you live. (Permission to print comments and/or photos is implied when email messages are submitted.)

• • •

Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region. Contact UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (484-6743) for answers to horticulture questions, free publications and to learn about the Master Gardener program. Send email comments or yard and garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae (

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