As participants explored the gardens at the UT Plateau AgResearch Center Aug. 26, they found displays of native plants, educational seminars on a variety of topics and experts ready to answer their garden-related questions.
They also found the beginnings of a new garden, the Kinder Garden.
"The demonstration gardens are for education, but yet we had nothing for children," said Beth Morgan, Master Gardener.
The Kinder Garden is currently under construction, with planting to take place in the spring. It will cater to children up to age six and serve as an outdoor classroom.
The garden has two areas with one focused on gross motor skills. There children can crawl through a bean tunnel, skip over stepping stones and play in the fort.
On the other side of the garden, activities are offered to engage all five senses. Edible plants and herbs will engage their taste buds. A small labyrinth gets their eyes working. There will be items to manipulate with their hands, working on touch and feel. A musical area, with permanently installed instruments, engages their ears. There will also be an art area for children to create projects and a vegetable planting areas.
"The parents or guardians move through the garden with the child and lean with them and play," Morgan explained. "Children learn by playing."
Gardening with children teaches science, math, language and other skills. It also helps children to reconnect with nature, cultivate creativity and responsibility and learn patience and compassion.
The Kinder Garden is a project of the Cumberland County Master Gardeners and was built by volunteers with donations from the community.
Other popular topics visitors could hear about included the Garden2Tailgate presentation. Dean Towers, a member of the Cumberland County Master Gardeners, offered cooking classes and safety tips for healthy tailgating. The recipes featured seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Rainwater and rain gardens explored how to improve the soil and make use of native landscaping. Organic gardening was discussed, along with berry production and vegetable plants, and harvesting of herbs. Several of the expert-led presentations served as continuing education sessions, as well.
Visitors could also explore the vendors area, which featured nurseries from around the area, and UT Extension offered free soil pH analysis. Wagon tours helped give an overview of the many activities at the Plateau AdResearch and Education Center, which became the third site in the UT Gardens' statewide plant collection. Last year, the combined UT Gardens collections were designated by the Tennessee General Assembly as the state's official botanical garden.
The annual Fall Gardeners' Festival is a project of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and the Cumberland County Master Gardeners. The Cumberland County Master Gardeners Association is a program of the county’s UT Extension office. For more information, visit the Master Gardeners' website at ccmga.org.