The UT Extension Institute of Agriculture held their annual Master Gardener Winter School February 26-27, 2015 at the Lane Agri-Park Community Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This years' theme was “The Good Earth" with a variety of educational seminars, lectures and poster events highlighting the importance of good soil, encouraging natural pest control and increasing the habitat of native plants to increase the population of beneficials.
Attendees from the Big Spring Master Gardener Association included Michele Bradley, Sandee Cook, Martha Fluharty, Darlene Moore, Jeanie Jackson, Teresa Uhls and Virginia Williams. Melody Rose, Extension Agent of Greene County and Master Gardener Coordinator was a featured speaker delivering a general session workshop on the topic of “Grow Your Organization with Better Understanding of Personality Profile and Group Dynamics. This educational exercise was well received by the audience and delivered a memorable learning model.
The two day conference was filled with breakout roundtable and concurrent sessions highlighting projects statewide master gardener groups had accomplished for 2014. Many of the UT professors including new Tennessee Extension Master Gardener State Coordinator, Dr. Natalie Bumgarner, demonstrated their passion for pest, plants and people. Dr. Frank Hale presented a theme of one must know or understand the pest in order to manage it. Dr. Bumgarner joined with the grafting group for tomatoes and apples. Everyone came out of that class with grafting starts for their own garden. There was great emphasis on new pests invading our state and what trees and plants are and will be affected. Many have no natural control developed as yet which poses a problem. Dr. Allan Windham, discussed hydrangeas and how to treat and care for them. Dr. Hale also lectured on the use of pollinators, predators, parasitoids and microorganisms. The planting of beneficial attractants was stressed and use of native plants to encourage good insect populations was highly recommended. Debbie Joines manager of UT Soil, Plant, and Pest Center presented ideas on plant fertilization which included site, sun, shade, soil depth, drainage, slope, water availability, disease and insect population and plant nutrition. It was encouraged to test the soil prior to application of any amendments to determine what if any fertilization is required. Boxwood blight and Rose rosette were two of the many diseases discussed. A panel discussion on GMO's was well received as an educational platform to make sound decisions in crop selection and future plant engineering.
Many of the sessions focused on the role of the Master Gardener and what they could do to make their organization more creative and stronger through continued education and networking with those from other geographic areas. Winning projects for excellence on a statewide basis were received with enthusiasm and encouragement. The conference was a success in generating a common spirit with an incentive to share ideas and implement additional programs.
If you are interested in any subject listed in this report or want to know how to become a Master Gardener please contact the UT Greene County Extension office at 423-798-1710 or visit the Master Gardener website at www.bsmga.com.
Submitted by Jeanie Jackson
Big Spring Master Gardener Reporter