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  • Garden events in Middle Tennessee

    Now - Oct. 31: Cheekwood Harvest fall festival. Stroll the grounds at Cheekwood to see the scarecrows and outdoor model trains, visit the pumpkin patch, and take a look at more than 5,000 chrysanthemums in deep autumn colors in the Robertson Ellis Color Garden. Complete schedule details at www.cheekwood.org.

    Oct. 4: Happy Harvest at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Time to clean out the garden and put it “to bed” for the winter – and make ice cream flavors with the fall harvest. Noon – 2 p.m., registration required for this all-ages program. 615-862-8539.

    Oct. 9: “Sustainable Kitchen Gardening Year ’Round,” a workshop on growing edibles during the winter months, led by Cindy Shapton, the Cracked Pot Gardener, 6 – 8 p.m. at the Cracked Pot Homestead in Franklin, Tenn. $45 per person. Also held on Oct. 11, 10 a.m. – noon. Register at www.cindyshapton.com.

    Oct. 11: Flower Fun at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center. Learn ways to use wilted flowers and petals in a workshop for age 13 and up, led by Sarah Gilmore. 1 – 2 p.m., registration required: 615-862-8539.

    Oct. 11: Farm Day at Bells Bend Park Outdoor Center, a family-friendly event with hayrides and farm games, farming equipment, barnyard animals and garden programs, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. 615-862-4187.

    Oct. 17: Trees of Fall at Beaman Park Nature Center. Enjoy the colors of the autumn woods while you learn to ID trees based on color and other characteristics with naturalist LinnAnn Welch. 9:30 – 11 a.m. Call to register for this all-ages program,
    (615) 862-8580.

    October 21: Perennial Plant Society meeting topic is "Rain Gardens" with speakers from the Tennessee Environmental Council and the Harpeth River Watershed Association. Refreshments at 6:30, meeting at 7, open to the public. www.ppsmt.org.

    Oct. 24: Darling, You Look GOURDgeous! at Warner Park Nature Center. An activity for ages 3 – 5 years to learn about gourds, squashes and pumpkins, led by Rachel Koch. 10 – 11 a.m. or 1 – 2 p.m., registration opens Oct. 9. Call 615-352-6299 to register.

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New Month-By-Month Gardening, and a book giveaway!

Month by Month open 2One of the resources I’ve relied on for several years to help answer garden questions is a book titled Month-By-Month Gardening in Tennessee & Kentucky, by award-winning garden writer Judy Lowe. The book was first published more than a decade ago by Cool Springs Press, and it holds a wealth of easy-to-understand information that is useful for gardeners in the southeast U.S., both novices and those with more experience.

There’s a new version of the book out now, also published by Cool Springs Press. I’m looking at the two books side by side, and loving the fact that I can find much of the same useful information in a glossy new format. (Read on for details of a chance to win a copy of the book!)

Judy Lowe crop“The information has stayed pretty much the same, the activities are the same. But for those people who want to know everything in a month in a few pages, they will like this,” Judy told me when we talked by phone earlier this week.

What’s different? In the old format, the book is divided into categories – Annuals, Bulbs, Herbs & Vegetables, Houseplants, and so on – and each category is divided into months, generally with two pages for each month. Each month has information about planning, planting, care, watering, fertilizing and problems, with a timely tip or two.

The new, more compact, full-color glossy Month-By-Month Gardening is divided into months, using subheads, making it easier to see at a glance what needs to be done in each category that month. Each month has several “Here’s How” sidebars, and there are color pictures of plants, planting techniques, a few common garden pests and more. The pictures are especially useful.

“It does help, if you are new to gardening or don’t know a lot about it, to see those pictures — the close-ups, the illustrations,” Judy said. Some garden books are written in “garden language” that a new gardener has not yet learned. “Novice gardeners feel more comforted by seeing pictures and illustrations.”

Here in the middle of winter, there is very little real gardening to be done, but Judy passed along several ideas of how to begin to get ready for spring. Here’s what she suggests:

  • “Start a garden notebook, if you don’t have one.” The notebook can be a simple looseleaf binder, one with pockets to hold labels, seed packets or other small items. “It makes such a difference in knowing what happened in the past and what you have thought of doing before, or want to do. It helps you keep a record of what didn’t work, and can help you not make mistakes in the future.”
  • If you’re going to start plants from seed – and it’s really kind of fun, gives you a sense of satisfaction – start thinking about that in February.” Most common plants take only about eight weeks from sowing to setting out in the garden. “You want to be ready and get all your equipment together.” (And here are a couple of tips for growing your own transplants from seeds: You don’t need special grow lights, Judy said. For growing seeds, a couple of fluorescent lights will be fine. If you don’t have a grow light or a shop light, and you’re not getting enough light on your plants, use aluminum foil to reflect the light onto the plants. “It really helps, and it’s nice and cheap,” Judy said.)
  • She also recommends February as the time to have the soil tested if you haven’t had that done in the past five years. You can do that through your county’s extension service now and avoid the rush of the busier time in early spring. It will make a huge difference in how successfully things will grow in your garden, she said. “In the lawn, it can tell you everything, and mean the difference between success and failure.”
  • It’s also a good time to have your lawnmower serviced. “Particularly, have the blade sharpened. If it doesn’t cut correctly it can lave spots where disease can enter,” Judy said. “Lawnmower maintenance services get plenty busy in April, so get it done before the season starts.”

Book giveaway!

Month by Month bookWhat’s your must-do garden task during the winter off-season? Leave a comment at the end of this post by 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31 to be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Month-By-Month Gardening in Tennessee & Kentucky. Don’t forget to provide an email address so I can contact the winner. (The book can only be sent to addresses in the United  States and Canada.)

 

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10 Responses

  1. The temperature here is sub-zero. All I can do right now is imagine the possibilities!

  2. Lately, with this dreadful winter, the main thing I do is pick up fallen branches and twigs, and peruse those pornographically gorgeous garden catalog dreaming of days ahead!

  3. I am ready for spring when winter loses its grip. Let’s go! Let’s garden!

  4. The only garden task I have this time of year is to keep alive the plants wintering over in my sunroom. I’m glad to say, they’re hanging in there – but I’d love to have this guide to help me with bigger and better projects outdoors. As soon as it hits 50 or 60 degrees again!

  5. Researching how and when to plant. I’m a newbie!

  6. Your blog is helping me picture Spring in below 0 temperatures. Looking forward to using some of your suggestions soon!

  7. My task is to organize the messy pile of gardening tools I stacked up in the shed at the end of the summer!

  8. Looks like a book every gardener needs!

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