A lot has happened in the last month! Finally the last spring frost date in East Tennessee passed, our gardeners got their first packages of seeds, starter plants, and more seeds for their warm season gardens! Each family received 12 tomato, 4 bell pepper, and 3 basil plants distributed from Beardsley Community Farm. They got instruction and experience in hardening these plants off prior to planting. We handed out bean, cucumber, and squash seeds too!
This month, our gardeners learned all about Garden Maintenance at our latest workshop, led by our local extension agent and Master Gardeners from Anderson County. Over potluck snacks and dinners, we talked about beneficial insects, how to identify insects, and how to encourage pollinators to come to the garden. For this session, we also focused on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices and how to prevent plant diseases. Oak Ridge has a lot of deer pressure, which our gardeners are all too aware of. During this meeting, we talked about ways to relieve deer pressure, which has been a highly anticipated topic. We also went over trellising and how to give our happy little plants support during their growth!
At our latest meeting, our gardeners also received a Red Bee Balm plant, which will attract many bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, donated by Tennessee Naturescapes. In addition to having beautiful pollinator attracting flowers, red bee balm is also known as the herb bergamot, which can be used in teas among other applications. It will bloom all through May and June. Then after it is cut back, again in August. Tennessee Naturescapes is a local, native plant nursery, where we will also be headed tomorrow for a field trip to learn more about pollinators and pick out another plant!
Most of our families have their trellises set up. During last month’s garden site visits, I brought around the post driver to set the 6 foot TPosts we have for trellising. We synced our breathing! “In” on the lift up and “out” when we hit the posts. I felt like things were becoming real for our gardeners this past month, when they stepped back from the TPosts and thought “hey, I did that!” in addition to receiving plant starts and seeds. Needless to say, our gardeners are excited to get planting this month.