Chattanooga may have twice been voted Outside’s “Best Town Ever,” but its primarily clay soil and often unpredictable Southeastern weather can be a challenge for new gardeners as well as experienced gardeners who are new to the area.
Master Gardeners of Hamilton County hosts a series of classes on soils, fertilization, turf care, wildlife, trees and shrubs, landscape design, herbs, perennials, annuals, and wildflowers specifically tailored to the Tennessee
Valley. Since the series is about local gardening, a number of local nurseries and gardening suppliers also participate. “We felt the newcomers should become familiar with the local green industry, not just the big box stores,” said Mike Payne, who has led the beginner and newcomer class for the past 22 years. Many Southeast Tennessee retailers shared information and donated materials and door prizes.
Hamilton County Master Gardeners’ motto is “We teach you how.” In addition to teaching these new gardeners and newcomers to the region, the series opens the door for community-wide education through coverage on local television and radio stations as well as newspaper articles.
Since 1995, an average of 50 people have participated in the annual newcomer series, and anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of each year’s participants go on to take the Master Gardener training classes. Master Gardeners have volunteered more than 450 service hours to the series over the past two years, which provides them with opportunities to develop their teaching skills, learn new gardening techniques, and extend the resources of the University of Tennessee to the public.