Issue 5

October, 2011

In This Issue
"Three Odd Bird Loving Plants"
"This Week In The Garden"
"Weeding a Large Scale Native Planting"
"Soggy Bottom Blues"
Gardening Tip #1

 Shrubs and Trees


Now is a good time to find trees and shrubs at your local suppliers, and October is just the beginning of the ideal season to install such plants in your garden.   If you do plant in October be sure to water plants well until rainfall picks up in November and December.

Helpful Links
Gardening Tip #2
 Fall Fruits and Veggies
 Pumpkins, summer squashes, and gourds to be stored should be harvested before the first frost.  Pumpkins that have begun to show color will continue to ripen after harvest.  Use great care not to nick the rind during harvest since this will lead to more rapid deterioration.
Flora & Fauna


"White Wood Aster"

Aster divaricatus

Aster Divaricatus


* Native Perennial

* Good Fragrance

* Great Fall Color

* Deer Resistant

*Grows In Partial Shade


"White Wood Aster" is fairly common throughout the woods of the eastern United States, where it forms very loose sprawling clumps. It is, however, an excellent choice for the difficult shady corner or border for late summer and fall flowers. Fragrant, starry, white-fading-to-pink, one inch flowers are borne very prolifically along black, wiry, drooping stems to 3 feet in length. These flowers look terrific growing and poking through other plants. Or let the stems cascade over a shady wall.


Special Thanks to Sunlight Gardens for
 recommending this beauty!



Gardening Tip #3

 What to plant now?


Plant individual cloves of garlic now for a crop of garlic bulbs next summer.  Select very large cloves to produce the largest bulbs.  Plant them 6" deep and at least 6" apart.  Mulch them after the ground freezes for winter protection.

Gardening Tip #4
Keep Harvesting
Keep harvesting second plantings of the cool season vegetables including radishes, lettuce, chard, spinach, broccoli, and the other cole crops.  Some such as parsnips, brussel sprouts, and kale actually have enhanced flavor after a frost.
Stay Tuned!

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We warmly welcome you to the October TYN newsletter!  With our aim to bring you articles rich in backyard application and grounded in the TYN's nine-principles, our contributing authors have once again generously helped us hit our mark.  This month, Lyn Bales and Joy Stewart, each take a different twist on native plants -- Lyn identifying those lush berry shrubs birds just love and Joy providing more insight on the practicalities of managing large-scale native plantings.  Tom Stebbins, Hamilton Co. Extension Agent, shares with us more of those fall tasks we need to consider doing between football games to keep our landscape healthy.  And lastly, Andrea ventures into the world of creating bog gardens - right plant, right place - taking those "soggy" backyard areas some of us are blessed with and enhancing them to create a unique garden habitat.


Lastly, we would like to welcome Katie Walberg, our new AmeriCorps member, to TYN!  Katie comes to us with a Master of Fine Arts and will be, among other tasks, helping us to better promote TYN.  As you can see from this newsletter she has already been adding her artistic touches to make it a visual pleasure to read.   Also, count on future articles from Katie on ways to integrate the arts into gardening.  She is a person of many talents and TYN is fortunate to be a recipient of her AmeriCorps tenure of service.


Happy landscaping,


 Ruth Anne & Andrea

RA headshot     Andrea Ludwig

Stephen Lyn BalesThree Odd Bird-loving Fruity

 Plants to Consider

By Stephen Lyn Bales



Native hollies and dogwoods are wonderful mainstays in backyard landscaping. They also produce bright red fruits called "drupes" in the fall that berry-eating birds eat long before they ever fall to the ground.


But here are three unusual native plants to consider that add an explosion of autumnal color. All are avian pleasers and also distinctly American as their names suggest.


American beautyberry

Callicarpa americana

 American Beauty Berry

Few native shrubs can compare to the display of purple berries borne in tight clusters that's the hallmark of this aptly named plant: beautyberry. Pruned back every four or five years, it'll produce a dense border that not only produces a berry-buffet for the birds but also a nighttime roosting place.



Euonymus americanus

Hearts A Bustin'
Known in the Great
Smoky Mountains by the folk name hearts a-bustin', to the mountaineers this native understory plant seemed to symbolize heartache and loss. Whereas, beautyberry grows dense, this American euonymus matures thin and spindly. It hardly seems as if it can remain upright, faint with grief. Yet, it does. In the fall, its seedpods-red capsules that burst open to reveal orange seeds-are eye-catching, just ask any mockingbird.


American pokeweed
Phytolacca americana
Poke Weed


Granted, this is the odd one on the list. It's a weed, Lucille! Most landscapers consider it a nuisance and yank it out of the ground in the spring or, if you're an old-timer, turn it into poke salad, a potherb cooked like collards that was a Depression Era delicacy. (Warning: poke should only be eaten in the spring before the leaves become toxic.)


But, consider this: in the fall pokeweed's red stems, yellow leaves and deep burgundy berries-the color of red wine-add a rainbow of color and attract cardinals, catbirds and other backyard feathered favorites. Although the fruits are also toxic to humans, birds have little trouble consuming them. Loved and nurtured, this "weed" can become the most spectacular plant in your backyard every October.



  • Fall berry-producing plants help birds fatten up for winter.
  • Although beautyberry's flowers are rather inconspicuous, its fruits have panache.
  • Thin and gangly, hearts-a-bustin' makes a late-season showy presence in your yard.
  • Trust me. Pokeweed in the autumn is spectacular.


Stephen Lyn Bales is a senior naturalist at Ijams Nature Center and author of Natural Histories and Ghost Birds by UT Press. Visit his nature blog: http://stephenlynbales.blogspot.com 

Tom Stebbins
This Week in the Garden:

Fall Gardening Chores Can Decrease Pest Problems

by Tom Stebbins 


There are many fall chores that can help manage insect, disease and weeds in Tennessee Yards & Neighborhoods. Between the Saturday football games and family feasts some time should be given to important garden activities. This is ideal weather to get outdoors and burn off some of those accumulated calories.


Year-end lawn care


Keep mowing the fescue lawn during the fall. Mowingleafy lawn removes dead or diseased grass. This also grinds up fallen leaves to return nutrients to the soil. Take a soil test to determine if additional fertilizer or lime is needed. Use a slow release fertilizer if needed. Fall feeding provides nutrition to the roots which makes for strong spring growth. Manage many lawn weeds with a broadleaf weed killer. Control is more effective now than in the spring for most fall germinating weeds.


Protect trees and shrubs


Boxwoods, pines, yews, junipers, arborvitae, spruces, hollies and rhododendrons lose water through their leaves during winter. These plants should be watered thoroughly before the ground completely freezes. Continue to water during the winter months if rainfall or snow is not adequate to keep the ground moist.


Trees with thin smooth bark may need some protection during the winter to prevent winter injury such as sunscald or frost cracking. This list includes the Japanese maples, dogwood, magnolia, beech and birch. Damage usually occurs on the south and southeast part of the tree. The winter sun warms the bark during the day, causing it to expand. Night temperatures quickly cool it, causing tissue damage and cracks. On newly planted trees use a tree wrap in winter to protect the lower trunk. Remove the wrap in the spring. There is a plastic coil wrap that worGood Mulchks great. 


Place mulch around the base for winter protection.   A fast temperature change can also kill plant roots. A three inch layer of mulch holds in moisture and keeps the soil from freezing and thawing too quickly.  



Divide and multiply


Fall is also a great time to thin out overgrown perennials such as asters, hostas, daylilies, goldenrod, anemones, black-eyed Susans and sedums. The plants can concentrate their energy on root growth rather than on producing blooms. Division keeps the plants healthier. 


Put garden to bed  


The soft herbaceous plants like astilbes, bee balms, hostas, daylilies and peonies) die back to the ground every year after a killing frost. Cut all of the dead top growth of these plants to ground level. Leave about two to three inches of stem on other plants like goldenrod, black-eyed Susans, and shasta daisies. These grow back from the lowest leaves in the spring.


Woody ornamentals should not be cut back until spring. Examples include lavender, rosemary, candytuft, thyme, Russian sage, dianthus, and butterfly bush. Never prune evergreens. Pruning


Prune off dead or damaged rose branches. Cut off old flowers.  Wait until spring to cut canes back to six to twelve inches.


Till the vegetable garden now and add mulch to make it easier for spring planting. This will reduce insect, disease and weed problems for next year. Larger plant debris should be removed and composted.


If everything goes well,there still may be time for one more UT football game.


Tom Stebbins is the UT Extension Agent with Hamilton County in Chattanooga, TN and previously worked for eight years as the Plant Disease Diagnostician for Tennessee 



Weeding a Large Scale Native Planting 


by Joy Stewart

Master Gardener



Weeding always seems to be a necessity for us gardeners. When gardens are in the more traditional and manageable sizes, weeding is just one of those have-to-do tasks that we put up with in order to have a beautiful garden. But if you are thinking about a large scale native planting in your yard, such as a small wildflower meadow, the thought of weeding an area that large is enough to make even the most dedicated gardener shutter.Meadow_Joy


So how does one handle weeding in a large scale planting? I have five areas of native plantings in my yard, ranging from a small 400 sq. ft. to a large 6,000 sq. ft. area. I have struggled with this question and often wondered how other people deal with it. Weed-free is not realistically possible even though it would be great to be able to brag that I had it.


The most manageable and realistic approach seems to be to revise my weeding goal from a "weed-free garden" to a garden where the native plants are in control of the site. That means that my garden has weeds, but the weeds occupy a minimal amount of space and the native plants are dominant. After all, if you think about it, when you visit a park and are enjoying the view of a beautiful field of wildflowers, you would never think to look at the meadow and ask yourself, "Are there any weeds here?" It is not a standard that you would apply to this natural setting.


That said, this strategy does not, unfortunately, mean that we don't have to weed. Without some weeding, native plants may not remain in control of the site. But it does make weeding more manageable and less stressful.


The next step is to come up with some specific weed-control strategies that work for you. Although I am still in the process of testing them out, these are the strategies that I have developed:


1.  Spring is prime weeding season. Many weeds are cool-season plants which mean they will be green and easy to spot in early to mid-spring when your native plants are still getting started. Much later in the growing season, weeds will be harder to see as they are often hidden by the native plants.


2.  With the exception of spring, I rarely go out into the garden for the sole purpose of weeding. Instead, I weed whenever I am out in the garden doing other things and happen to see a weed while I work. For example, when you are out pruning, mulching, or just checking to see what is in bloom, always carry a weeding tool with you and remove whatever weed you happen to see while you are there. Although this means that your projects will likely take a little more time than you had planned, you will cover most of the ground on a kind of intermittent, random rotation system.


3.  On large weeds with firmly established roots, do a cut-and-brush treatment. Rather than struggle to dig out a well-established plant, such as the aggressive, rhizomatous tall goldenrod or even poison ivy, I cut the plant about 2-3" above ground and use a water-color paintbrush to immediately paint the cut stem with a concentrated mix of water and Round-Up (usually somewhere around 50/50). The stem sucks in the mix and the plant doesn't return. This is quick and easy. It is generally just as effective as spraying and you don't have to worry about hurting surrounding plants.


4.  Another strategy that I like is "spot spraying" with Round-Up. IWeed Circle do this when plants are still short, and I am trying to spray a small group of weeds without damaging the good plants growing in close contact with the weeds. Cut up a couple manila folders into strips about 6-8" tall and tape the overlapping ends together with duct tape. Then you have a long strip of heavy paper that you can bend to any desired size and shape to form a wall around the area of weeds that need to be sprayed. Then clip the ends of the paper together with clothes pins. Spray the area with Round-Up and leave the paper in place for about 30 minutes until the spray has dried on the leaves. Then remove the paper, and the surrounding plants can fall back into place without any danger of damage.


It seems like all of us gardeners find special tricks for weed removal and have favorite strategies.  If you have other tricks or strategies that you would like to share, please send them to me at joylarry@btes.tv. If we receive enough ideas, we would love to pass them along in a future newsletter.


In the meantime, don't let the prospect of weeding keep you from doing a larger native planting in your yard! The birds and butterflies as well as the aquatic life in our streams and lakes will thank you for it!

Andrea Ludwig

Soggy Bottom Blues:

Creating Wetland Bog Gardens in Your Landscape

by Dr. Andrea Ludwig



You've heard the old saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." Let's take this idea and apply it to our problem areas within our yards and community spaces. "When the landscape gives you soggy soils, make a bog!" This optimistic way of taking something that is seemingly difficult to manage and seizing the opportunity to make it into a desirable feature is the essence of sustainable landscaping and the core of Tennessee Yards & Neighborhoods principles. As part of your environmentally friendly landscaping techniques, working with challenging topography instead of trying to fight it will ultimately benefit both your yard's aesthetics as well as its natural resources.


Wetlands go by many names depending on where you are - marsh, swamp, pecosin, fen, vernal pool, peatland, or even that "wet spot." No matter what you call it, wetlands have three basic components: soil, water, and vegetation. From a large wet meadow running along a creek to a pocket of sedge grass and soggy soils at the back of your yard, these three components must be present to create a wetland environment. At the residential scale, creating a bog garden can help you make an amenity out of a persistently difficult spot in the yard.


However, not only those with soggy soils have the opportunity for bog gardens! As long as there is potential to capture water, there is opportunity for bog gardening. The question is then, do you have a naturally occurring opportunity for a bog garden within your landscape, or do you need to create a more structured bog garden feature? The former allows you to create a wetland bog garden within the existing lay of land; the latter requires that you capture rainfall and runoff in a container of sorts (like a large tank, an old watering trough, or even a poured concrete bowl).


So, let's first discuss how to determine whether the conditions in your yard lend them themselves to creating a bog garden.  The first thing to consider is where your property is located in your watershed. If you are at the top of a ridge or hillslope, then you will most likely not have a naturally occurring wetland in your yard. Wetlands occur where the groundwater table and surface water intersect. If, on the other hand, you live at a lower elevation in your drainage basin and you have an area in your landscape that you remember as being saturated most of the year, then chances are you have a potential site for a bog garden. 




The next step is a bit more challenging for those of us who would then want to then run out and buy a car load of wetland plants and start digging.  Instead, muster up some self control, and take some time to inventory your yard's hydrologic characteristics - how does water move throughout your landscape when it rains, where does it collect, and how long does it pond? Think about the different seasons. Are the soils saturated in the area where you have ponding most of the year?


Now delineate the boundary where water usually ponds. This may be rather difficult to determine during the dry season, but there are some signs to look for that may indicate a good area for a bog garden:

  • Soils are spongy and hold water near the soil surface.
  • Soils have a dark black or grey color (instead of red, which usually indicates well-drained soils).
  • There is a lack of vegetation or turf, or there is visible sign of stunted growth.
  • There is a change in vegetation (from a typical lawn turf to more clumpy water-loving grasses).
  • There is a layer of sphagnum moss coating the ground.

Since the water table in most wetlands fluctuates, it will be desirable to delineate different "zones" within your bog garden based on the depth of ponding water. A compacted clay or rubber liner may also be necessary if you desire to have a continuous standing pool of water featured in your bog garden. This liner will help hold water in the wetland so that it does not dry out between rainfall events and it sustains floating vegetation.


Once you have identified bog garden depths, now you can begin considering plant types.  Floating vegetation will establish in the deeper pool zones, while emergent vegetation will establish best in 0-6 inches of ponding depth. Along the perimeter of the ponding zone will be the area that experiences the highest fluctuation in the water table. This is where your hardiest species should be established since they are the ones who can take the saturated as well as the dry conditions.  Water-loving trees can be placed around the boarder of your wetland bog garden, but keep in mind that many of the floating and emergent species like full sunlight. 


To help you begin a search of the plants that may be appropriate for your bog garden's conditions, check out TVA's Tennessee plant finder tool.  You can search for plants based on site conditions (e.g., sun exposure) and desired plant qualities (e.g., wildlife value.  Talk to local nurseries that specialize in native plants.  Also, you may want to order some plants on-line, but be sure to get a recommendation from a local plant expert you trust because unfortunately there are some less than reputable mail-order native plant companies that dig from the wild. 


Your wetland bog garden may not need much work beyond delineating its ponding zones (i.e., depths) and installing plants; however, you may want to expand or design the layout of your vegetated zones to suit your aesthetics.  If you would like a greater diversity of plants based on varying hydric conditions, terraces of varying elevations can be excavated. For example, you may want to create islands for topographic and plant variability or create extended gently sloped edges for more of a marsh-type appearance.


It is essential to keep in mind that there will inevitably be a rain event that will overtake your  bog garden. Have a plan to route large stormwater flows either through an overflow structure (like a wooden weir or earthen berm), or around your garden completely through a grassy swale. Also, to help ensure you stay on good terms with your neighbors, be aware of the way you change the water flow on your property so that it does not create flooding potential for neighboring properties.


Container bog gardens are another option for those not having a perpetually wet area in their yard.  A convenient source of water for these gardens is from your rooftop, by redirecting your gutter flow to the container. The level of water that you will want to keep in your container will depend on the types of plants you want within your garden. Two factors that will affect water levels are the vertical space between the soil and container rim (i.e., freeboard space) and the level that you place your overflow.  Also, it is a
lways important to protect the overflow of your container with a layer of gravel or pavers so it doesn't erode the receiving ground.


Like your natural bog gardens, you can get creative with your containers and place blocks or risers to give different emergent's different heights while keeping their desired ponding depth within the container. You may want to add a fountain or some sort of water agitator to limit algal growth. Also, consider adding a few gold fish or an environmentally friendly mosquito biscuit to prevent mosquito larvae from appearing. If mosquitoes are a major concern, take extra precautions by adding a bat house next to your bog garden to attract a voracious consumer of mosquitoes.


Wetlands are often thought of as the "kidneys of the landscape" because they receive water that drains to them from uphill and filter out pollutants through natural processes. Common pollutants that are filtered out by wetlands are sediment (or eroded soil) and nutrients. Wetlands also act like a sponge and soak up stormwater runoff and then slowly release it into streams, helping to alleviate flooding. By utilizing a wetland bog garden within your yard or community space, not only will you be taking a unique opportunity to create a garden out of a typically transitional area, but you will also be reducing your home or neighborhood's stormwater footprint and its impacts on your community's local waterways. 

See Ya' Next Month!
Thanks so much for reading! 
Check back with us next month for details on our new projects and more tips on achieving a healthy home landscape.
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Ruth Anne Hanahan and Dr. Andrea Ludwig 

TYN Statewide Co-Directors

Tennessee Water Resources Research Center

Universtiy of Tennessee

311 Conference Center

Knoxville, TN 37996