Issue 10                                               March, 2012
In This Issue
Bird Nesting Facts
Water Quiz
Upcoming Events
Spring Perennial Maintenance
Bird Boxes
Painting Your Own Rain Barrel

Helpful Links


TYN Website
Find TYN near you
Calendar of Events
Landscaping Resources
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Garden Tip #1 
Roses can be pruned this month. Severe pruning results in long stemmed flowers and more compact bushes. Prune winter jasmine after flowering.
Nesting Facts for Birds 
Eastern Bluebirds
Photo courtesy of Lyn Bales


Nesting Facts

Clutch Size

2-7 eggs 

Number of Broods

Incubation Period

11-19 days

Nestling Period

17-21 days

Egg Description: Pale blue or, rarely, white


Carolina Chickadees

Photo courtesy of Dan Pancamo on Wikipedia


Nesting Facts

Clutch Size
3-10 eggs

Number of Broods


Incubation Period

 12-15 days

Nestling Period

16-19 days

Egg Description: White with fine dots to small blotches of reddish brown.



Tufted Titmice

Photo courtesy of Charro Badger on Wikipedia


Nesting Facts

Clutch Size

3-9 eggs

Number of Broods


Incubation Period

 12-14 days

Nestling Period

15-16 days

Egg Description: White to creamy white, spotted with chestnut-red, brown, purple or lilac


 For more information about these birds and more go to:

Garden Tip #2
Plant tender bulbs and tubers (gladiola, lilies and dahlias).  You may continue planting additional bulbs every two weeks until mid June to ensure a continuous source of bloom.
Water Quiz! 
The first person to email us this month with the correct answer will receive a TYN tote bag! 
How much water does a birch tree give off per day in evaporation?
a.) 70 gallons
b.) 120 gallons
c.) 32 gallons
Email your answer to:
Garden Tip #3
Take a little time to prepare the vegetable garden soil for planting. The additions of well-rotted manure, processed manure, peat moss or compost are good additives for building compost humus in the soil.
Interested in building your own rain barrel?? 
Photo by Joy Stewart
 We have a complete set of instructions available for download here!!
Garden Tip #4 
Repair damaged areas of the lawn and overseed. Be sure not to apply any pre-emergent herbicides to newly seeded areas.
Last Months Water Quiz Answer!
The answer to
 "How many gallons of water do you get per acre when it rains one inch?" is:
c) 27,000 gallons! 
Whew!  That's a lot of water!
Congratulations to 
Carol Montgomery
for being the first person to respond with the correct answer!
Does Your Yard Measure Up?
We call it a Tennessee Yard Done Right -- a yard that is in harmony with Tennessee's native flora, soil and topography. You don't have to be an expert gardener or landscaper to create a Tennessee Yard Done Right. All it takes is a willingness to learn and a desire to build a yard that is based on its nine principles found in our TYN handbook: 
  1. Right Plant,Right Place
  2. Manage Soils and Mulch
  3. Appropriate Turf Grass Management
  4. Water Efficiently
  5. Use Fertilizer Appropriately
  6. Manage Yard Pests
  7. Reduce Storm Water Runoff and its Pollutants
  8. Provide for Wildlife
  9. Protect Water's Edge
To find out more information download our free 
Upcoming Events


TYN Home Landscaping Workshop!

March 9, 2012

9:00 AM -3:00 PM

We invite you to a workshop that will introduce you to
a healthier way of landscaping! 


Location: City of Germantown, Economic & Community Development

1920 S. Germantown Rd. 38138
Cost: $35 per person or $50 per couple
Registration:  Call Shelby Co. Extension - 752-1207 (Advance registration required)
Complimentary lunch provided!


Join Our Mailing List

Happy March!  This month we have a great line up of articles to get you started in your gardens and provide you with projects to keep that spring fever at bay.  We start off with an article by Dr. Sue Hamilton on Spring Perennial Maintenance. She gives us great information about steps we can take right now to prune, divide, move and plant perennial plants.  Lyn Bales provides some history and information on the Eastern Bluebird and why bird boxes are important in our home landscape, and rounding out this month's line up we have a great "how-to" article from Joy Stewart detailing her simple techniques for those less artistically inclined to create beautifully painted rain barrels.  We hope you enjoy our newsletter and don't forget to check out this month's Water Quiz, seasonal Garden Tips  and Upcoming Events! 
Many thanks,
The TYN State Management Team
Spring Perennial Maintenance
by Dr. Sue Hamilton





It's time to spruce up your garden before the growing season gets in full swing. The fickle weather of March makes it an interesting gardening month but it's an ideal time for planting and dividing perennials. 


Prune Selectively

The key to spring garden cleanup and successful perennial regrowth is determining which plants need to be cut back and which should be left standing. The truly herbaceous perennials such as Astilbe, Hosta, daylilies, and Peony die back to the ground every year after a killing frost. Once frost hits, the top growth of these plants turns brown or black signaling that the dead foliage can be removed and the dormant perennials can be cutback. It's an ideal time to cutback any remaining dormant perennial foliage to ground level using hand pruners and remove the debris. Ridding the garden of this dead growth reduces the spread of harmful insects and diseases by eliminating places for organisms to harbor. It also improves the garden's appearance and clears the way for new spring growth. For perennials considered to be semi-herbaceous because the stems and upper foliage of these plants die back but their basal foliage stays green through the winter, it's a perfect time to cut down the dead stems to the top of their basal foliage. Examples include goldenrod, beebalm, Rudbeckia, Penstemon, Chrysanthemum, and shasta daisy. Perennials which are truly evergreen and have woody stems  should not be pruned until early to mid-April when the chance of a hard freeze is past. Such plants include Salvia greggii, Lavender, Sage, Artemisia, Careopteris, Dianthus, Russian sage, thyme, hardy rosemary, and Buddleia. You can

Grasses cut back above the crown
snip off old flower stalks and leggy growth, but don't prune any farther than that. Drastically cutting these perennials too soon in the season is usually fatal if we have any freezing weather. Perennial ornamental grasses should be cut back this month to above the crown, the growing point of all grasses.  




Add New Perennials To The Garden 

March is a good month to plant new perennials in your garden.  Since temperatures are still cool it's a less stressful time for plants to take hold and get established before temperatures really warm up. Plant new perennials no deeper than ground level and apply a good 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch around them. Keep an eye on keeping these newly planted perennials watered if we hit a dry spell and temperatures get warm.        


Divide Overgrown Perennials 

Using shovel to cut into plant to divide


March is also a great time to gain control over certain perennials which have overgrown their boundaries. Examples include daylily, Hosta, goldenrod, Siberian iris, Anemone, Rudbeckia, Sedum, ornamental grasses and Chrysanthemum. Signals which indicate plants would benefit from being divided include poor flowering, lodging (splitting and toppling over), and those which have had the center crown die-out or have grown out of scale or proportion with their location. Use a sharp spade or shovel to cut into the plant to divide it into portions you may wish to transplant, give away, or discard. Perennials typically don't have deep root systems so digging just about a foot deep and lifting the root mass out of the ground will provide enough root mass to divide and replant. When you replant the division or transplant, plant

Lifting root mass to divide plant
back to the same level and be sure to cover the exposed root system with good, loose soil and to apply mulch around its crown to help hold in moisture and insulate it from fluctuating temperatures.  Also, don't forget to water periodically after dividing for the first week or two to prevent drying out and to ensure speedy root establishment. It's best to have all perennials divided and replanted by the end of March so they have a chance to get established before warm temperatures settle in.   





It is ideal to keep a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch around your perennials all year long. The type of mulch ideal for herbaceous perennials is a fine-textured type like pine needles, well-composted hardwood bark, and my very favorite, compost. I love mulching herbaceous plants with compost because of its small particle size, allowing it not to be too heavy and suffocating while also quickly decomposing back into the soil to provide a constant source of nutrients to the soil and plants. Perennials are not heavy feeders and by mulching with compost I find I never have to apply fertilizer. 


Dr. Sue Hamilton is the Director of the University of Tennessee Gardens and has worked in the Department of Plant Sciences within the UT Institute of Agriculture since 1983. She specializes in herbaceous ornamental plants and people-plant relationships.  

Stephen Lyn BalesWe all need a place to nest, for bluebirds, it's a box!


by Stephen Lyn Bales


Eastern Bluebird

Eastern bluebirds are mid-sized members of the Thrush family-a group noted for their singing. A male bluebird's song is a raspy warbling chatter: turr, turr-lee, turr-lee. Yet, there's a note of lament in his tune, a melancholy counterpoint that serves as the yin to his yang. This spot of sadness seems to suggest that even the joy of spring is fleeting.


Native American legend has it that the bluebird was once drab but obtained its brilliant azure from repeatedly bathing in the blue water of an isolated lake. It is also reported that the colorful birds greeted the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, who called them "blue robins" because the songbirds reminded them of their beloved English robins. For them, it was a cheerful welcome in an otherwise strange and often hostile land.


Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters. They seek out natural tree cavities or holes chipped out by woodpeckers in dead trunks or branches that border open spaces. They do not shy away from people and often nest near our homes, barns and farmhouses, where they eat harmful insects found in the yards and fields.


However, in the early 1900s, bluebird populations began to drop, in part because many of the dead trees they nested in were cut down for firewood. As tractors replaced mules, the need for large hayfields diminished and this valuable bluebird habitat began to disappear. Since the bluebirds' principal food was the insects (beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars) found in the pastures, America's use of pesticides reduced bluebird populations as well.


Example of bird box

Luckily for bluebirds, they found a champion. In the late 1930s, Dr. Thomas Musselman of Quincy, Illinois began to build bluebird boxes and create lines of them known as bluebird trails around his state. As his one-man conservation movement caught on, many such bluebird trails were created. One followed a road for 68 miles and had 150 nest boxes.


For the next 60 years, the movement to erect bluebird boxes spread throughout the country. In Tennessee, TVA biologists did their part, with Ben Jaco and Dick Fitz, for instance, setting out a pick-up truck full of boxes below Norris Dam in 1968. Today the bluebird population has recovered and it's generally believed to be stable and probably on the rise, returning them to their rightful place in history.


Even if you do not live near open space, still put up a box. Carolina chickadees and wrens, tree swallows and tufted titmice all use the same size nest box.


Contact me and I'll mail you plans to build a bluebird box of your own. 


* Bluebirds prefer to line their nest with pine needles.

* When placed in a line, boxes should be located at least 100 yards apart.

* Chickadees use moss to build their nest while tree swallows use feathers.

* Titmice prefer their box be at least 15 feet off the ground.


Stephen Lyn Bales is a senior naturalist at Ijams Nature Center, author of "Natural Histories" and "Ghost Birds" published by UT Press. Visit his nature blog at



Joy_picPainting Your Own Rain Barrel 

by Joy Stewart, Master Gardener






Painted Rain Barrel

More and more people are either making or buying rain barrels to install below their downspouts.  Yet the thought of a large brown or white barrel set up against the side of your house may not sound all that attractive.  Your options are to spend more money on a fancy barrel, hide the barrel in the backyard or get creative and have fun decorating your own.  You can turn that functional barrel into a piece of folk art, and you don't have to be an artist to do it.


After researching information on the Internet about painting rain barrels and some frustrating trial-and-error practice, I am the proud owner of three very colorful and unique rain barrels.  They sit right in front of my house where anyone passing by can see them.


Example of clip art
Having minimal artistic talent, I rely entirely on clipart graphics.  There is an amazing selection of clipart on the Internet, and you can search the collections, using any theme you might want to put on the barrel such as water conservation, gardening, rain, flowers, birds.  I usually get my inspiration from either pouring over these creative examples of clipart or looking at what actual artists have done with rain barrels and then coming up with a clipart version. 


There is no one right way to do this.  With that in mind, here is the way I have fun doing it, and I am sure you can find other improvements.


Needed Materials

  1. Barrel (I use 55-gallon syrup barrels from Pepsi in Knoxville which are available on Fridays for $10 each.)
  2. Fine sandpaper
  3. Rustoleum oil-based paint spray primer for plastic
  4. Behr latex house paint in 8 oz. sample jars.  (These jars can be purchased at Home Depot or can be ordered directly from Behr.  Exterior latex paint is the paint recommended by barrel manufacturers and is the only paint that is dependably non-peeling and durable over time.)
  5.  Miniature 3" paint roller and mini-roller tray.  (These usually come free with paint samples ordered from Behr or can be purchased at Home Depot.)
  6. Set of watercolor paint brushes.  (WalMart offers a handy Brown Nylon Brush Set of 10 brushes.)
  7. Printer with a capacity to enlarge a pattern by 300%
  8. Blue painters tape
  9. Pencil

Barrel Preparation

To prepare the barrel for painting, sand with fine sandpaper, wash with warm water and ammonia to remove any oil on the surface, and rinse.  Then place the dry barrel in an open area (preferably outdoors) and spray with primer, following directions on the can. 


Preparing Your Pattern

Example of pattern

Keep the detail simple and the colors bright.  Avoid patterns that require lots of shading or fine black lines (which are not easy with house paint).  You can focus on a single piece of clipart or you can have a more complex design with multiple images.  Start with a very rough sketch on a sheet of paper so you know how you want the design to appear.


Measure the height and circumference of your rain barrel so you can prepare a detailed drawing that is one-third scale.  For example, if you have a 55-gallon barrel, a one-third scale drawing will likely be 24 inches wide and 12 inches tall.  A sheet of heavy paper from a large drawing pad works great.  Your drawing scale will be 1 inch equals 3 inches. 

If you are using Microsoft clipart, insert the clipart into a Word Document and then use Word to adjust the size to what you need before you print the document.   Other clipart websites such as fotosearch will allow you to copy and paste their clipart although you cannot use it for commercial purposes unless you buy it.  Then cut out the clipart and tape it in place on your scale drawing.  Sketch in any lines or other simple details.  Even little changes will personalize the design. 


Close up of how image was pieced together
When your scale drawing is done, run it through a copier at 300% increase in size (or whatever size increase is needed for your specific barrel) in order to make a paper pattern exactly the size of your barrel.  This is a bit tedious, and you will have to do a little section of the drawing at a time.  Then overlap your sheets so that the lines in the drawing match up, and tape the sheets of paper together.  Don't be afraid to use lots of tape.  Use this pattern to transfer the design onto the barrel. (If your design goes around the entire barrel, this sheet will be 6 ft. long and 3ft. high for a 55-gallon barrel!  I usually assemble my full-size pattern on the kitchen floor.)  


When placing the pattern on the barrel, remember to take into account the location of the "front" of the barrel as it will be viewed alongside your house and the location of the faucet and overflow pipe so they don't interfere with your design.


If your pattern has distinctly separate sections and you want a different background color in each section, use a 3-foot carpenter's level to draw your vertical lines.  Since you are working with a curved surface that gets smaller at the top and bottom, it is hard to create a straight line with a tape measure.


Selecting Colors and Painting Your Design

Go to Home Depot and have fun going through their complete display of Behr color samples to select the colors for your design.  In addition, keep in mind that you can often create your own colors by mixing together small amounts of colors that you already purchased, which will save money.  It is also good to keep a supply of white paint on hand to create lighter shades of colors.


Always apply your background color(s) first, putting on two coats using the mini-roller.  A unique problem with painting rain barrels is that there is often light coming in from behind the paint, something we never have to worry about in painting wood or other solid surfaces.  This is particularly a problem with the white HDPE plastic barrels.  A bright light shining into the barrel, such as a shoplight or the sun, dramatically highlights every single subtle variation in paint thickness.  Paint that would otherwise look beautifully smooth and even becomes unattractively blotchy and uneven. The best ways to fix this problem are to use the paint roller as much as possible, relying on a small artist brush only for the details of the design, and to avoid placing your barrel in a location where it will have the sun shining into and through the barrel.


If your design requires any straight lines or edges, be sure to purchase a roll of 3M Scotch-Blue Painter's Tape for Delicate Surfaces.  This tape can be placed on top of a freshly painted surface that has dried for only 24 hours and used to create a straight line with an adjoining paint color and then easily removed with no harm to the newly dried paint. 

Pattern after it has been cut out


After your background color(s) has dried, cut out features in your full-sized pattern as you go and use them as templates or stencils for drawing the pattern on the barrel.  Use a pencil, and either draw around the cut-out or tape the whole pattern sheet to the barrel and draw within the cut-out portions. (Pencil marks will not bleed through paint.) Then use one of the watercolor paint brushes to paint the details of the drawing-almost like paint-by-number!  Experiment with which brushes work best for different

Tracing and painting the pattern
painting needs. 


Just  remember..... the nice thing about paint is if you don't like what you did, you can paint over it.  So don't worry if something goes wrong while you are working or if your edges aren't quite as clean as they need to be.  Touch-up is always easy and makes it look like you are a pro!


Footnote on painting the top of the barrel:  The top of the rain barrel will have standing water for short periods after rain storms, so this paint is under more direct water stress.  Therefore, I use Rustoleum oil-based white enamel spray for the top.  After 1-2 years, it will need to be lightly sanded and re-sprayed due to water damage. 


The beautiful finished product!!


The Finished Product

All these steps may make the painting project sound tedious.  However, it is a project that you can just relax and enjoy doing because it naturally tends to break down into steps.  You can paint a few colors at a time and then go away and let them dry.  More importantly one day you discover you suddenly have a beautiful barrel to show off in your yard. 









Keep In Touch!
Ruth Anne Hanahan and Dr. Andrea Ludwig
TYN Statewide Co-Directors
Tennessee Water Resources Research Center
University of Tennessee
311 Conference Center
Knoxville, TN 37996
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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