Summer Newsletter: June, 2013 Issue: 18   
In This Issue
Summer Heat Brings Hummingbird Visits
Create a Hummingbird Haven!
Naturally Beautiful Native Switchgrass
Keep Our Creeks Clean During the Summer
Garden Tip #1 
You can still direct-seed sunflowers in your garden. Stagger their planting by every week or two through July, and you will have flowers until frost. 

Helpful Links


TYN Website 





Garden Tip #2
Deadheading is a must this month. Many annuals and perennials need to be deadheaded to keep plants looking good and blooming all season. Such plants include geraniums, certain petunias, marigolds, salvia, and roses.

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 the nine principles found in our TYN handbook:


Right Plant, Right Place


Manage Soils and Mulch


Appropriate Turf Grass Management


Water Efficiently


Use Fertilizer Appropriately


Manage Yard Pests


Reduce Storm Water Runoff and it's Pollutants


Provide for Wildlife


Protect Water's Edge


To find out more information download our free

Tennessee Yardstick Workbook
Garden Tip #3 
Keep tomatoes pruned and staked or in cages. Prevent blossom-end rot of tomato by providing deep and regular watering with drip irrigation or soaker hoses in addition to mulching for water conservation. 
Upcoming TYN Events

Stay tuned for upcoming Rain Garden Workshops in the Fall!

Garden Tip #4
Summer Rain Garden Maintenance:

Ensure inlet/overflow is not eroding and berms have not been breached, particularly after periods of intense storms; "fluff up" mulch and underlying soil as needed; and continue to weed.

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
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Happy Summer!  Things wind down a little bit around here during the summer months, but we didn't skimp on the articles for our summer newsletter edition!  Stephen Lyn Bales, Senior Naturalist for Ijams Nature Center discusses why hummingbird visits increase in our gardens during the summer months, and we included bonus information on how to attract those lovely birds to your landscape. Jason Reeves, Research Horticulturist at the UT Gardens at Jackson, tells us of the many different types of native switchgrass that work well for landscaping purposes, and our very own Co-Director Ruth Anne Hanahan gives some great tips on protecting our waterways during the steamy summer months. We hope you enjoy this season's newsletter and stay tuned for more information about upcoming TYN workshops in the fall!

Many thanks for reading,

The TYN Management Team
Stephen Lyn Bales As summer heats up, hummingbird visits increase

By Stephen Lyn Bales
Ijams Senior Naturalist

Hummingbird at Feeder
You put out your hummingbird feeder in April and watched as a few stopped by for drink. And then they seem to go away.

Time to put up your feeders, right?

No. Not by a Mississippi mile.

The biggest misunderstanding about ruby-throated hummingbirds is that they only eat nectar or the sugar water we put in our feeders. That's simply not true.

Hummingbirds primarily eat small insects and augment their diet with nectar. The sugary rich substance gives them a burst of energy like a cold soft drink does for us, but humans and hummingbirds alike need protein.

May and June is hummingbird nesting season. Locally, female hummers often raise two broods with two nestlings per clutch and baby ruby-throats need lots of protein-rich insects to build tissue and grow feathers. Adult hummers visit our feeders only sporadically during these months because they spend so much time searching for insects on flowers.
Female Hummingbird at Bee Balm
By the time July arrives, there are usually three times the number of hummers patrolling our backyards because all the young ones have fledged. There are also fewer nectar-rich flowers blooming, so all of a sudden our red-and-yellow sugar water feeders become the most popular quick-stop diners on the street.

These little dynamos visit feeders more July through September than they do in the spring.

But be mindful, the summer heat sours the imitation nectar quicker. Check it daily, and if it looks cloudy or smells fermented (like the cheap wine we all drank in college), replace it with fresh sugar water.

* Plant flowers that bloom at different times of the year.
* Keep hummingbird feeders clean and filled.
* Mix hummingbird sugar water using four parts water to one part sugar.
* You do not need the red die in the water. Would you drink it?

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

Images from top to bottom:
*Coral Honeysuckle
*Cardinal Flower
*Butterfly Weed
*Bee Balm
Create a hummingbird haven!

Remember hummingbirds visit a wide range of flowers, some for nectar and some for insects and the more you have growing in your backyard the better. Here's a partial list of hummingbird favorites:

* Bee balm, Monarda didyma
* Butterfly weed, Ascelpias tuberosa
* Cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis
* Columbine, Aquilegia sp.
* Coral bells, Heuchera sanguinea
* Cosmos, Cosmos sp.
* Dahlia, Dahlia sp.
* Delphinium, Delphinium elatum
* Flame acanthus, Acanthus mollis
* Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea (Biennial)
* Fuchsia, Fuschia hybrida
* Geranium, Pelargonium species
* Hollyhock, Althea rosea (biennial)
* Lupine, Lupinus hybrids
* Penstemon, Penstemon sp.
* Red hot poker, Kniphofia uvaria
* Sage, Salvia officinalis
* Scarlet sage, Salvia splendens
* Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans
* Speedwel,l Veronica hybrids
* Verbena, Verbena sp.

* Mountain garland, Clarkia elegans
* Four-o'-clock, Mirabilis jalapa
* Touch-me-not, Impatiens sp.
* Flowering tobacco, Nicotiana alata
* Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus
* Petunia, Petunia hybrida
* Spider flower, Cleome hasslerana
* Zinnia, Zinnia sp.

Bulbs, corms and tubers
* Tuberous Begonia, Begonia sp.
* Canna, Canna sp.
* Gladiolus, Gladiolus sp.
* Iris, Iris sp.
* Montbretia, Crocosmia sp.

* Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea sp.
* Cardinal climber, Ipomoea quamoclit
* Flame vine, Pyrostegia venusta
* Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sp.
* Lantana, Lantana sp.
* Trumpet creeper, Campis grandiflora
* Trumpet vines, Bignonia tagliabuana
Naturally Beautiful Native Switchgrass

By Jason Reeves, UT Gardens Jackson, Research Horticulturist

Switchgrass field
Although switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is making headlines as a greener source of biofuel, gardeners should also know about its beautiful, ornamental attributes. This 3- to 8-foot-high native grass with long, narrow leaves was once a component of the great American tallgrass prairies.
In July and August, the grass produces a profusion of 10- to 15-inch airy panicles just above the foliage. These panicles often start out pinkish red in color and age to buff. Switchgrass anchors itself with fine roots that are twice as deep as the grass is high, which helps it withstand extreme drought and cold. It prefers full sun and average to lean soil, and is one of the best grasses to grow in poor soil. It looks great alone in the garden but can be stunning in mass.

Some switchgrass cultivars require support to keep them upright, especially those grown in rich soil with plenty of moisture. If tall neighboring plants aren't enough to support them, place a large tomato cage (which will quickly be hidden by foliage) around the plant in spring. Also, note that wet growing seasons and advanced age make the clumps more likely to lodge. To correct lodging, divide and replant a smaller portion in early spring.
'Dewey Blue' Switchgrass
Don't let the sometimes floppy nature of switchgrass scare you away. For many selections grown in lean soil, the only maintenance is the typical cutback in late February or March. They are such a lovely group of underutilized native grasses and are well worth a little extra care to have them in the garden.


Excellent switchgrass varieties for
the garden:

'Dallas Blues' Switchgrass 
Cultivars 'Hanse Herms' and 'Rotstrahlbusch'
usually reach 3 feet tall and are more compact than most species. Both produce striking red fall foliage.

'Ruby Ribbons' reaches 4 feet. Its bluegray
foliage takes on a burgundy-red hue in midsummer that intensifies as the season progresses.

'Dallas Blues,' originally found in Dallas,is the best blue switchgrass. It forms a vase-shaped, 5-foot-tall clump and benefits from strong neighbors for support. Develops stunning reddish-purple plumes in the summer.

'Prairie Sky,' selected in Wisconsin for its blue foliage, can reach 5 feet tall and must be staked to prevent lodging.

'Heavy Metal' is another blue form that
can reach 5 feet tall and may need staking. It has pinkish plumes and is prone to rust in certain habitats.

'Northwind' Switchgrass 

'Northwind' has green foliage and is the most upright form, reaching 6 feet tall. The erect and narrow form makes it a stunning accent in any garden.

'Cloud Nine' has metallic blue foliage that turns orange in the fall. It grows to 6 feet, but its late summer billowing, cloudlike plumes take it to 8 feet. It requires strong neighbors for support.

'Shenandoah' has green foliage with red tips that turns an intense orange in the fall. This 3- to 4-foot-tall cultivar is more spreading compared to the clumping nature of most.

P. amarum,or 'Dewey Blue,' is a stabilizing beach grass with a graceful habit and bright blue foliage that grows in sand dunes from Connecticut to Louisiana.
Can be a bit floppy under cultivation and benefits from being cut to the ground in late May to early June.

For local availability of choice switchgrass selections in your region of Tennessee, contact the following businesses:

Green Valley Farms, just north of Jackson, 731-784-5800
Dutch Garden Center, Jackson,
Randolph's Greenhouse, Jackson,
Morris Nursery & Landscapes Inc., Jackson,
Beaver Creek Nursery, Knoxville,
Stanley's Greenhouses, Knoxville,
Ann's GreenHaus, Greeneville, 423-638-2666
Evergreen Garden Center, 

Sunlight Gardens, 800-272-7396, 

RA headshot
Keeping our Creeks Clean during the Summer Months
By Ruth Anne Hanahan

Tis the season for those afternoon pop-up storms -- we rush across a parking lot to escape the downpour, only to find 30 minutes later the parking lot is dry as a bone. Where does the water go? Some obviously evaporates; we see this by the steam rolling off (which is not surprising when you know that asphalt can reach summer temperatures of 160 degree Farrenheit!). The majority of rain water (aka stormwater), however, drains into stormwater inlets (the grates you see along parking lots and road edges) that are connected to a conveyance system that channels the rain water straight into a local creek or other waterway.


So what does this scenario have to do with keeping our creeks clean and us doing our part? First, the water coming off the parking lot is going to be very hot which will heat up the creek waters. This is called thermal pollution and short of us doing some vigilante late night tree planting around the parking lot, there is not much we can do about that straightaway. However, what we can do is help reduce the plethora of pollutants that Mother Nature washes off the parking lot into our creeks in every rain storm.

Let's take a look at a few simple actions that can add up:


Rainbow sheen caused by oil dripping on pavement
1) Keep up with car maintenance to reduce leaking oil, coolant, antifreeze and other hazardous fluids.

One study showed that stormwater produced from one square mile of roads and parking lots can yield approximately 20,000 gallons of residual oil per year. No doubt, that is why motor oil is a leading oil contaminant in our waterways.(1)

2) Trash the butts.

Think twice before flicking cigarette butts onto a parking lot and instead dispose of them in your car ashtray and or in a pocket ashtray (Google "pocket ashtray" for quite the selection). Studies show nearly five trillion cigarette butts annually make their way into our environment; however, we often do not think about the effects they can have on aquatic life. A San Diego State University public health researcher, Richard Gersberg, studied the effects of cigarette butts on marine life and found that chemicals from just one filtered cigarette butt had the ability to kill half the fish living in a 1-liter container of water.(2) This is likely due to the fact that there are at least 50 toxic chemicals generated from igniting cigarette additives.

3) Can the candy wrappers.

Take time to pick up the small stuff that falls out of your car onto the parking lot. Keep America Beautiful studies found that storm drains rank as one of the top sites to collect the small items (e.g., confection litter).(3) It may be true that the grocery store has a sweeping service; the problem is that they may not sweep before Mother Nature does it for them.

Summer pollution prevention opportunities certainly don't end in the parking lot. Here are a couple other tips you can take to the house.

4) Sweep up your fertilizer that falls on your sidewalk and drive.

Most fertilizers contain nitrogen and phosphorus that will feed algal growth in waterways and result in lower oxygen levels. During the summer months, the problem is compounded by thermal pollution that also decreases oxygen level. It only takes a minute to sweep and what goes into your dust pan doesn't go into your local creek.

5) Wash your car on your lawn rather than in your drive to keep the sudsy water and grime from flowing to a stormdrain inlet.

Dirty car water can contain gasoline, heavy metals from rust, particulates from brake linings, trace amounts of benzene and chromium and motor oils. Also be sure to use a phosphate-free detergent. Words to look out for on labels include STPP (sodium tri polyphosphates), polyphosphates and phosphate builders and keep in mind that "biodegradable" does not necessarily mean the detergent is phosphate free!

So here's to enjoying the summer months and knowing that whether we are at home or on the go, we can all play a part in helping to keep Tennessee waterways clean!

(1) AbTech Industries. 1995. Introducing OARS™, promotional flyer, (based on 1995 King County study).
See Ya' in the Fall!
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