The Leaflet

~ February 2023 ~

It’s the middle of February and I feel like I’m already behind. I’ve seen cherry trees, daffodils, and crocus in bloom. I’ve ordered trees for Tree Day 2023 and planted some seeds for the Plant Sale (May 13th).

The 2023 Master Gardener class is in session and we have 19 great interns this year. You may have seen a few of them at our meetings or events over the last year. They are starting to log volunteer hours so you should see new faces at our events and meetings. February’s meeting should be full! Be sure to welcome them.

There is always thyme for gardening!

Shawn Herman, President



February 23, 2023

7:00 p.m.

(Social time:

6:30-7:00 p.m.)

Highland Rim Research and EduCenter





Randy McMoran


 The Robertson County Master Gardener Association meets the fourth Thursday of every month


by Nola Hastings

Fall seemed to come and go too quickly this time. Although it was only our second fall in Tennessee, we certainly noticed that the leaves fell from the trees a few weeks earlier than last year. We also observed that a few trees didn’t lose their leaves at all. Why, I wondered, hadn’t the leaves on some of the oaks fallen off? Turns out it’s a thing, and it’s called marcescence, defined by Merriam-Webster as "withering without falling off, as a part of a plant." Hmm, I had no idea!

This is a common trait in oak trees, as well as in a few other species of trees and shrubs, such as beech and witchhazels. According to the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University, leaves of temperate woody plants create an abscission zone at the base of the petiole (leaf stalk) which is comprised of cells that allow the leaf to fall from the parent plant. In marcescent plants, the abscission zone is not activated until spring. This characteristic is more pronounced on younger trees, but can also occur on the lower, juvenile limbs of large, mature trees, especially oaks (like the one I photographed in my yard, below). In some cases, a long warm fall followed by the quick onset of cold weather will prevent the formation of the abscission layer on other tree species, such as maples. Trees that exhibit marcescence are known as “everciduous”.

Although there are a few theories about why some plants have marcescent characteristics, apparently why this happens in certain species of trees remains unknown. However, it seems I’m not the only person wondering about this phenomenon. As I searched for information, I found that TN State Parks are curious about marcescence also!

I like that there are still leaves on some trees; it adds visual interest during winter. However, with spring on the way, the new leaf buds will push the dead leaves off, replacing these brittle, brown leaves with new, green growth. I can’t wait!

I Have Worms

by Kathy Doss

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out

The worms play pinochle on your snout

They eat your eyes, they eat your nose

They eat the jelly between your toes

This song helped to give earthworms a bad reputation because it reminds people of death and decomposition. I like earthworms. Gardeners know that decomposing organic material is good for the soil. Scientific research has repeatedly demonstrated that worm castings (poop) are exceptionally good for plants.  For example the carrots in this picture were grown by researchers at the Washington State University Agriculture Extension. They were all grown in the same soil with the exception of the percentage of worm castings present in the soil. The first carrot was grown with 0%, the second 10% and the third 20%. The difference is astounding.

Since I learned about the magic of worm castings, I have been interested in earthworms. Several years ago, I tried raising earthworms, but I didn't have the necessary skills. My worm bin deteriorated into a slimy, stinky mess. That was before the World Wide Web became a repository for an abundance of accessible information. Recently, I listened to a podcast that featured Rhonda Sherman, an Extension solid waste specialist at North Carolina State University. She made setting up a composting worm bin sound easy and inexpensive, so I decided to try again.  The information that I gained from the podcast and the mistakes that I made during implementation taught me some fundamentals that I want to share with you.

1.) There are thousands of species of earthworms. They are divided into three main groups according to where they live in the soil: leaf litter dwellers, soil dwellers, and deep burrowers. Composting worms are leaf litter dwellers. They live on top of the soil not in the soil. Red Wigglers (Eisenia Fetida) are most commonly used for composting. In a worm bin, they should be given shredded wet newspaper or leaf mulch for bedding, NOT soil.

2.) A worm bin can be made from any type of storage container. The container should have holes to let in oxygen and holes for drainage. I made tiny holes around the top of my container to allow for oxygen.

First mistake: The holes weren't tiny enough. During the first few days after releasing them into my bin, the worms were agitated due to the transportation to a new environment. They tried to escape. Some were able to crawl out the tiny oxygen holes. Fortunately, after a few days, they settled down and are no longer a flight risk.

Second mistake: The bottom of the container was not completely flush with the floor. I drilled some of the drainage holes in the raised part of the bottom of the container. You guessed it, the worms crawled out the holes that were not flat against the floor.  An old bath towel under the bin corrected this problem.

3.) Worms should be fed only raw fruit and vegetable peelings, no meat or dairy products. Worms will eat any organic material but you don't want your bin to smell bad. Inadvertently, I put cooked vegetables in my bin and it had a strong garlic odor for several days. Imagine how sour dairy or rotting meat scraps would smell.

4.) I understand that if you bury the food fruit flies won't be a problem during the summer months. I am hopeful that this will be my experience. I will verify in a few months when the weather is warmer.

So far, my worms seem to be flourishing and my bin is odor-free. With a little luck, I will be able to harvest castings in a few months and grow vegetables as healthy as the carrot on the far right in the above picture.

More information on setting up a worm bin can be found HERE.

Orchids in the Mansion

January 28 – March 5, 2023

by Dorothy Briggs

Rose, Lynn, and I attended Orchids in the Mansion at Cheekwood on opening day. The winter celebration of beautiful orchids were in tropical arrangements on display on the first floor of the historic mansion. White and purple Phalaenopsis prevailed throughout the displays and emerged from rich layers of tropical foliage. Orchids swept up the grand staircase in the foyer and led visitors to the main display on the loggia, where the arrangements were suspended from the ceiling in a cloud of blooming orchids. Dendrobiums, Oncidiums, and Cymbidiums added a diversity of form and texture to the arrangements that ranged in the purple to white color spectrum. Upon entering I said, “I’ll take one of each”!  

Welcome Spring at Baker Creek's Tulip Fest

by Stacey Haag

Are you a fan of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company? Do you spend hours perusing their website or covet their annual catalog? If so, you may want to take a short weekend trip and visit their annual Tulip Festival.

This year's festival will be hosted at their Mansfield, Missouri farm April 9 -10. "Baker Creek began hosting festivals in 2000 as a way to bring gardeners, homesteaders, and natural foods enthusiasts together to exchange ideas and seeds, learn from renowned experts, and enjoy vendors, old-time music, and more." Included in their impressive guest speaker lineup for this year is famous musician and Columbia, TN homesteader Rory Feek.

Admission is free, but limited parking requires that a parking pass be purchased online prior to the event to reserve your spot. A full list of speakers and details can be found on their website.

Local hero to birds and friend of RCMGA GORDON KILLEBREW has built Birdhouse #20,000! Gordon started building birdhouses out of scrap materials and giving them away just over ten years ago as a way to keep busy and give back in his retirement. Amazing work, Gordon!!

CONGRATULATIONS to this talented group of newly Certified Master Gardeners. These interns completed their class in the fall of 2021, then successfully fulfilled their requirements for certification during 2022 by completing a minimum 40 hours of volunteer service and 8 hours of Continuing Education Units. The cohort was formally recognized during our January meeting.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our legendary member, Miss Dorothy. We celebrated her 90th birthday at UT Highland Rim Farm in Springfield last month. We extend our sincere thanks for her many years of continued service, knowledge, and mentorship.

Upcoming Events

February 25: Blueberry Pruning Demo

UT Highland Rim AgCenter

Now - March 5: Orchids in the Mansion

Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

March 2-5: Nashville Lawn and Garden Show

Fairgrounds Expo Center, Nashville

March 4: Tree Seedling Giveaway

USDA Building, Springfield

March 11 - April 9: Cheekwood in Bloom

Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

March 18: TN Tree Day

Robertson County UT Extension Office

May 13: RCMGA Annual Plant Sale

Springfield, TN


Contact Us



Shawn Herman

(615) 948-4376

[email protected]


Vice President:

Nola Hastings

(714) 296-2740

[email protected]



Holly Brooks

(760) 861-4833

[email protected]



Sandy Williams

(615) 969-7656

[email protected]


Master Gardener Coordinator:

Bob Ary

(615) 384-7936

[email protected]

Instagram Administrator:

Kathy Doss

(615) 636-5410

[email protected]



Julee Orr

(615) 838-5772

[email protected]


Facebook Administrator:

Shawn Herman

(615) 948-4376

[email protected]


The Leaflet Editor:

Stacey Haag

(615) 389-4663

[email protected]

Robertson County Master Gardener Association
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