The Leaflet

~ January 2024 ~

If you’re new to the area, Welcome!

2024 will be a great year here in Tennessee. We tend to get all the weather, sometimes all within a 30-day month.

As I’m writing this, it is cold, snowy, and in the 20s. A week's worth of winter weather is all I need to get me thinking of spring. Thankfully, I have my seed catalog to look over and some hot chocolate to keep me warm. I can almost feel the springtime sun shining on my face through the catalog.

Looking ahead to next week, we should get some rain and warmer temps. Some of you are probably further ahead on planning your gardens or deciding which seeds to start, and when, than I am. If you haven’t thought about it yet, don’t worry. The UT Horticulture 2024 TN Home Fruit and Vegetable Garden calendar can be found online (publication W436). This calendar is a great way to plan when you should start your seeds or learn when the last frost is for a nearby city, as well as other dates to be aware of. The online calendar also has links for soil, pests, diseases, and monthly tasks.

I’m excited for 2024 and all the possibilities it brings. Be looking for event reminders in The Leaflet and on Facebook.

There is always thyme for gardening!

Shawn Herman, President



January 25, 2024

7:00 p.m.

(Social time:

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

Highland Rim AgResearch and EduCenter



Winter Sowing


Becky Juanes


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

For less than $35 You Can Build Compost Bins

by Dawn Chen and Kathy Doss

Master Gardeners love to pamper plants. What we feed most to our plants is compost. As organic gardeners, nothing appeals to us more than compost. What is compost anyway?

Compost is the end product of composting, a natural process that converts organic materials such as lawn clippings (the green material), leaves (the brown material), and kitchen scraps into a nutrient-rich soil amendment or mulch through natural decomposition. Microorganisms are the invisible force that feed on the organic materials. They use carbon (the brown) and nitrogen (the green) to grow and reproduce, water to digest materials, and oxygen to breathe. The waste produced by these microorganisms contains the exact nutrients which our plants crave. Therefore the four elements, green and brown materials, water, and air, are required to successfully turn yard and kitchen waste into “black gold.” How to accomplish composting deserves another article.

The benefits of composting are numerous. Most importantly, it reduces landfill waste and is an organic fertilizer. Plants thrive on soil that is rich in organic matter. Compost improves soil structure and feeds a balanced NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) mixture, as well as many other nutrients. Compost can lead to less use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, which harm our health and contaminate our environment.

Compost is widely available commercially; however, buying it can be expensive. Plus, you don’t know what’s in the commercial compost. DIY compost is preferred for home gardeners.


We recently built the composting bins in the demonstration gardens of the Robertson County Master Gardner Association in Springfield (see photos). We put two bins side by side at 8’ L x 8’W x 4’ H each. We made our bins 8' wide so that a front-loader can turn the compost. Turning the compost insures that the microorganisms have enough oxygen to thrive and therefore quickly decompose the organic material. A 4’ x 4’ bin would be adequate for most home bins and can be turned with a pitchfork.

Here is how we built our compost bins:

Material: Wooden pallets* are free and available at many retail stores. You can also find them inexpensively on local sites such as Facebook Marketplace.

Tools: a shovel, a battery-powered screwdriver, and a small sledge hammer.

Supplies: one box of 1-5/8” deck screws, and four 24” pieces of rebar (reinforcing bar, available at any home-improvement store). We used a few pieces of rock to help level the pallets before connecting them.

This is a two-person job. It can be achieved by one person with certain tools, like a large clamp.

Step 1: Gather materials. We obtained ten 4’x4’ wooden pallets and gathered the required tools and supplies.

Step 2: Level the ground. We roughly leveled the site with a shovel.


Step 3: Build the walls. We formed the walls by attaching the pallets to each other with the deck screws. You can use as many screws as you see fit on both sides of the pallet panes. This ensures the pallets are connected tightly and level from top to bottom.

Step 4: Continue building the walls. Repeat Step 3. We assembled the three sides of the bin in a horseshoe shape. To prevent compost from getting stuck in the walls of the pallet, we arranged the pallets with the slats facing inwards and situated horizontally. We used rocks to fill the gaps between the pallets and the ground, ensuring flush walls. For a home compost bin, you may want to enclose the square with a hinged pallet to be used as a gate.

Step 5: Stake the bins. We staked the bins by driving a rebar into the ground at each corner. This stabilizes the bins.

Voila! We made 2 bins connected together so we could fill one bin to the top then begin filling the second bin while the first compost is breaking down.

Note: Our wooden pallets were donated by RCMGA long-time supporter Gordon Killebrew, well-known for building bird houses from wooden pallets. He has built over 10,000 of them and given them away to schools and various organizations.

A Resolution of Stewardship for the New Year

by Stacey Haag

For many, each new year brings with it a set of new resolutions. For gardeners, those resolutions often address goals in their gardens. As you spend these quieter winter months pondering your goals and resolutions, strive for a focus on stewardship. Gardeners are often the ones other people look to when learning how to best care for the land. Our goal should always be to leave it better than how we found it for the benefit of future generations.

If you have previously considered making your yard a Tennessee Smart Yard, now may be the perfect time to resolve that goal. This is the ideal time of year to create a plan of action. Begin by making a list of needs and wants, then compare them with the Tennessee Smart Yard Checklist Yardstick here.

Currently, there are only four certified Smart Yards in Robertson County! You can view their distribution across the Volunteer State here. With a little effort, I know we can grow that number considerably.

Click here to learn more about how to make your yard a Tennessee Smart Yard.

Download your Tennessee Home Fruit and Vegetable Garden 2024 Calendar here...

Upcoming Events

February 10 - March 10: Orchids at Cheekwood

Cheekwood Gardens

March 16: Tennessee Tree Day

Robertson County UT Extension Office, Springfield

April 13: The Herb Society of Nashville's Plant Sale

Nashville Fairgrounds, Expo 3


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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