The Leaflet

~ October 2023 ~

Well, it’s still dry outside, and the weather continues to get cooler. My plants are hanging on, trying to avoid the inevitable first frost. My Mexican sunflowers are standing tall with around 30 blooms. I’ve seen a few monarchs stop and grab a quick drink on their long flight to Mexico. I’ve also seen the occasional hummingbird and a few other butterflies and bees.

RCMGA has been relatively quiet this month. The arboretum at Ridgetop Station Park will hopefully be recertified soon. We are also setting plans in place for the future gardens at Highland Rim. Thanks to everyone who helped this year. There will be more changes in store for next year.

Have you recently moved or have a garden or yard that you know could be growing better? Well, right now is a great time to test your soil and make adjustments. You can pick up a sample kit at the UT Extension Office in downtown Springfield. There is a fee for the test, but getting your pH and nutrients adjusted will have a noticeable effect on your plants and your yard health. 

There is always thyme for gardening!

Shawn Herman, President



October 26, 2023

7:00 p.m.

(Social time:

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

Robertson County UT Extension Office



Water Supply, Treatment, and Delivery


Brian Suter,

Springfield Water Dept.


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

Be a Citizen Scientist

by Kathy Doss

“Do you like growing tomatoes and do you live in the Nashville or Chattanooga area?" This question caught my attention as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this past April. Since I enjoy growing tomatoes and reside in the Nashville area, I paused my scrolling to read more. The question was an invitation for citizen scientists to participate in a research project collaboratively undertaken by UTK, Purdue, and Iowa State Universities. This call to action was posted on Facebook by UTHORT (a must-follow if you're not already doing so). Intrigued, I signed up.

First, I completed a survey questionnaire inquiring about my attitudes toward growing, cooking, and eating vegetables, as well as my level of gardening experience. It was evident that the data collected by the project would be shared with nutritionists and food scientists, as well as horticulturists.

Subsequently, I was invited to the Ellington Agriculture Center to collect all the necessary supplies for growing three different varieties of compact tomato plants: Cocoa, Microtom, and Red Robin. Dr. Natalie Bumgarner met us in the parking lot and provided directions to the meeting. The event drew dozens of gardeners. Each participant received three tomato plugs (small seedlings grown in cells), one of each variety, as well as seeds to cultivate three more of the same varieties. We were all given identical pots, soil, and fertilizer for our plants, accompanied by instructions on fertilization timing and data collection. I was delighted to discover basil seeds among my supplies, serving as an added bonus.

We were introduced to a private Facebook group that allowed us to share photos of our plants and compare their progress in Tennessee to those being cultivated in Indiana and Iowa. This group also served as a platform for discussing the challenges fellow participants faced, such as pests or diseases.

Data collection stands as a crucial step in the research process, providing Extension Specialists with valuable information that will ultimately inform recommendations for consumers regarding plant cultivars. I took my role seriously, meticulously recording the dates of seed germination, the dates of my first ripe fruit harvest from each plant, and the quantity of fruit produced by each plant.

Throughout the experiment, I encountered only two minor setbacks. My Microtom tomato seeds failed to germinate, and a voracious hornworm devoured several of my Cocoa plant leaves and tomatoes causing significant damage to the plant. Our research team assured me that this unexpected data was just as important to collect and report.

We were also offered the opportunity to attend several informative Zoom classes over the summer. These sessions were led by specialists in plant science, nutrition, cooking, and food preservation.

The project concluded on August 24th with another in-person meeting. This gathering included snacks crafted from fresh tomatoes and a lesson on making tomato bruschetta. As a token of gratitude for our participation, we received lettuce and kale plants for our fall gardens, along with seeds for further cultivation. We wrapped up the project by completing a post-project survey, again probing our attitudes toward gardening, cooking, and consuming vegetables, while also collecting the data about our plants.

This experience enabled me to engage with fellow gardeners, cultivate a previously unfamiliar plant, and take pride in playing a small role in recommending compact tomato plants to all Tennesseans. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a novice, I encourage you to be a citizen scientist.

Save Your Leaves, Save Some Green


Fall is here, and that means organic matter is falling from the skies – at least it is if you have mature trees in your yard. Leaf litter can be used in your yard as a natural mulch. Leaves may need to be shredded so that oxygen and moisture can still circulate freely at the soil surface. Leaves can also be collected and composted to create a rich organic supplement for spring planting. Remember that dried, brown leaves will have a higher carbon-to-nitrogen ratio than fresh, green leaves, which means that the mix will need more “green” components to be most effective. Check out this Compost Calculator to help determine a good compost mix, aiming for 25-40:1 ratio. Creating compost from yard wastes and kitchen scraps along with using shredded leaf litter as a natural mulch can really save you some green. Plus, for more information on home composting, visit this site for useful information from our colleagues at the University of Kentucky.

October Color at Baker Arboretum

by Stacey Haag

Upcoming Events

October 28: Companion Planting

Goodlettsville Public Library

January 12 - 14: Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville

Music City Center, Nashville


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
Facebook  Instagram