The Leaflet

~ September 2022 ~

Gardeners Know All the Dirt

We are fast approaching the first day of fall. If you haven’t noticed the slightly milder temps and shorter days, maybe you’ve noticed the return of the pumpkin spice latte (or the Christmas displays in the stores!).

I’m always hesitant in late summer to prune back my flowers, but I’m always glad I did. I’m starting to see a nice flush of new blooms to carry me through to fall. I’m also starting to seriously peruse my bulb and seed catalogs. With the invention of that auger that attaches to a battery-operated drill, I’m really thinking of planting some bulbs this year. I don’t know if that was invented by a smart gardener or a lazy gardener, but I’m appreciative either way!

I’m also appreciative of the group of Master Gardeners who designed our Robertson County Fair booth around the theme of “Sow it, Grow it, Show it”. Don’t forget this month’s meeting will be held at the Fairgrounds on September 15 in order to bring their design to life. While you’re at it, don’t forget to enter your garden-related items into the fair — vegetables, flowers, houseplants, etc. Who knows, you may just win a ribbon!

May all your weeds be wildflowers,

Karen House, President



September 15, 2022

6:30 p.m.

Robertson County Fairgrounds



Setup Booth for County Fair




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

Stephanie Mason Memorial Garden

by Karen House

Back in May, RCMGA was contacted by Melanie Dickerson and Sherry Wilson of the Robertson County Board of Education. They requested help in designing and installing a memorial garden for a colleague, Stephanie Mason, who had recently passed away. Several of our Master Gardeners met with them throughout the design process to come up with a plan that met the following requirements: low maintenance, lots of color, lots of blooms, and winter interest. After final approval, we delayed the installation due to the hot weather.

On Saturday, August 27, a dedicated group of Master Gardeners met at the Robertson County Board of Education and installed the garden. The plants included winter hawthorn trees, known for their tenacity in urban settings, white blossoms in the spring, and red berries in the winter, spireas, dwarf butterfly bushes, Black-eyed Susans, purple cone flowers, and variegated liriope. They were very appreciative of our input and effort. What a wonderful opportunity we had to share our love of gardening while helping them remember a dear friend.

I Soiled my Undies!

by Kathy Doss

Have you ever read the Dr. Seuss story Horton Hears a Who? Horton, the elephant, discovers an entire planet living on a speck of dust. I thought of this story when I learned of the community of microorganisms that live, eat, and die in our garden soil. As many as a billion microbes live in one teaspoon of garden soil. The ecosystem that supports these microbes is very good for our plants.

There are hungry bacteria called PGPB (plant growth promoting bacteria) living in our garden soil. The bacteria break down organic matter and transform nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphates, into a form that can be absorbed by a plant. Without PGPB, some of these nutrients will be washed away by rain or irrigation and provide no benefit to the plants. PGPB also protect the plant from pathogens and produce hormones that stimulate plant growth. In return, plants provide life-sustaining sugar, via photosynthesis, to the bacteria.

Fungi in the soil are also nourishing our plants and accelerating the decay of organic matter. Some fungal organisms attach to the roots of a plant and grow long strands that act as virtual roots. These extensions can reach water and nutrients that the plant roots are not able to reach on their own. This type of fungus is called mycorrhiza, which is Greek for “fungus root”. The mycorrhizae improve the structure of the soil by helping to bind together soil particles. These aggregate soil particles provide pathways that help to drain water and aerate the soil.

I learned about these plant-sustaining organisms when I accepted a challenge to join an experiment called “Soil Your Undies”. This campaign was created by Oregon farmers with a goal of making the public aware of the plant sustaining organisms that live in our soil. Gardeners all over the world are taking the challenge. To participate all you need do is bury a pair of 100% cotton underwear about six inches deep in your garden. Be sure to mark where you buried them because, after waiting at least 60 days, you should retrieve them. If there is nothing left but the elastic, hungry microbes have eaten the cotton. This is a good indication of healthy soil.

I soiled my undies in August and will uncover them in October, hoping to find only remnants. In the meantime, I will begin implementing practices to protect the microscopic ecosystem in my garden soil. To do this I will:


1.   Avoid the use of fungicides on the soil so as not to destroy the mycorrhizae.

2.   Be careful not to over fertilize. Synthetic fertilizers kill microorganisms.

3.   Add compost to my garden in order to introduce beneficial microbes to the soil.

4.   Disturb the soil as little as possible. Walking on the soil or tilling it can destroy mycorrhizae and other microbes.

5.   Mulch my garden with coarse wood chips. Wood chips encourage the growth of fungi.

6.   Rotate crops and cultivate a variety of plants. Different plants attract different types of microbes. A diversity of microbes provides for a healthy ecosystem.

7.   Use pesticides and herbicides sparingly. Chemicals can negatively affect microbial communities. 

Spotted Lanternfly

from Tennessee Department of Agriculture

Insects are the most diverse group of animals; they include more than a million described species and represent more than half of all known life. Humans regard certain insects as pests, and attempt to control them using insecticides, and a host of other techniques. Some insects damage crops by feeding on sap, leaves, fruits, or wood while some are parasitic and may vector disease. Some insects are considered ecologically beneficial as predators and a few provide direct economic benefit.

Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) was first found in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014. It is a planthopper native to China and southeastern Asia. In addition to the United States, SLF is present in China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Within the United States, SLF has been found in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. This invasive insect feeds primarily on Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), but has many other host plants, including grape, hop, apple, stone fruit, maple, poplar, walnut, and willow. There are many hosts as the immature stages (nymphs) develop, but as adults, they prefer to feed on and lay eggs on Tree of Heaven. Adults and nymphs will feed on phloem tissues of young stems and bark tissues with their piercing and sucking mouthparts and excrete large amounts of honeydew, leading to the accumulation of sooty mold. SLF may lay egg masses on materials/items that can be moved by people long distances as is the case with Gypsy Moth. If this pest spreads, the grape, orchard, and logging industries will be impacted.

SLF goes through four nymphal instars before becoming adults. The first three nymphal instars are black with white spots, while the fourth one has red with the white spots. The adults will feed for several weeks and in late summer/early fall lay groups of eggs in rows (egg masses containing 30-50 eggs) covered by waxy deposits on trees and objects in the area. SLF overwinters as eggs and hatch in the spring. The adults are about one inch long and a half inch wide with a striking and unusual color arrangement, especially when their wings are spread. Their forewings are light brown with black spots at the front and a speckled band at the rear. Their hind wings are scarlet with black spots at the front and white and black bars at the rear. Their abdomen is yellow with black bars. They will often feed in large groups, especially as adults and 4th instar nymphs. They are easier to see at night or dusk as they will be found throughout the host plant while during the day, they are more commonly near the base of the plant.

While eradication and state quarantine efforts are underway in the infested areas of the United States, the goal of eradication may not succeed as these efforts were delayed in their start. Eradication efforts largely consist of host (Tree of Heaven) removal and chemical control using trap trees to kill large numbers of SLF. There are links to more information about Spotted Lanternfly at the following web locations:


Virginia Extension – Virginia Tech:

New Jersey Department of Agriculture:

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:

Pennsylvania Extension – Penn State:

New York State – Integrated Pest Management:

Got Plants?

The workday to install plantings around the sign at McKendree Arbors Senior Living Community is only about a month away. We are counting on RCMGA members to donate the plants and labor to complete this project for these deserving senior citizens. Project Lead Becky Juanes has been gathering plants from her yard to use, but needs your help. If you have any small or dwarf shrubs, perennial flowers, or other suitable varieties that you've thought about dividing, would you consider donating them for this project? Your support would be greatly appreciated. Please contact Becky to discuss details.

President Karen House's yard achieved the designation of Certified Wildlife Habitat from NWF last month! Have you started on yours yet? Find out how to join your fellow RCMGA members who have already achieved this beneficial designation here.

The election of officers for the 2023 year is fast approaching. If you are interested in serving as an officer next year or nominating a current member, please submit your nomination to one of our current officers.

Don't forget... to log your volunteer and educational hours at Attending a regular monthly meeting earns 1 volunteer hour plus 1 CEU for the presented program. Online classes and videos also count as educational hours.

Karen's Kolossals!

Ms. Dorothy picked this huge tomato at Highland Rim!

Upcoming Events

September 17: Autumn in the 'Brier

Greenbrier Historical Society Library and Museum

September 20-24: County Fair

Robertson County Fairground

Contact Us
Karen House
(615) 419-5249
Vice President:
Shawn Herman
(615) 948-4376
Claudelle Lyall
(615) 760-6955
Larry Lee
Extension Agent:
Jeff Smith
(615) 384-7936

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Jeannie Moll

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[email protected]



Julee Orr

(615) 838-5772

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Shawn Herman

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The Leaflet Editor:

Stacey Haag

(615) 389-4663

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Robertson County Master Gardener Association
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