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Fertile climate great for gardeners
by Susan Pierce
Tuesday, March 25, 2014    |   
Jennifer Harrell harvests okra in her half-acre garden in Apison.
Jennifer Harrell harvests okra in her half-acre garden in Apison.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
IF YOU GO

What: Master Your Garden expo

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, April 12-13

Where: Camp Jordan Arena in East Ridge

Admission: $5 ages 13 and older

For more information: www.mghc.org

LOCAL GARDENING GROUPS

Chattanooga African Violet Society, meets first Sunday of each month. Contact: 423-396-2868.

Chattanooga Area Herb Society, meets second Tuesday of each month, learn how to grow and cook with herbs. Contact: 423-875-9689.

Master Gardeners of Hamilton County, meets third Thursday of each month.Contact: 423-855-6113.

Tennessee Valley Daylily Society, meets six times a year. Contact: 423-580-9205.

Tri-State Rose Society, meets fourth Thursday of each month. Contact: webmaster@chattanoogarose.org.

Wild Ones Tennessee Valley, gardening with indigenous plants, offers speakers, field trips and special events. Contact: tennesseevalley.wildones.org.

Source: Individual groups' website

Although the Farmer's Almanac suggests backyard gardeners may go ahead and start setting out plants such as greens (collards, kale, kohlrabi) as early as March 3, a safer bet to avoid frost damage is mid-April, local growers say. Chattanooga falls into Zone 7B on the USDA's Hardiness Zone map, the nationally recognized guide to planting times across the country. Typically, April 15 is the first freeze-free date to consider planting in Zone 7B.

"Planting is best after the last frost date, about mid-April. My mother wouldn't plant anything until after Mother's Day when I was growing up," said Sue Henley, a Hamilton County Master Gardener. "I usually plant a little earlier than that, but I do keep my frost cloth handy in the event we get a little cool spell."

The Master Gardeners are marking their 20th anniversary in Hamilton County this year. Henley said classes to be certified as a Master Gardener are held from early January through the end of April each year. Participants may choose their three-hour class time: either Mondays at 6 p.m. or Tuesdays at 9 a.m.

Any newcomer who already holds Master Gardener certification from another city is welcome to affiliate with the Hamilton County chapter, she said. Meetings are held the third Thursday night of each month at 6:30 p.m. at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1505 N. Moore Road.

The group also sponsors a gardening expo in early April, planting new possibilities in the minds of rookie or experienced gardeners. This year's event will be held April 12-13 at Camp Jordan Arena in East Ridge. Stop in to browse vendors' booths, learn from exhibitors, see live demonstrations and hear gardening lectures.

-- Compiled by staff writer Susan Pierce