While many Chattanoogans may not be aware of the Master Gardeners of Hamilton County (MGHC) and what we do, they will see the results of our collaboration with citizen groups and Mother Nature all through the community. Under the guidance of UT Knoxville, MGHC’s mission is to promote smart environmental practices through our volunteer members who teach research-based information to educate the members of our community. Part of that mission includes providing continuing education to our volunteer members as well. The MGHC members are the organization’s backbone and our greatest asset for raising the community’s awareness of the fragile nature of our environment and how our actions have consequences, both positive and negative, making an important contribution in enriching the community as a result.
As educators, we provide practical information on green living to the community. With droughts becoming more persistent, the MGHC’s recent focus is on teaching water conservation practices such as rain barrel water collection, rain gardens, and xeriscaping. For example, one of our most popular workshops this year taught members of the community how to build their own rain barrels to collect rain water to water lawns and gardens. Many of our members are involved in the Water Management District’s “Tennessee Yards and Neighborhoods” project that teaches homeowners how to easily redo their yards to prevent water from running off into the public sewer systems. The MGHC’s butterfly and hummingbird garden at the Tennessee Aquarium is the City of Chattanooga’s first rain garden, providing a place of beauty and tranquility as well as demonstration project on how water conservation can be both practical and beautiful.
MGHC has also worked to enrich the community by supporting community garden projects. This last year showed us at our best when we raised over $26,000 for the purchase of a greenhouse to be joined with the Chattanooga Area Food Banks new Learning and Enabling pavilion and will include 35 raised beds for easy handicapped access. We are partnering with the Food Bank’s program to teach sustainable gardening to the community. Other places that you will see us at work are the Tennessee Aquarium in their greenhouse, Siskin Children’s Center where children get to play in the dirt planting flowers, Habitat For Humanity landscape installations, the Food Bank Garden tours, and the Chattanooga Market each Sunday where we provide a question and answer table, helping visitors and residents by answering garden questions. We have had tremendous success with rain barrel workshops which uses hands on building of rain water collection systems to county residents.
Every September, the MGHC display garden at the Hamilton County Fair is a showplace of our creative talents when we create an exhibit based on teaching a particular theme such as the “Garden Green” project which focused on composting, xeriscaping, use of green roofs and other smart garden practices. This project won our group the State’s “Search for Excellence” award for projects that excel teaching the mission and goal of the program. In 2009, we built and displayed our most ambitious exhibit to date: “Art in the Garden.” We maintain a robust website and have a Hot Line for the community to call for answers to their garden and landscape problems. You can see us in gardens at churches and schools where we have shovels in hand and always have dirt on our hands.
We are gifted with a long time member, Mike Payne, who was appointed in 2009 as co-chair State Advocate for the Master Gardeners. Mike represents the University of Tennessee and the Master Gardener program in the United States and other Countries. We are so honored to have him with our group.
Here is a listing of some of the 2009 projects and activities all aimed at enriching the Hamilton County community:
Community Garden and Landscaping Projects
Chattanooga Area Food Bank
- Spring Plant Sale
- Continuous working in Gateway Greenhouse
- June 6 Garden Tour
- Building new greenhouse at 2009 Curtain Pole address
- Fall Plant Sale
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga
YMCA Downtown Community Garden
Calvin Donaldson Community Garden
Siskin East Community Garden
Tennessee Aquarium Butterfly and Rain Garden
- Spring Native Plant Sale
- Fall Native Plant Sale
- Continuous work hours
Rock City’s Southern Blooms Festival
Wallace Smith Elementary School
Arbor Day Tree Wrapping
Signal Mountain Middle School Landscape installation
Coffee grounds regular collections-4 times weekly, used for composting at Crabtree Farms
Education and Outreach
Girls Inc of Chattanooga
2nd Annual South Chattanooga Health Fair booth
Save Green – Go Green Saturday – Hamilton Place Mall
Chattanooga Market (every Sunday)
County Fair – booth and judging
TN Lawn and Garden Workshops
Everyday Chattanooga becomes a greener place as we work to enhance our beautiful City and County with our experience, teaching and sharing of the knowledge that the University of Tennessee has shared with us through the Master Gardener program.