​Tips About Weeds, Structures, Pruning and More

Green pepper

​Peppers and tomatoes are among the most popular of home garden crops.

Maybe it’s the health or nutritional benefits. Maybe it’s the pride and joy associated with successfully cultivating a living plant. Or maybe it’s just a way to get off our electronic devices and reconnect with the outdoors. But whatever the reason, Tennesseans are increasingly interested in gardening. Natalie Bumgarner, an assistant professor of horticulture with University of Tennessee Extension and statewide coordinator of the Master Gardener program knows this first hand. Her phone has been ringing off the hook.

“This is the time of year when folks are tired of cold weather and they begin to think about spring and getting outdoors. For many, that means gardening,” Bumgarner said. An expert in both residential and consumer horticulture, Bumgarner has published a new guide to Tennessee gardening.
The Tennessee Vegetable Garden: Plant Management Practices is intended to help new and experienced home gardeners understand the importance of key gardening topics like weed management, water management, plant support and pruning. The publication is available free of charge on the UT Extension website. 

One of the first steps to successful gardening is understanding and managing weeds. “A
weed is a plant competing with the intended garden crop for water, nutrients and sunlight. They can also host insects and diseases that can reduce crop yields and quality,” Bumgarner said. “Weed management may well be the most important factor in producing success or frustration in the home garden.”

Bumgarner’s publication discusses cultural practices that can help gardeners manage weeds, including different mulching practices, row spacing and soil management and chemical controls. It also covers the basics of crop support options like using stakes, cages, trellises or twining systems.

Finally, the topic of pruning is introduced. Bumgarner outlines some basic pruning techniques and reminds gardeners that pruning can help increase the size and quantity of the fruit as well as reduce the spread of some plant diseases. “
One of the most common reasons for pruning is to manage the fruit load, or plant spread. For example, carefully removing some lateral branches, called suckers, on an indeterminate tomato plant could increase the size of the remaining fruit or enable the plant to be more easily managed.,” she said.

To download the publication, visit the UT Extension website:
extension.tennessee.edu and click on the menu link to “Publications.” Enter the publication number W346-D into the search engine, then click on the link to the full title. Related publications are available by entering the term “vegetable gardening” in the search engine.

You may also call or visit your local county Extension Office for copies of publications and detailed information about gardening.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. 



Natalie Bumgarner, Department of Plant Sciences,