garden compositions—Survivor: Tennessee

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h&h&g gardening – garden compositions—Survivor: Tennessee

Fruit and vegetable gardeners in Tennessee tend to have a little of the “Survivor” mentality.

Each spring season we start with all the eagerness of a reality show contestant, determined to outwit those pesky rabbits, outlast those determined weeds, and outplay by gathering our produce before some bird, pest, or disease claims it for itself. We battle the heat, the frost, too much rain, too little rain, the person who “waters” while we’re on vacation, sore backs, and even the stray soccer ball that keeps finding its way into the garden bed.

In any game of survival—on reality shows or in different stages of life—being prepared is what makes you a viable player. The stakes are higher now as public awareness increases concerning the use of chemicals in our processed foods. Growing and buying locally has gone from being a fad to becoming something that many people want to implement in their lives in some form. So whether you are a newbie growing your first lettuce in a whiskey barrel on your balcony or making the next step to expand your garden, fall is a perfect time to prepare to outwit, outlast, and outplay in Survivor: Gardening Tennessee.


Any game, any scenario, where surviving is paramount demands that you know who and what you are dealing with. If you’re planning on planting fruit trees or shrubs this fall, get to know which plants do best in our Tennessee area. Here are a few varieties that are good survivors that I learned about after speaking with my friends at Gro Wild ( and Riverbend Nursery (
Raspberries—Full Gold, Heritage, Caroline, Black
Blackberries—Arapaho, Black Satin (these are thornless varieties – helping you survive picking them!)
Blueberries—Oneal, Duke, Berkley, Jersey, Legacy, Patriot, and the one that seems to be a favorite is Sunshine Blue. Sunshine Blue only  
gets about 4 feet tall and can even be used as a semi-evergreen hedge with beautiful fall leaf color.
Plum—Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia), Wild Goose (Prunus Munsoniana), and American Plum
Pecan—Colby, Major, Choctaw, Pawnee
Grapes—Catawba, Concord, Doreen, Sterling (the last two are muscadine)
Pear—Barlett, Ayers, Keiffer, Magness (I also tasted some delicious Asiatic Pears this summer that were growing in the UT Jackson trial gardens which I didn’t realize are hardy here.) Ayers and Magness are heirloom pears.
Apple—Gala, Red Delicious.  If you want heirloom apples, which require little to no spraying, try Kinnard’s Choice, Summer Banana, Original Winesap, Red June, Crow’s Egg, or Yellow Transparent
Fig—the hardiest is Celeste, but Brown Turkey seems to do well if protected.

A few other plants that are often grown as ornamentals that have edible parts are Serviceberry Amelanchier x grandiflora Forest Prince, Princess Diana, and Spring Flurry; American Crabapple Malus augustifolia; redbud blooms are edible; cherry North Star; American Cranberry Bush Viburnum trilobum Redwing.

Remember when you are choosing varieties, most fruiting plants need more than one variety for cross pollination. For example, you will  
need a Colby and a Major variety of pecan tree to reap a harvest.

Also, check out these local blogs for good gardening info:,, and


After you’ve finished harvesting your fall crop, replenish your soil. To keep from sapping all the nutrients from your growing area, mulch those leaves you’re raking and lay them over your garden bed.  Get a truckload of Royal Soil from the Compost Farm in Brentwood (, bags of Erth Food, or other compost to sit over the winter so that when spring hits, you’re ready to get planting.
When you empty your summer annual containers, spread out the contents over your garden bed and then cover with mulched leaves, untreated  
wood chippings, or those leftover haybales you used for Halloween decor. If you haven’t started a compost bin, this is a good time to get one started. It’s hard to beat adding a load of home-seasoned compost to your beds. All those banana peals, egg shells, vegetable and fruit shavings, grass clippings, dry leaves and twigs, and even the water left over from boiling your corn or potatoes  make for a rich soil amendment when left to compost over time. Check with your local municipality—many communities are offering classes in composting techniques.


It seems to me that the winners of Survivor (at least the few times I’ve watched the show) were the ones who spent time beforehand getting in shape, learning skills, and coming into that season’s show prepared to play. Since spring is the vegetable gardener’s big showtime, and it always comes so much quicker than we expect, go ahead and get that new bed area sprayed with round-up, or get those raised beds built, or that trellis made for your new grape vines, or build the cold-frame for getting your early spring seedlings going, or plant those fruit trees you’ve been wanting to add.

The more prep work you can get done in these cool fall days, the easier it will be to get going with your planting this spring. Take a trip to the UT Knoxville and UT Jackson trial gardens and see what they’ve got going in their trial vegetable gardens and orchard. UTK just added a huge section to their lovely gardens that is devoted to vegetable gardening—a great place to visit and picnic before the football games.

The biggest challenge today to surviving for our local farmers and for even the backyard gardener is  S 510, Food Safety  
Modernization Act of 2010—a bill that Canada Health whistleblower Dr. Shiv Chopra, says, “If accepted, (S 510) would preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed, and eat each and every food that nature makes. It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade, and consumption of food and agricultural products of one’s choice.” While the legislation does not overtly seek to shut down farms, it does expand the government’s power to inspect the small, local operations that sell food such as vegetables, milk, or homegrown meats. And unfortunately, according to the NICFA, it would also give inspectors the power to feasibly shut down a farm upon inspection. Make sure you  
call your congressman about amending or counteracting this devastating bill—it IS a matter of survival.

Editor’s Note: Barbara Wise, floriculture director with Southern Land Company, LLC, brings her gardening expertise and experience to readers of House & Home & Garden™.  You can now read more of Barbara’s plant musings at or follow on twitter@bwisegardens. E-mail your questions to her at barbara.wise@

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