You live and learn, you garden and learn. In fact, the never ending opportunity to investigate and explore is one of my favorite aspects of gardening.
This story began last year when I decided that I had grown far too many tomato plants, and I promised myself that I would try to regain some composure this year. Even with that promise in place, I had something new on the list to try this year; a tomatillo. In the plant family of Solanaceae or “nightshades”, tomatillos are in the genus Physalis. The tomatillo fruit is similar in size to a cherry tomato, and features a “paper like” husk. Depending on the source, you may also see tomatillo called Mexican husk tomato, ground cherry, Chinese lantern, and other names.
In keeping with my desire to not be overrun with tomatoes, I decided to start small and put a single tomatillo plant in the garden. Intrigued by its description of golden fruits with a hint of citrus flavor, I selected a tomatillo called the Pineapple Ground Cherry.
This plant grew wonderfully; vigorous, disease-free, no pests, beautiful! … It still looks great today. My tomatillo has been loaded with flowers, and I have eagerly watched for the first fruits to appear. At first, I blamed the lack of fruits on the record-breaking heat and drought. But, as the weather moderated and my Pineapple Ground Cherry outgrew its 5-foot tomato cage (still without fruits), I suspected a problem with pollination. Could it be that the tomatillo is not self-fertile, and my big mistake was in planting only one?
From Purdue University… “The Mexican husk tomato [Physalis] is highly self-incompatible. When the flowering plants are bagged, no fruits are set.” And, from Wikipedia… “Some species are self-incompatible and require multiple plants for fruit set.”
So, I gardened, I learned, and next year I will opt to grow several tomatillo plants. The beautiful little flowers on my lonely tomatillo make it a nice ornamental addition to the garden. Hopefully, next year, it will be a tasty
addition as well!
Blog entry and photos by Mark Murphy, CMG
additional sources: Purdue University Horticulture, Mexican Husk Tomato, Morton, J. 1987. Wikipedia.org: Physalis.
Blackberries and Raspberries (along with many other small fruits) can be planted any time they are dormant, usually from November 1 to March 15.
Choosing The Best Varieties
There are many varieties of Blackberries and Raspberries to choose from. Since not all of them do well in our climate, here are some recommendations on varieties that work well in Tennessee:
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Cheyenne, Shawnee, Choctaw
Chester, Hull, Navaho
Cumberland (aka Blackcap), Bristol, Jewel
Heritage, Ruby, Autumn Bliss
By choosing different types of brambles, you can potentially harvest fresh fruit five to six months each year.
For more details on any of these varieties (i.e. fruit size, maturity date, disease resistance), check out this UT Extension Publication: SP284Selecting a Planting Site
Almost any soil type (except sandy, poorly drained, or drought-prone ones) will work. If possible, plant blackberries and raspberries a minimum of 300 feet away from wild or existing brambles, to reduce the potential for disease problems. Avoid areas where tomatoes, potatoes or eggplants have recently been grown, to reduce the potential for verticillium wilt. Also, keep in mind the space these type of plants need:
Spacing for Raspberries
In row 2.5-3 ft, between rows 8-10
Spacing for Blackberries
Thornless: In row 8 ft, between rows 10 ft
Thorned: In row 3-4 ft, between rows 10 ft
Either root cuttings or root suckers can be planted. If root cuttings are used, plant them about 3 to 4 inches deep. If root suckers are used, make holes large enough and deep enough to completely spread the roots. Once planting is done, firm the soil around the plant and water well. For a fall planting, consider adding mulch at the base of the plant to help reduce winter injury.
For more information on small fruit, come see us for the upcoming FREE Fall Gardening Workshop: 'Easy to Grow Small Backyard Fruit: Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Figs, and Muscadines
' at the Farmers’ Market (September 7, 9:30 am), visit our UT Extension Office, or Ask a Master Gardener
Happy Fall Gardening!Blog by: Sabine Ehlers, CMG
Gardeners have devised many ways and means to provide water to their crops; showering wands, soaker hoses, sprinkler systems, timer-controlled drip irrigation… to name a few. The options seem to be limited only by our imagination, or perhaps the pocketbook ($$$). Each method has it’s merits.
Whenever time permits, I like to use a watering can to turn the “chore” of watering into a recreational/therapeutic activity. I find great joy in a leisurely stroll through the garden, watering can in hand, providing a nice soaking to the soil as needed. On the way, it’s easy to appreciate the beauty of flowers, vegetables, fruits, bees; all the life forces of a healthy garden. A stray weed is sighted and pulled early, before it has a chance to take over. A few veggies and fruits are collected for an afternoon meal. I realize that I just “drifted off” for several minutes, watching the pollinators busily working the beans and pumpkin blossoms.
On the way back to refill the can, I’ll choose a different route from the way I came. I anticipate the other wonders that I may discover; and, if luck allows, I might get lost on the way.
There’s nothing wrong with “stopping to smell the roses”, especially as you’re watering with a can.
blog entry and photo by Mark Murphy, CMG
It’s time to give your landscaping shrubs one last light cut. Pruning should end 10-12 weeks before the last frost date to allow new growth to harden off. The last frost date in Middle Tennessee is generally October 15th, so counting back 10 weeks puts us right at August 6th.
Pruning too late will stimulate plant growth and an early freeze, while that growth is still tender, will kill the young tips. This could lead to more die-back, and set the plant up to be more susceptible to disease.
Stimulating growth by pruning can also interfere with the plant going into winter dormancy which can make it more likely to be damaged by cold. Cold damage can cause branch die-back, basal cankers and even death.
Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs (azaleas, dogwoods, forsythia, etc) in the fall. These plants have already set buds so you would be cutting off next springs flowers. As a general rule, plants that flower BEFORE July 1 should be pruned AFTER flowering. Plant that bloom AFTER July 1 should be pruned in late winter or early spring.
Trees and other herbaceous plants may be best pruned in late winter or early spring while the plants are dormant and before buds begin to swell and open. Do not prune when temperatures are below 20 F.
For more information see the UT Publication “Best Management Practices for Pruning Landscape Trees, Shrubs and Ground Covers" here: UTPB1619
.Blog by: Linda Lindquist, CMG
When observing commercial and residential landscapes, it usually doesn’t take much exploration to find trees with large piles of mulch centered at the trunk and cascading outward. Those mountains of mulch are so common that they’ve earned the uncomplimentary label of mulch volcano!
When properly applied, mulch offers many benefits, such as conserving soil moisture, regulating soil temperature, suppressing weeds, and even enriching the soil when an organic mulch decays.
For trees and shrubs, the mulch layer should be between 2 to 4 inches deep, and extend to a diameter of at least 3 feet. However, the mulch should not be allowed to contact the trunk of the tree (or the stems of
When mulch is allowed to accumulate [or is purposely piled] around the trunk, it prevents natural air-flow around that section of the bark, keeping the mulch-covered portion of the tree damp. That creates an open invitation to disease organisms and insects that can do damage; sometimes to the point of girdling or killing the tree. Also, voles and other bark-chewing animals may be encouraged by a thick layer of mulch.
So, take advantage of the positive attributes of mulching, but avoid the volcano!
<----- Bad. A "volcano" of mulch piled around the tree trunk invites potential damage and decay.
<----- Better. Mulch is kept away from the trunk of the tree, allowing the bark to "breathe".
blog entry and photos by Mark Murphy, CMG