New Tennessee Gardener

pmb2005March 17, 2014

Hi yall! I am new on and new to owning my own land. We're renovating a neglected farm property and making it an orchard and mini farm. Originally from Michigan, this Tennessee clay has me learning a lot. I'm excited about acidic soil because so many plants like it.

Out of ignorance, I am growing apple seeds. I know they will not be like the original apple they came from, but what I wonder is, can they become root stock? Or can I use them as scions? What happen if I just plant them? What about the scion I took off the 3 variety apple tree from the co-op. I put it in rooting hormone and it seems to be loving life! Will it produce?

I wish I had more people in my area to learn about growing in Tennessee, so here is my call out to you.

What kind of things are yall planting? If you are planting in a large area, how are you keeping it watered? Have you had problems with pests? Invasive species? Root rot?

Have you ever heard of Stony Pit Virus? Am I an idiot for cutting down the pear trees that were here with "Stony Pit Virus"? What about deer? Are they going to come trample all our hard work?

So many questions!!!


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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Hey Promise, welcome to GW and this forum! Which part of Tennessee are you in? Are you familiar with the plant swap in your area (East Tennessee Plant Swap, Middle Tennessee Plant Swap, or Memphis Swap)?

I have a similar situation to what you describe. I'm developing an old farm (about 25 acres) just east of Knoxville. My "dream goal" is to one day open it is a public garden/arboretum. I have a small orchard there now, in a small section of the property, with apples, pears, sweet cherries, sour cherries, native persimmons, pawpaws, blueberries, figs, and pomegranates. Besides the orchard, I have planted a number of trees and shrubs (about a dozen species of oaks, walnuts, pecans, other various hickory species, ginkgos, beeches, soapberries, about a dozen species of viburnums, maackias, some raisin trees, various buckeyes, various coffeetree species, various catalpa species, a bunch of different rue-family trees, various crape myrtle cultivars, a few lilacs, a hardy banana, etc, etc). I have an iris collection there as well as a decent sized perennial bed.

About your apple trees...You could use them as rootstocks and/or topwork them later, BUT you won't have the advantages that you can get from the normal rootstock cultivars (growth rate limitation - that's a big one for maintenance and harvesting, adaptation to different soils and soil conditions, pest and disease resistance, etc, etc).

Apple cuttings...Are yours already rooted? Some apple cultivars can be rooted from cuttings, some can't. If your are rooting, you can grow them own their own roots, but keep in mind that they are likely to become very very massive trees eventually. Keeping them pruned to a manageable height will be an up-hill task.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 11:59PM
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Hi Brandon,

I am in McMinn County. My little farm is much smaller than yours! It sounds like you have a wonderful place there. I have heard about the plant swap, on May 24, in Knoxville. I am planning on attending. I am uncertain about the other plant swaps.

I am learning about how pruning can be a beast. This dormant season we trimmed back a lot. I don't believe anything on the property has ever been pruned.

If you ever feel like sharing some cuttings I would be most grateful! Do you have issues with deer getting into all those fruit trees and flowers? Are you growing grapes or muscadine?

There are a couple vines on the property that I don't have identified yet, but hopefully this year the grapevine will fruit. We had to renew it last year. The other vine is what I believe might be a muscadine. It has stringy, shredded looking wood on the outside. It was growing up in a very sad crape myrtle, along with a scrub tree. I am working on some cuttings from this "believed to be muscadine."

I have to laugh because I am trying to get some strawberries going. I noticed some wild strawberries growing here already. So I fertilized them. Yesterday, they produced YELLOW flowers. I have the healthiest weeds in East Tennessee!!!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 8:53AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I think pruning seems hard at first just because it's new. It's like riding a bike. When you're learning it seems tough and you may get scraped up a little, but then it becomes second nature and no big deal. I'm no expert on fruit tree pruning, but I have gotten to the point that I feel a lot more comfortable with it.

I can hook you up with lots of plants. I usually try to bring about as many plants as I can get into my pickup for the plant swaps. Right now I'm growing about a dozen different types of trees from seed (my neighbors probably suspect a marijuana grow room when they see the lights from the window at night). I would be happy to get you some cuttings of things that will grow from cuttings, if I have things you want.

Deer haven't been too bad in the orchard (yet). They did browse my persimmons this year. I ended up putting cages around them. Deer have pulled up some small stuff (like a couple of baby pomegranates) and left them laying, but they haven't done much to anything else in the orchard. My orchard is in a very open area, so that probably helps a little.

I plan to add grapes and muscadines one day, but haven't done so yet. We did inherit a couple of concord vines on the property, but ended up getting rid of them because of black rot. Treating it proved too time consuming with everything else we have going on there.

Have you every tried alpine strawberries? We have three types (had 4, but all of one type died) and I really like them. I think 'Pineapple Crush' is my favorite.

I know what you mean about the weeds. We have really struggled, at times, trying to keep them in check. Thank goodness for glyphosate!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 11:14AM
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I've never used weed killer, I usually just pull them. This year I'm going to try spraying with vinegar. I am not a fan of Monsanto or what they do. I am trying to keep everything as organic as possible. I am not trying to get certified organic or grow for any other reason other than homesteading and my love for nature.

Mayfield's Farm and Nursey is the first place I ever picked my own strawberries and it was heavenly! Not sure if they are alpine. The berries are so sweet right off the vine. Currently, I have some Temptation Strawberries fresh out of the freezer, waiting to get room temp. and then I'll plant. They are an alpine variety. I will let you know how that goes!

I've got to get this bubble mailer out so I can get some milkweed seeds! What are you currently nurturing? Do you grow a veggie garden?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 12:58PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"I've never used weed killer, I usually just pull them."

It would take a full time employee to do that (and just that) at my farm. I do pull a LOT of weeds but there's just no way pulling could replace chemical control for me.

"This year I'm going to try spraying with vinegar."

Be VERY careful with that! You can do a lot of damage to non-target plants and to your soil. Glyphosate is way, way safer and more environmentally friendly than vinegar.

"I am not a fan of Monsanto or what they do."

Buying RoundUp is an expensive way to go anyway (at least for larger properties). Sometimes I do use a little of the Extended Control RoundUp, but not much.

"Not sure if they are alpine."

Most alpine strawberries are quite a bit smaller than the typical commercial strawberry. I've never seen them grown commercially (although they may be, somewhere).

"milkweed seeds..."

I love milkweed (some species more than others). I can still remember the first time I saw tuberosa growing in a local field. I didn't know what it was but had to have it! Now I have around a half dozen types. I love syriaca (especially for the fragrance), but it can be a real thug in the flowerbed. I have a little growing in the field, but had to nuke the plant in my flowerbed. It decided to take over the world, and was well on its way! I think it got the idea from the Passiflora incarnata planted nearby.

"What are you currently nurturing?"

Depends on what you mean by nurturing. I guess all my seedlings is what comes to mind. I have about a dozen uncommon types of trees and about a dozen interesting perennials that I hope will sprout and grow well. I also just planted some more hickory and oak seeds, in the field, the other day.

BTW, if you are interested in growing some interesting trees from seed this year, let me know.

"Do you grow a veggie garden?"

Not this year. We thought about it, but didn't feel like we'd have the time to do the work. I don't live at the farm, so am not there every day. When we do go, we pretty much have our plate full already. If we ever get the money to build a house out there, we will definitely have a great vegetable garden. I have had pretty good luck in the past growing just about everything except for tomatoes. Tomatoes just don't seem to like me. Every year it's a different issue, but there always seems to be something with tomatoes.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:56PM
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Thanks for the advice on vinegar. Lord knows the effort we've put out to amend our soil. Tennessee clay gives a bit of a challenge.

I will be bringing tomatoes with me to the swap. I have quiet a few varieties, but the heirloom pear tomato seeds fell out and germinated so I will have more of those.

My struggle is always with peppers! I can't get my pepper seeds to germinate. It might be time to invest in a heat mat or something.

What kind of interesting trees do you have? For now I've been growing fruit trees and trying to figure out what is already growing on the property.

The muscadine might be concord grapes and I am not sure that I can salvage the mess that has grown there, but hopefully my cuttings take off and I can move them to the modest "vineyard."

Happy Spring!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 9:04AM
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Let me say for the record, "Ignorance is bliss!" I sent a GW'er pictures of some of my property and she pointed out my Chinese privet that my Husband have spent 2 years trying to eradicate by hand. I may have you go look for some Round Up, as suggested by Brandon7, if I wish to protect native plants. Boo Chinese Privet you stink! Right now I don't know what that invasive vine is growing from the out skirts of my woods, but I want it dead and all it's friends!!! It never occurred to me, I am not alone in this suffering. And sadly, it didn't occur to me, these are invasive plants. Prepare to meet your maker invasive plants!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 1:11PM
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Hi pmb2005. I am also new and also from TN (although I'm down Memphis way). I just wanted to say that I feel your pain on those invasive vines. My last property was covered in poison ivy mixed with English ivy. I hate both! But, I did eradicate the ivy eventually. What I did was fill a 5 gallon bucket with brush killer, pull a long vine down (carefully, with gloves, long sleeves and a ski mask - I can't tell you how silly I looked doing this in the middle of spring). Take that long vine and cram it down onto the bucket of brush killer and let it soak all night long. I did this in several areas several different times through out that year, and it wiped out the poison ivy. I guess the vine pulled the killer down to its root system real well. This also prevented killing off the plants growing nearby.

As far as deer, I have a lot where I live. I love them, but then again they haven't given me any problems. They tromp all through my subdivision, and every evening about 5 pm, they gather at the community pond. A friend did tell me that if they start getting into my beds that I can put Irish Spring soap around the area that I want to prevent them from getting into. I haven't tried that yet, but he knows a lot about the wildlife. So You might give it a try. He just suggested chopping up a few bars into large chunks and spreading them throughout the bed area.
The soil, it just takes time to get it the way you want it. Lots of compost and turn the leaves under. Eventually it will be soft. I use raised beds for veggies.
Anyway, welcome to TN....and here too.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 9:03PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

It's hard to say which trees are more interesting. For instance, some that are unheard of around here may be common somewhere else. And, I don't have a single document inventory of everything I have. I have more stuff than what I listed above, but that list will give you a good general idea of what's planted at my farm.

Most people around here probably aren't familiar with maackias. I have M. amurensis and M. chinensis. Kentucky coffeetree isn't uncommon, but I also have Gymnocladus chinensis. Western soapberries, Sapindus drummondii, is common in the midwest, but is kind of unusual around here. Japanese raisintree, Hovenia dulcis, is somewhat unusual. Ginkgos are common but still unusual. Katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, is a very lovely tree that's verging on being uncommon in this area. I have yellowhorn, Xanthoceras sorbifolium, and unrelated yellowwood, Cladrastis kentukea. Chinese parasol tree, Firmiana simplex, is not very common, but is bordering on being invasive. Bee-bee tree, Tetradium daniellii, is something not everyone has.

This year, I plan on adding about a dozen or so different species of trees. This year's seeds include Pterostyrax corymbosa, Oxydendrum arboreum, Idesia polycarpa, Leucaena retusa, Poliothyrsis sinensis, Euptelea pleiosperma, and Sinojackia rehderiana, to name a few.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 10:21PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I've spent almost my entire day today fighting privet and multiflora rose. What I'm doing to get rid of the privet is painting each freshly cut stump with undiluted (41%) glyphosate. It's time consuming, but very safe and very effective. It helps when you have one person cutting and one person dabbing. That way you don't have to keep switching back and forth and trying to remember what you just cut. I've been digging/pulling the multiflora rose because the area I was working in was wet enough that I could get them up with most of the root pretty easily. Treating them with glyphosate would have worked too, but wouldn't have really been any easier.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2014 at 10:33PM
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Hi folks. I am also new to East Tn, and hope to go to the swap in Knoxville. I've never been to one before, and don't have anything to bring yet, but am excited to see some of the things that grow well around here.

I had a comment about the ivy. We lived in Virginia for a while, and one of our neighbors had a problem with ivy on part of his acreage. He rented some goats and in a few weeks it was amazing how much they had eaten. I don't know if you have access to some, but I thought I'd throw that one out there :)

We live on about a half acre mostly treed lot. I hope I can find a sunny spot to plant some veggies!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 5:09PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)


Come to the swap even if you don't have much to bring. We almost always end up with lots of plants left over at each swap. A number of gardeners produce lots of extra plants from their gardening endeavors. Those plants need good homes. Many of us bring far more than we hope to come home with. We actually need more beginning gardeners.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 7:14PM
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