Include fresh produce in your everyday meals

By Sarah Ransom

We all have grown up hearing about how good it is for us to eat our fruits and vegetables. We know these foods provide a good source of fiber, potassium, folic acid and a variety of vitamins. We have been told that fruits and vegetables show benefits to lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health and helping reduce risks of many chronic conditions, helps with weight management, improves vision and more.
Even with all these reasons to eat fruits and vegetables, we find people are preparing and eating these less and less.
Some quick tips to eating more fruits and vegetables include the following: keep fruit and vegetables where you can see them. Have ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables in a bowl. Grapes, carrots, apples, celery, berries, and broccoli are just a few that are great to have easily accessible and ready for snacking. Explore the produce aisle, or visit your local Farmers Market, and purposefully choose a new food to try.
Variety and color are key to having a healthy diet. Skip the potatoes. We all know how much we enjoy potatoes, and while they provide some vitamins and nutrients, they are high in starch. Step
out and try another vegetable on occasion. Salads,
soups, and stir-fries are a great way to increase vegetable intake.
If you still find you are struggling with including these great foods, especially vegetables, here are some additional ideas of ways to include it with foods you may already be making! Shred those veggies and include them in bread, scrambled eggs, and breakfast casseroles.
In your fruit smoothies, add a few healthy greens, beets or other vegetables of choice to get those vitamins without altering the flavors too much. Add extra chopped vegetables to your spaghetti sauces or pasta dishes, and speaking of pasta – don’t hesitate to try some noodles made from vegetables. Add them to pancakes, chili or baked goodies. Add chopped vegetables to your homemade burgers. Using sliced zucchini, avocado, carrots or green beans, you can make some tasty alternatives to fries. Add vegetables, finely chopped, to your pizza, soups, and stews. When the weather warms up, many fruits and vegetables also turn out great on the grill.
If you would like more ideas on how to include fruits, veggies or learn more about having a healthy, balanced diet – please contact Sarah Ransom at the UT/TSU Extension Office (423)-727-8161 or e-mail sransom@utk.edu for more ideas or recipes you can try. Be sure to visit us at the Farmers Market this summer for some great recipes and samples to try.
Source – The Nutrition Source, Vegetables, and Fruits by Harvard Public School of Health https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/; Choose MyPlate

UT Gardens’ April Plant of the Month: Iris

The Iris, genus Iridaceae, is the official state cultivated flower of Tennessee.

By Andy Pulte

In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow; she was a messenger who brought an arc of color to the sky. In our gardens, the blooms of the iris bring a rainbow of color to our landscape. It doesn’t matter if you live on a country road or on a downtown street; iris are plants that catch your eye when in bloom. For most of Tennessee and the Mid-South this begins in April and persists through May with other iris blooming later in the season. By mid-April, the largest flush of bearded iris flowers are what is taking center stage in most gardens.
There are 200-plus species of iris including some North American natives. Species are separated into two main groups – rhizomatous and bulbous. Bulbous irises form a more typical bulb and include Persian, reticulate and many dwarf irises. Rhizomes are underground stems that grow horizontally and are used as storage for the plant. Bearded iris falls into this group as do both the Japanese and Siberian iris.
The Iris, genus Iridaceae, is the official state cultivated flower of Tennessee. While iris come in several different colors, and the act naming the iris as the state flower did not name a particular color. However, by common acceptance, the purple iris is considered the state cultivated flower.
If you love and enjoy iris you may consider having a secession of iris bloom in your garden comprised of several different species. This could begin with Iris reticulata a small bulbus iris, followed by a dwarf bearded iris like ‘little sighs.’ Next, add classic tall bearded iris to your garden. There are many to choose from, ‘Team Player’ and ‘Gypsy Lord’ are two of my favorites. Follow this up with a Siberian iris like ‘Caesar’s Brother’ and Iris tectorum, the Japanese roof iris.
If you like iris, why not get involved with one of the many iris societies we have right here in Tennessee? These can be great ways to meet new gardening friends, share knowledge and gain insight into gardening in your specific region of the state. There are iris societies in neighboring states as well. To get more information, simply search the internet for any of these iris gardening groups. Or visit the website of the American Iris Society at www.irises.org.

Managing your home garden

Elevated Gardens

By Sarah Ransom

While gardens are very popular in Johnson County, it is essential to take proper care of your garden and to manage it well so that
you can reap bountiful harvests all summer and early fall. Growing some of
your food at home can be a big saver. Take full advantage of these benefits of home gardens – there are some helpful things to know when it comes to gardening besides planting, watering and getting adequate sunlight.
The first is weed management. Weeds take your
crops water, nutrients
and can block out sunlight. Weeds also can attract
insects or hold diseases
that are harmful to your plants.
Annual weeds, germinate, grow, mature, produce seeds and die all in the same season. Perennial weeds typically live for three years or longer; these can be the most challenging.
Prevention is the best way to manage weeds that
appear. Most methods are meant to reduce weeds
over time. Mulching is a process of covering the sur
face of the soil; this helps reduce weed pressure, maintain moisture and moderate temperatures; depending on the type of mulch, you can also improve soil structure. Using solarization is a process of using plastic to trap the sun’s radiation and heat the soil to kill off annual weeds.
Row spacing, and how
you are planting is another way to combat weeds.
Crops like beets, radishes
or lettuce can be planted close together to cover the ground and prevent weeds from being able to grow there. Placing cover crops at the end of the season can help smother and cover the ground to prevent weed growth.
You can also use hand or machine weed management techniques that include hand pulling, hoeing, tilling, and spraying. These can be effective in the short term process, but they are also time-consuming. The amount of water can also affect plants; it is estimated that garden crops need 1-1.5 inches per week of water.
There is much more information about various mulching methods and types, weed management, watering techniques and more in the article Plant Management Practices. Information for this article came from this resource. Visit www.extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W346-D.pdf

Spring into action with spotlight on Home and Garden

By Meg Dickens

With winter fading it is time to spring into action.
It is the ideal time to beautify and improve your surroundings while taking the term ‘spring cleaning’ to a whole new level with lawn and garden renovations.
It is no secret that Tennessee has a rich agricultural history. Johnson County’s economy has been hinged on agriculture for most of its existence.
It was known as the Green Bean Capital of the World, and current school breaks are a byproduct of planting schedules. Present day agricultural staples continue to put Johnson County in the spotlight.
For starters, the Johnson County High School agricultural facilities continue to draw many visitors from around the world.
The region is also boasting of a real estate boom as realtors report record sales for the beginning of 2019. Agencies around the area are low on inventory, which may increase property prices to reflect the shortage prompting this spring to be the ideal time to sell extraneous properties. Agents agree that spring is a fruitful time for real estate because of the blooming flowers so improving property values with home and garden renovations is a must.
“I would have to say that ‘first’ impressions even in real estate are a big deal,” said local real estate agent Mina Norfleet. “Homeowners can do some very simple things to improve the value of their homes.”
Curb appeal is the first impression. Whether this is positive depends on several factors. Landscaping and hardscaping are essential steps toward improving this impression. They also improve home values quite a bit.
“Landscaping does wonders for curb appeal for a home or business. The return on investment is usually 100 to 200 percent,” said local expert Harvey Burniston Jr.
Outdoor lighting is a commonly neglected way to advance curb appeal. This aspect has a plethora of uses. Outdoor lighting increases property values, and it is also an excellent tool for safety and outdoor events. The easiest way to improve curve appeal is by applying new paint.
Local expert Michael “Red” Jordan declares that this is an excellent time of year to paint. The best window to paint is from late April through July because of the lower humidity. Pressure wash and remove flaking paint before adding a new paint job. Flaking paint prevents new paint from bonding effectively. According to Red, contrast is an essential part of painting.
“A new coat of paint will do wonders,” said Red. “It’s like a facelift.”
Accents and contrasting colors can make a home look more extensive and more open. Two such techniques include accent walls and high contrast exterior walls. Red suggests to paint the base of the house in a lighter color and to pain the eaves in dark colors.
Add a different type of color with great landscaping and gardening.
It is the ideal time to plan your garden. The Farmer’s Almanac lists this year’s last spring frost date as May 7. Without the frost, a plant’s worst nightmare is pests. There are simple ways to protect them with items lying around the house.
Deer are one of the most persistent pests. Despite that, they are relatively easy to deter. Scare tactics such as light tricks only require a reflective surface. Stringing fishing line and planting in levels are also effective. According to a study from the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science, tallow in soap repels deer as well.
Many renovators use DIY (Do it Yourself) projects to cut costs. This method is useful but not recommended for renovators without experience. Small mistakes can skyrocket budget costs.
“You can’t replace experience, and you can’t beat a man at his own trade,” said Red.
The Tomahawk’s service directory is a renovator-friendly source. Locals offer everything from construction and excavations to lawn care and installations. For those who want to try their hand at DIY renovations, there are three simple steps to follow.
Do your homework. Learn as much as possible about the project. It includes online tutorials. Different sources emphasize different aspects. These tutorials also show possible pitfalls to avoid.
Buy the right tools. Saving cash on less practical or improper tools could actually cost more in the end. Be aware of tool pros and cons before making a purchase. It is also wise to practice before taking on the project. Tools differ per project. For example, a professional landscaper would need a larger rototiller than someone using the machine for personal use.
Find a consultant. Whether it is a professional or just someone knowledgeable in the field, find someone with experience. Experienced DIYers can save money by completing some labor independently. Average labor costs fall between 25 percent and 60 percent.
Timing is everything. Plants have their own preferences and grow accordingly. Soil and fertilizer maintenance, weather, and sunlight are important factors in plant growth. Vegetables planted during their proper time of the year taste better than others. Each plant has its own needs.
Home and garden renovations go hand-in-hand. They are not mutually exclusive, but they are mutually beneficial. Whether the renovations are for personal use or to increase property value, they are well worth the effort.

Equine influenza detected in Tennessee horses

TDA Press Release

NASHVILLE– The State Veterinarian has announced that several horses returning from out-of-state events have been sickened by equine influenza virus (EIV) in Tennessee.
Equine influenza is highly contagious, and the virus is spread by contaminated stable equipment and infected, coughing horses. Symptoms in horses may include fever, nasal discharge, cough, loss of appetite, and weakness. Sick horses cannot directly infect people with EIV.
“With EIV, it is much
easier for horse owners to take preventive measures than to provide treatment,” Interim State Veterinarian Dr. Doug Balthaser said. “Maintaining hygiene procedures with stable equipment and vaccinating your horses is a great start for prevention efforts. Your veterinarian can help you decide the best vaccination plan for your horse.”

Other tips include:
•Isolate newly introduced horses or horses returning from events for two weeks.
•For events or stables, restrict entry to healthy horses only.
•Don’t share equipment or supplies between horses, especially if one spikes a fever, has nasal discharge, or is coughing.
The C. E. Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory now offers a full line of equine disease testing, including WNV, equine infectious anemia (EIA), equine herpes virus (EHV), equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and equine influenza virus (EIV). Contact your veterinarian for more information.

Do you have TAEP feedback? Share your suggestions now

TDA Press Release

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) is requesting input on the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) through an online survey. TAEP has transformed the state’s rural economy by helping farmers make strategic investments to increase their efficiency, safety, and profitability.
With the survey responses, TDA plans to identify opportunities to improve cost share offerings and set the program’s future strategic direction. Farmers and producers, agribusiness affiliates, extension agents, agricultural educators, industry association representatives, and others are invited to participate in the survey.
TAEP provides cost share dollars to agricultural producers for the purpose of making long-term investments in Tennessee farms and communities. Participation allows producers to maximize farm profits, adapt to changing market situations, improve operation safety, increase farm efficiency, and make positive economic impact in their communities.
“TAEP has made a real difference and has been a true resource for rural Tennessee,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M said. “We want to ensure that the program continues to serve producers’ needs by helping them adapt to the rapidly-changing production environment and marketplace.”
The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Human Dimensions Research Lab, the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture, and TDA collaborated to prepare the TAEP survey. The survey is available online at https://tiny.utk.edu/TAEPsurvey and will be accessible now through March 27. It can be completed in less than 15 minutes.
For more information on the evaluation and survey of TAEP, contact Keith Harrison by emailing keith.harrison@tn.gov or by calling 615-837-5336.

Johnson County 4-H Contest draws large crowd

By Danielle Pleasant

The annual Johnson County 4-H County Demonstration and Table Top Exhibit Contest held Thursday, March 21st at Mountain City Elementary saw a sizable group of participants, adding the event’s great success.
This years’ contest proved to be a triumph as 28 contestants from across Johnson County presented their demonstrations and exhibits as the 4th and 5th-grade demonstrations ranged from healthy snacks to making slime.
The 6th graders presented tabletop exhibits, which showcased a wide range of project work including citizenship, line, and design, performing arts and more.
All of the contestants earning a blue award ribbon and first place may advance to the regional competition scheduled for Thursday, May 9, at Bulls Gap School in Hawkins County.
In addition to the wonderful demonstrations and exhibits, the 2019 county poster design winners were also recognized. This year the 4-H t-shirt design winner was Lexi Mullins, a 5th grader from Mountain City Elementary.
Her design features a clock with the slogan “It’s always time for 4-H”.
The other posters that were chosen to advance to the regional contest were designed by Chloe Sutherland a 5th grader from Roan Creek Elementary and Sam Cretsinger a 6th grader form Shady Valley Elementary.
Congratulations to all of our competitors and thanks to all the judges, parents, family and friends who support the contestants and the 4-H program.

4th Grade
Clothing and Textiles
Shelby Reece 1st place

Companion Animal
Bella Justice 1st place

Engineering and Safety
Science
Eric Chant 1st place
Asia Stanley 2nd place

Food Science
C.J. Lipford 1st place

Line & Design
Brylee Gentry 1st place

Nutrition, Health, and
Fitness
Emma Brown 1st place

Performing Arts and
Recreation
Gavin Curd 1st place

 

5th Grade
Beef
Dalton Ward 1st place

Citizenship
Julia Crews 1st place

Clothing and Textiles
Brookelyn Lawley 1st place
Destiny Stout 2nd place

Companion Animal
Chloe Sutherland 1st place

Consumer Education and Economics
Izzy Thompson 1st place

Engineering and Safety Science
Dylan Blevins 1st place
Madi Howard 2nd place

Food Science
Shayla Sileo 1st place
Kendon Keith 2nd place

Line and Design
Jocelyn Stout 1st place

 

6th Grade
Citizenship
Joshua Ransom 1st place

Clothing and Textiles
Lanie Mink 1st place

Companion Animal
Mimi Zaldivar 1st place

Food Science
Savannah Lewis 1st place

Line and Design
Landell Walker 1st place

Performing Arts and
Recreation
Anna Porter 1st place
Hannah Johnson 2nd place

Photography
Trinity Slemp 1st place

Poultry
A.J. Laing 1st place

2019 Statewide Spring Turkey Hunting Season Opens March 30

Staff Report

NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s 2019 spring turkey season opens in all 95 counties on Saturday, March 30 and continues through Sunday, May 13.
“Turkey hunting in Tennessee is fantastic,” said Ed Carter, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s executive director. “We have abundant public land, one of the longest seasons in the southeast and one of the biggest bag limits and plenty of turkeys. It’s a great way to experience the outdoors, especially this time of year.”
Spring turkey harvest numbers have been consistent for years in Tennessee.
And this year is looking to be even better than last year with more favorable conditions than last spring when harvest numbers slipped below 30,000 for the first time in 16 seasons. Bag limit is one bearded turkey per day, up to four per season.
A hunting and fishing combination (Type 001), plus a supplemental big game license, or a sportsman license is required. Don’t forget to check game when you harvest a gobbler.
Turkey harvest can be checked online at GoOutdoorsTennessee.com or through the TWRA On The Go App (report capable with or without cell service).
The Middle Tennessee area is again expected to be a hot spot. Nine out of the top 10 county harvests came from mid-state.
Maury County led the way though East Tennessee’s Greene County had a productive year finishing second overall in the state. Dickson County was third.
Hunting hours are 30 minutes prior to legal sunrise until legal sunset (times found based on your location in the TWRA On the Go app). Legal hunting equipment includes shotguns using ammunition loaded with No. 4 shot or smaller, longbows, recurve bows, compound bows, and crossbows. Firearms and archery equipment may have
sighting devices except those devices utilizing an artificial light capable of locating wildlife.
More information on the 2019 spring turkey season can be found in the 2018-19 Tennessee Hunting &
Trapping Guide. The guide is online at www.tnwildlife.org and from local agents.

Can Frogs Adapt To Traffic Noise?

Laura Reinert, left, Louise Rollins-Smith, PhD, and colleagues are studying how frogs adapt to harmful traffic noise. Photo by Anne Rayner

Submitted by Craig Boerner

Frogs don’t like living near noisy highways any better than people do, but research from Vanderbilt suggests that frogs, like hardened city-dwellers, can learn to adapt to the constant din of rumbling trucks, rolling tires and honking horns. And, just like those urbanites who can’t get a good night’s sleep without the sporadic sounds of sirens, some frogs have grown accustomed to the rattle and hum of the highway.
“The broad interpretation is that frogs adapted to noise are better able to cope with noise,” said Vanderbilt professor Louise Rollins-Smith, PhD, who conducted the research in collaboration with Penn State and three other institutions. “It suggests that these populations that are exposed to noise from the time of road building, which is 1940s, 1960s onward, have actually kind of evolved to accept these kinds of noise conditions.”
Published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the study suggests that traffic noise is harmful to frogs, yet frogs can adapt.
To accomplish the study, researchers collected eggs of the wood frog Rana sylvatica from ponds in quiet locations and noisy locations, such as near major highways. Back in the laboratory, the eggs were allowed to hatch and undergo metamorphosis, and then the frogs were split into groups and exposed to a recording of either ambient noise or traffic noise for eight days.
“The main thrust of this,” said Rollins-Smith, “is that the ones from quiet places actually were stressed by the [traffic] noise and the ones that came from noisy places were not so much bothered.”
One of the findings was that traffic noise reduced the ability of frogs originally from quiet ponds to produce the antimicrobial peptide (AMP) brevinin-1SY. AMPs are short proteins which confer protection against a wide range of threats, including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. In frogs, AMPs are secreted from specialized glands in the skin. “Most species [of Rana] make quite a number of them, and this [species] makes only one well defined and tested antimicrobial peptide,” said Rollins-Smith, a professor of Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology.
AMPs, like brevinin-1SY, inhibit Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, an aquatic fungal pathogen that is associated with global amphibian declines. The fungal pathogen “enters through
the [frog] skin. And so, this layer of antimicrobial peptides in the mucus of the skin is one of the protective defenses,” Rollins-Smith said.
This finding suggests that traffic noise may contribute to global amphibian declines by reducing the ability of wood frogs to defend against infection.
Traffic noise also impacted frogs’ immune and stress responses. When frogs originally from quiet places were exposed to traffic noise, researchers saw an increase in the number of monocytes, a particular type of white blood cell. But for frogs from noisy places, it was ambient noise that caused an increase in the number of monocytes.
A similar trend was observed for a hormone that becomes elevated in response to stress. Rollins-Smith said, “they were more accustomed to noise, so when it was too quiet, they responded differently.”

The work was supported by The Pennsylvania State University, Sigma Xi, the American Society for Ichthyology and Herpetology, and by the National Science Foundation.

Tennessee’s 250K Tree Day garners community support

A large group of residents gather for a photo on a beautiful day while taking part in TN’s 250K Tree Day, last weekend, supporting the statewide effort to beautify homes and communities. Participating groups included Northeast Tenn. Regional Economic Partnership Stewardship Council; AmeriCorps; Watauga Watershed Alliance; Sierra Club; Mountain Trails Riders Association; DMRA; Friends of Buffalo Mountain Trail #2. Photo by Dennis Shekinah.

By Tamas Mondovics

Welcomed by one the most beautiful days so far this spring, Tennessee residents including a sizable group representing Mountain City and Johnson County TN has turned out to show its support for the environment last week.
The draw was the annual TN’s 250K Tree Day, that urged residents across the state to beautify their properties and their communities by planting trees on Saturday, March 23, 2019.
This year’s event was organized by the Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC), which works tirelessly to maintain a healthy tree canopy in communities across Tennessee. Tree species offered to plant include Red Oak, Red Bud, Pine, and Plum or similar fruit variety.
Since 2007, TEC has planted more than 540,000 trees fulfilling its mission to educate and advocate for the conservation and improvement of Tennessee’s environment, communities, and public health.
“We are thrilled each year to be able to offer low-cost trees for the people of Tennessee to beautify their properties and participate in the largest community-tree-planting event in America,” said Jeffrey Barrie, Interim CEO for Tennessee Environmental Council, and one of the event organizers.

Knowing Your Plants and What They Need

By Sarah Ransom

Growing your own food is becoming increasingly popular across the United States, and with Tennessee residents, as it can help provide financial benefits and give access to high nutrient foods for your family. Natalie Bumgarner, of The University of Tennessee writes that “the bounty of a fresh harvest, and the activity, enhances personal health and well-being.” However, growing your own food is not always as easy as it may seem.
If you are going to be growing your own crops, be sure to have a basic understanding of the best crop maintenance that is needed so you can take full advantage of growing your own food.
The University of Tennessee’s Extension service program has prepared a variety of fact sheets to help inform producers of information to help increase success in production.
There are seventeen essential elements needed for plants to grow and reproduce.
Some of these are obtained primarily from water and air, but some additional nutrients come from the soil, which is why it is so imperative for you to make sure your soil is in the best condition possible.
Testing your soil is the best way to know if it will produce the best crops. The root systems of your plants are the most vital part of their ability to take water and nutrients to the plant, when transplanting, be extra careful with the root structure. Fertilizers, both chemical and organic, can be used to help manage the nutrients readily available in your soil.
For more on fertilizers, visit www.extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W346-C.pdf.
Remember, sometimes fertilization can also be very beneficial during the growing season. Garden crops can benefit greatly for nutrient additions during their growing season. Regardless of how you choose to fertilize, be sure to follow recommended uses and amounts to keep from harming the plants or yourself.
Source – https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W346-C.pdf

UT Gardens’ March 2019 Plant of the Month: Blackberries

Submitted by Holly Jones and Carol Reese

Blackberries are a good candidate for the home garden. Delicious and nutritious eaten out of hand or cooked, nothing says summer in the south like fresh blackberries. Not only are they great for consumption, but they provide ornamental appeal as well. White flowers resembling small old-fashioned roses appear in late spring, fruits change from green to red to purple black as they ripen, the leaves often show fall color and overwintering canes display interesting shades of red and purple. They are also a good crop for U-Pick orchards and even commercial production but the berries are soft and shelf life is brief, so they can be challenging to harvest, store and sell.

The common terms brambles and cane fruit refer to all plants in the genus Rubus, which includes blackberries, dewberries, raspberries and boysenberries. The most common growth pattern of brambles is to have roots that are perennial, but shoots that only live for parts of two growing seasons. The first year of emergence these shoots are purely vegetative growth (stems and leaves) and are called primocanes. In the second season of growth, these same stems produce flowers and fruit and are called floricanes. They die at the end of the second season and should be removed. Primocanes emerge in the late spring and grow side by side with the current year’s floricanes.

Blackberries thrive best on fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. The plants will tolerate part shade but yield and sugar content will be diminished. Periods of high rainfall or overzealous irrigation during the ripening phase can also lead to a less sweet crop. While easily grown, they can become a management challenge if not maintained. It is their nature to sprawl and growth is rapid so consider a trellising system and a regular pruning regime to remedy what can quickly become a blackberry jungle. Erect and semi-erect types of brambles may only require some tip pruning and heading back to keep vines from covering too much garden space and hindering harvest, but trailing types benefit most from trellising to get the fruit off the ground.
While erect types are the easiest to maintain, flavor and sweetness can be subjective and growers will benefit from experimentation with an assortment of varieties. At the UT Gardens, Knoxville, Kitchen Garden a trailing variety called ‘Triple Crown’ has been the crowd favorite for more than five years due to heavy production of sweet, flavorful berries. The University of Arkansas is a leader in breeding blackberries, developing cultivars that have improved flavor, production, disease resistance, and minimized maintenance. Of course, thornlessness has been addressed and several varieties are available as well as a relatively new group of blackberries that will produce on the first year canes, which revolutionizes commercial blackberry production. Recommended University of Arkansas cultivars that produce on floricanes (second year) are named for Native American Indian tribes, and those that will produce on the primocanes will have the prefix ‘Prime” attached to the name. The University of Arkansas resources are included here as a starting point: www.uaex.edu/yard-garden/fruits-nuts/berries.aspx.

Recommended University of Arkansas blackberry cultivars for home gardens include:
Thorny: Chickasaw,
Choctaw, Kiowa and Shawnee
Thornless: Apache, Arapaho, Natchez, Navaho, Osage and Ouachita

Additional information about blackberry production can be found online at the UT Extension publications page: extension.tennessee.edu/publications. Just enter “blackberries” into the search engine.

Preparing and Planning Your Garden

By Sarah Ransom

There are many things to consider when preparing for the upcoming gardening season. The University of Tennessee has put together some great tips for preparing and planning your garden.
They have created a Tennessee Home Vegetable Garden Calendar that holds monthly tips and helpful to-do tasks for gardening.
The time is now right to start your transplants, beginning your warm-season crops now allows them to grow and be ready to transplant for maximum production.
Tomatoes are a great thing to start early. Preparations of your garden soil can begin now, tilling the cover crop and decomposing the material can take up to two-three weeks.
Early season growth can begin for cool-season crops that are seeded or transplanted two to six weeks before the frost date – it just depends on the crop.
Garden planning provides the ability to help save money, save time and prepare your space to maximize your crop harvest.
By planning what vegetables and crops you will plant, you can work to provide proper space for each crop, have a disease prevention plan and work to rotate crops to provide them maximum nutrients. There are warm and cold season crops.
Warm season crops tend to do very well against last Tennessee summer heat. Cool season crops can be an early or late harvest in Tennessee, just as long as they miss the hottest part of the summer season.
As you plan your garden, think about what will grow best in the space you have and what you will
productively use.
Purchase your seed from reputable suppliers and be sure to properly store any seed purchased. You can direct seed or transplant certain plants straight into your garden.
No matter what you want to plant, having a plan makes your job easier.
If you would like more information on the planting calendar or how to better prepare your garden – check out these additional articles.

The Tennessee Vegetable Garden: Garden Planning, Plant Preparation and Planting at https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W346-B.pdf or Tennessee Home Vegetable Garden 2019 Calendar at https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/documents/w436.pdf.

Keywood Animal Clinic to conduct breeding soundness test

By Sarah Ransom

The University of Tennessee/Tennessee State University is partnering with Tri-State and Keywood Animal Clinic to conduct a Breeding Soundness Exam for local cattlemen on Saturday, March.
The exam is scheduled to be held at the Johnson County Livestock Association Cattle Handling Facility located inside the Chamber Park in Doe.
Suzanne Robinson from Keywood Animal Clinic is coming to conduct the bull’s breeding soundness tests.
Testing bulls can help reduce the risk of spreading unwanted diseases or genetic issues and help increase higher pregnancy rates to help with cattle production and increased profit.
According to the University of Tennessee’s Extension Veterinarian, Lew Stickland, “failure to properly evaluate bulls before and during the breeding season can result in huge economic losses…a bull’s fertility can be considered fertile, sub-fertile, or sterile.”
The cost of testing is $45.00 per bull.
However, Tri-State Growers Co-Op is providing a $10 sponsorship per bull to help cover part of the cost for testing. The testing fee is $35 per bull.
Once the test is complete, all bulls that receive a satisfactory score for breeding purposes will also receive vaccinations and deworming at no additional cost.
BVD-PI testing is also available for an additional $15, and it is a great deal for those hoping to breed their bull this season.
Tests are scheduled through the UT/TSU Extension office that can be reached at (423)-727-8161. Those interested can stop by the office, located at 212 College Street.
For more information or additional questions, please contact the Extension office.
UT Extension serves the citizens of Johnson County with educational programs in the areas of Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences, Community Resource Development, and 4-H Youth Development.
The office has a wealth of research-based publications, addressing virtually any issue related to the home or farm.
Johnson County 4-H is the largest youth serving organization in the county working with 900-1,000 youth annually in grades 4-12. The Mountain City
office is an outreach branch of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and Tennessee State University, providing research-based solutions and information to the citizens of Tennessee.
Extension is an educational organization, funded by federal, state and local governments, that brings research-based information about agriculture, family and consumer sciences, resource development and youth to the people of Tennessee.

Hansen wins Belgard Project Excellence Award

This normal backyard transformed into a great outdoor space. Photo by Ricky Hansen

By Meg Dickens

Mountain View Nursery Hardscaping Manager Ricky Hansen recently won the Belgard Project Excellence Award for hardscaping work on an outdoor space in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Hansen specializes in hardscaping and irrigation at Mountain View Nursery. He is a Tennessee Tech graduate, ICPI (Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute) Level II certified installer, NCMA (National Concrete Pavement Institute) certified SRW (Segmental Retaining Wall) Installer and certified commercial pesticide applicator. Hansen continues to attend classes to maintain and attain additional certifications. He is also a Belgard Certified Contractor, Belgard Premiere Power Manufacturer and the winner of Belgard’s Most Outstanding Project Award in 2016.
“It gives me a sense of pride knowing that the things I’m creating are getting recognized,” said Hansen. “ It makes me want to keep going and do a better job.”
These types of projects are a team effort between the hardscaping and landscaping teams. The hardscaping team consists of Manager Ricky Hansen, Technician Logan Church and Technician John Kidd. The landscaping team consists of Manager Cody Graybeal, Foreman Tony Church, Technician Nathaniel Meyer, Technician Daniel Branch and new member Jesse Compton.
Owner Harvey Burniston, Jr. is involved in all aspects.

The hardscaping crew takes two classes per year on walls and pavers for certification purposes. The classes put the crew on Belgard’s radar. Hansen sent in photos of this project for recertification, and district Belgard officials chose the project as a winner from there. Mountain View Nursery falls into the Southeast category competing against professionals in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
The property is designed to function as three separate living spaces. There is a patio and kitchen area, a fireplace and relaxing area and a place to gather. According to owner Jackie Kimball, the area continues to grow even more beautiful. “Everything they did was up to the highest standard,” said Kimball. “They were very professional and mindful of their surroundings. You can tell they are truly trying to please the client.”
Hansen is currently working on a project near Highway 321. He plans to help with Mountain View Nursery’s new location afterward. The Home and Garden Center will occupy the old Wiley’s Body Shop location on Highway 421.The nursery and display gardens will be around back. Customers will be able to walk around and see what they might want. Employees can then make suggestions based on experience.
Burniston plans on opening the new location on April 1 to the right of the Garden Barn. There is no reason to fear conflict between the two businesses. Garden Barn’s Bob Pardue suggested the space to Burniston. They plan on the two businesses complimenting each other.
Customers will be able to buy their flowers and vegetable plants from the Garden Barn and then head to Mountain View Nursery to look at fruit trees, shrubbery and landscaping ideas.
Keep an eye out for a possible grand opening this April. As Hansen says “always go bigger and better.”

Keywood Animal Clinic to conduct breeding soundness test

By Sarah Ransom

The University of Tennessee/Tennessee State University is partnering with Tri-State and Keywood Animal Clinic to conduct a Breeding Soundness Exam for local cattlemen on Saturday, March.
The exam is scheduled to be held at the Johnson County Livestock Association Cattle Handling Facility located inside the Chamber Park in Doe.
Suzanne Robinson from Keywood Animal Clinic is coming to conduct the bull’s breeding soundness tests.
Testing bulls can help reduce the risk of spreading unwanted diseases or genetic issues and help increase higher pregnancy rates to help with cattle production and increased profit.
According to the University of Tennessee’s Extension Veterinarian, Lew Stickland, “failure to properly evaluate bulls before and during the breeding season can result in huge economic losses…a bull’s fertility can be considered fertile, sub-fertile, or sterile.”
The cost of testing is $45.00 per bull.
However, Tri-State Growers Co-Op is providing a $10 sponsorship per bull to help cover part of the cost for testing. The testing fee is $35 per bull.
Once the test is complete, all bulls that receive a satisfactory score for breeding purposes will also receive vaccinations and deworming at no additional cost.
BVD-PI testing is also available for an additional $15, and it is a great deal for those hoping to breed their bull this season.
Tests are scheduled through the UT/TSU Extension office that can be reached at (423)-727-8161. Those interested can stop by the office, located at 212 College Street.
For more information or additional questions, please contact the Extension office.
UT Extension serves the citizens of Johnson County with educational programs in the areas of Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences, Community Resource Development, and 4-H Youth Development.
The office has a wealth of research-based publications, addressing virtually any issue related to the home or farm.
Johnson County 4-H is the largest youth serving organization in the county working with 900-1,000 youth annually in grades 4-12. The Mountain City
office is an outreach branch of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and Tennessee State University, providing research-based solutions and information to the citizens of Tennessee.
Extension is an educational organization, funded by federal, state and local governments, that brings research-based information about agriculture, family and consumer sciences, resource development and youth to the people of Tennessee.

Plant trees on annual Tree Day

By Tamas Mondovics

Tennessee residents are invited to beautify their properties and their communities by planting trees on 250K Tree Day, scheduled for March 23, 2019.
According to officials, trees are now available to order for a $1 donation per tree, while supplies last through March 17, by visiting the event website at www.tectn.org/250KTreeDay.
This year’s event is organized by Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC) in its effort to maintain a healthy tree canopy in communities across Tennessee. Tree species include Red Oak, Red Bud, Pine and Plum or similar fruit variety.
TEC has planted over 540,000 trees since 2007 fulfilling the mission to educate and advocate for the conservation and improvement of Tennessee’s environment, communities, and public health.
“We are thrilled each year to be able to offer low-cost trees for the people of Tennessee to beautify their properties and participate in the largest community-tree-planting event in America,” said Jeffrey Barrie, Interim CEO for Tennessee Environmental Council, and one of the event organizers.
The event is sponsored by numerous funders and agencies, including the Memorial Foundation, the Lyndhurst Foundation, Cumberland River Compact, MTEMC’s Sharing Change, Bridgestone, Bass Pro Shops & TVA.
“This event typically draws tens of thousands of volunteers who plant their trees at their homes, farms, businesses, neighborhoods, and other locations of their choosing,” Barrie said.
Residents are urged to be sure to pick up their trees as ordered on the dates and locations published on the event website.

Everyone Can Make a Difference: Recycle

By Sarah Ransom

Everyone is looking to make a difference in the world, and the best part about making an impact on the world around us, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either.
Making a difference can be as simple as saving up paper and recycling it. Not only does this impact the environ-

ment, but the recycled paper also affects the sustainability of the land, forests, and resources.
Over the last school year, the Johnson County 4-H children in 4th-6th grade have been making a difference by collecting any recyclable paper materials from their schools and turning it in as a community service project.
To date students from Mountain City Elementary, Roan Creek Elementary, Doe Elementary, Laurel Bloomery Elementary, and Shady Valley Elementary have collected and recycled 756 pounds of paper.
While these children may not be able to donate thousands of dollars for saving the planet, they can save paper.
Recycled paper can be made into many products used in everyday life, as well as impact life on the farm.
Recycling papers, plastics, and aluminum can go into making mulch, plastic buckets, egg cartons, cardboard boxes for shipping, office papers, playgrounds, animal bedding, napkins, plates and so much more.
Green America states, “From protecting forests to curbing climate, recycled paper use is essential for sustainability.”
A large part of protecting the natural resources is in the forests.
Recycled paper saves the trees, reduces water waste and allows for cleaner air and healthier soil and people.
Recycling paper not only protects the environment, but it saves energy for other uses.
Recycling is not the only way to make an impact on the resources around you.
Reducing the waste products and reusing anything with multiple purposes can help save natural resources and put them to their best use.
A look around and one can see how to make a difference with items used daily.
Making small changes
today impacts your tomorrow.
Source: Green America, Save Trees and Recycled Paper (2018).

UT plant scientists reveal list of influential florae

Staff note: Agriculture is a large part of rural areas like Johnson County. School years falling in sync with harvest times is one example of how agriculture has shaped current ways of life in the area. Experts from the University of Tennessee recently led a project to discover which plants had a substantial role in shaping Tennessee.

Whether walking through fields of high cotton or “sangin’ in the hills,” Tennesseans know plants are the state’s lifeblood. Two experts with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture recently led a project choosing the 10 plants that most shaped the state: American chestnut, beans (several varieties), corn, cotton, dogwood, ginseng, grasses (prairie and turf), tobacco, white oak, and, of course, kudzu.

The order of the list is incidental. While monetary value or cost came into play, the project weighed other factors as well, including each selection’s historical influence on the state. Here are a few of the reasons each plant was chosen:

American chestnut
It’s been nearly a century since a fungus eradicated this king of the forest, but the widespread and majestic tree was so valued for timber and wildlife that though gone, it still stands out in the state’s culture and history.
Beans
(several varieties): Snap beans, pole beans, soybeans
Several varieties of beans are endemic to Tennessee history. From pioneer days to this day, bean crops have been important to farmers, home gardeners and the state’s food industry.

Corn
West Tennesseans view corn mainly as an agronomic centerpiece, but in East Tennessee the plant conjures up images of grits and cornpone that were dietary staples. All across the state it’s associated with legal and historically illegal distillery operations.

Cotton
More than 300,000 acres of our state are devoted to cotton production yearly. As a fiber, cotton is used in virtually every type of clothing. As a food, its seed is crushed for oil and meal that is used to feed livestock and for human food products.

Dogwood
Found naturally across many Tennessee counties, dogwood, is among the state’s favorite trees. Many festivals celebrate its spring blooms. In nursery production, which centers in Middle Tennessee, our state ranks first in dogwood production.

Ginseng
This native herbaceous perennial plant has been harvested and used or sold for hundreds of years. It is entwined in the history of eastern Tennessee and our deciduous forests.

Grasses
(prairie and turf)
Tennessee was once a complicated and diverse mosaic of many different types of plant communities which included forest and some of the most diverse prairie systems on the planet. Bison once roamed these prairies. As for turfgrasses, everyone knows they have become an integral part of our lives. Our lawns and playgrounds are covered with them. The estimated acreage of turfgrass in Tennessee is somewhere north of 1 million acres.

Tobacco
Though its recent history is clouded, tobacco was one of the earliest crops planted by settlers in Tennessee and has shaped the state’s economy and health since Tennessee joined the Union.

White Oak
As long as there has been people in Tennessee, they have been relying on white oaks for survival and income. We use it to build our houses and it graces our hearths as fuel on cold winter nights.

Kudzu
Easily recognizable by almost anyone in Tennessee, kudzu is among the invasive plant species that damage our natural environment.

Natalie Bumgarner and Andy Pulte of the Department of Plant Sciences at the UT Institute of Agriculture spent much of 2018 developing the list. More than 600 nominations were submitted, and submissions were open to the public. Together with a panel of other UTIA experts in a range of fields, all the nominations were weighed, and each nomination’s significance was carefully considered to develop the final list of 10 plants that most shaped the history of the state.

Pulte reflects on the process. “Every plant on this list is important. Some of them I could have guessed. However, there were a few surprises that could not be ignored, especially with the number of Tennesseans who nominated them.”

Each nomination was evaluated within the context of its contributions to the state’s history and economy, and its value to society spiritually or culturally, or its uses in the landscape or as a food. The pair intend to use the project to influence future curricula for elementary schools and other initiatives.

“For those in agriculture, it is easy to have a singular perspective about plants, but when the list is considered, impacts are incredibly extensive,” Bumgarner explains. “There is a selection on the list for those interested in plant sciences, ornamental horticulture, forestry and wildlife, environmental studies, natural resource economics, and so much more.”

Pulte adds, “People see more plants than any other organism in their lifetime. Plants have the ability to influence you in a variety of ways: mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Bringing an awareness to a sort of plant-blindness is at the heart of this project.”

The influence of particular plants has varied with societal changes. Bumgarner continues, “Some plants that were lucrative for agricultural producers may not be important anymore and vice versa. For example, a relative newcomer on the agricultural scene in Tennessee, soybeans entered into wide-scale production only in the past half century or so. Today soybeans thrive in Tennessee fields and the crop is among the state’s most valuable commodities.”

Because the list had to be balanced, both beneficial and negative aspects of nominated plants were considered.

Bumgarner comments, “We did look at popular row crops, but there are invasive plants on the list, and some with complex or negative aspects of their histories.”

The project broadened from an exploration of Tennessee life to cultivating an appreciation of nature. Pulte expounds, “Every one of the plants on the list has shaped the lives of those who call this state home. Plants do make it possible for us to live here on Earth. Even the air we breathe is made possible because of plants.”

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

Budget-friendly shopping tips

By Sarah Ransom

We all make trips to the grocery store. Some of us visit the farmers market, and some just grow their own food in gardens and greenhouses. Living in rural areas, we have a wider variety of options when it comes to food availability. However, just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s always affordable for the families needing to feed their members.
There are some easy tips to keep in mind when it comes to grocery shopping and trying to stretch your dollars.

•Meal planning is key. Planning out your meals on a weekly basis is helpful. If you get really motivated, you can plan on a monthly basis. If you know what your food budget is for the month, divide that by the weeks, and you will know what financial resources you have to work with to feed your family. As you make your meal plan, be sure to check the sale papers and prepare your meal around what has the best price option for your family. Many groceries stores and retail chains will match sale prices – so be sure to ask.
Look for coupons. While ten cents may not seem like a big deal on its own, when you add it with a bunch of others you can save several dollars, which means significant savings over the course of a month.

•Check prices. There are several ways you can save on pricing outside of coupons. One way to do this is to check between fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Choosing canned or frozen fruits and vegetables can help save money during times when fresh foods are not in season. Canned and frozen options have many of the same nutrients and can be found lower costs when foods are not in season. Be sure to check the unit pricing on the foods you are purchasing. Sometimes selecting smaller or larger quantities can be cheaper. Also, do not be afraid to eat the store brand, they are frequently made by the same companies but offered at a much-reduced cost.
Before shopping, be sure to check your pantry, freezer, and fridge before purchasing new foods. Having a few staple items on hand can help stretch the food you are buying. Beans, rice, and potatoes are just a few things that provide a lot of nutrients while staying on a budget.
Lastly, check into your local resources. The Farmers Markets provide matching SNAP dollars, which can allow you to maximize dollars for some fresh foods. Food banks also help offer some staple items to complete your meals with vital nutrients. Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t eat good, well-balanced meals.