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Small Fruits Thrive in Georgia Home Gardens


Photo: SRSFC

Tara is one of the biggest bronze muscadines.
Things wouldn't be quite so sweet for shoppers and home fruit growers today without the Georgia legislature's farsighted action in the 1940s.

For six decades now, Georgia has had muscadine and blueberry breeding programs. The results are thriving muscadine and blueberry industries and a great number of excellent cultivars for home gardeners.

This year, farm gate sales of blueberries and muscadines topped $20 million. These small fruits provided much-needed income for struggling family farmers.

Both muscadine and rabbiteye blueberries thrive in Georgia's hot, humid climate. They can usually be grown with great success without pesticides in home gardens.

Top Muscadine Picks

My top picks for large muscadine grapes to plant in 2001 and 2002 are Tara (bronze fruit), Cowart (black), Scarlett (red), Summit (pinkish bronze) and Supreme (black).

These should work everywhere in Georgia except in the high mountains. In the high mountains, American bunch grapes, such as Niagara or Fredonia, are a better choice in the home garden. (See your county Extension Service agent for a publication on this.)

Rabbiteye blueberries thrive all over the state. Plant early-, mid- and late-season cultivars for extended ripening.

Top picks for early season are Austin, Premier and Climax. Austin is new and might be hard to find this year. The best midseason choice is Brightwell. Late-season picks are Tifblue, Powderblue and Centurion. If you're in a frosty spot, go with Brightwell, Tifblue, Powderblue and Centurion.


Photo: CAES File Photo

Bigger than a quarter, Kiowa blackberries thrive in Georgia gardens.
Best Blackberries

Besides these fruits, a breeding program for blackberries in Arkansas is producing cultivars we can use with great success in Georgia.

The ones that are doing best in Georgia are Kiowa and Chickasaw (very big fruit on thorny bushes) and Arapaho (medium fruit on thornless bushes). Kiowa and Chickasaw do well statewide, while Arapaho does better in north Georgia than in south Georgia.

Fall-planted strawberries do well in Georgia, too, but this is a project for next September. In the fall, plug plants are available from several Georgia producers. (See your county agent for a source and a publication on the subject.)

The Chandler and Camarosa cultivars from California are the best I've seen for this project. Georgia now has about 45 pick-your-own strawberry producers, and the strawberry harvest is here. Your county agent can give you a list of farms near you.

(Gerard Krewer is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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