Spring 2015: How does your garden grow?
From time to time I've found that members like to share how their growing projects are going. Whether it's a report of how you Meyers Lemon made it through the winter indoors, how you seedlings or saplings are doing, or what you're planting on the patio: here is a place to share.
We especially seem to enjoy hearing about how you've expanded your existing garden (square foot, traditional, French intensive) and how your long-term plans are coming along. Share your successes and failures, and let's help each other learn as a community!
Is that your garden, Wendy? I've got garden-envy! Your greens are beautiful. We are only just now starting planting season as the snow and cold held on for so long in the north east.
Ok, so my big project so far this spring has been my blueberry bushes.
My first lesson with growing blueberry bushes a few years back is that you really can't just stick them in the ground and expect them to grow. They honest to God DO need acidic soil, just like all the books tell you! Yes, I have a brown thumb. So after years of watching my blueberry plants (not big enough to call "bushes") barely survive from year to year, with zero growth, I finally caught on and decided to move them to raised beds where I could better control the soil content.
So a couple weeks ago, I amended the soil in 2 of my raised beds with peat moss, which is supposed to be good for helping to make soil acidic. Hopefully I used the right amount (I'll probably find I need to pay attention to what the books say on THAT too!). I planted 8 blueberry plants I got from St Lawrence Nurseries, which I am sorry to say is closing after the spring deliveries so the owners can retire. I have appreciated being able to buy trees and berry bushes and grape vines from someone whose winters are similarly harsh to ours.
After that, I covered the earth with a few inches of leaves to help hold in the moisture and keep down the weeds, and layers of pine needles from nearby white pines (acidic). Fingers-crossed that I've got something going that will work.
I checked on the blueberries after a day or two with great hopes to find them thriving, only to discover that rabbits (or possibly deer) had chewed much of the new growth and stems down on all but a couple of the plants. Yes, the books are also right about needing to put fencing around the blueberry bushes! (Lesson 2: blueberry bushes really do need fencing to protect them from critters).
My first attempt at fencing-in the raised beds was to try to do the same kind of fencing that I have around my garden; by framing the garden with green metal posts that are made to hold wire fencing, and then wrap "hardware cloth" (dense fencing material) around it. But that didn't work; the ground where I have my raised beds has a very hard layer of stone or something not far beneath, and I couldn't get the fencing posts in deep enough to stand and be stable.
Next, I tried some plans I stumbled on about a week ago for making fence-boxes using PVC pipe and 90 degree PVC elbow joints with supports from http://www.grit.com/farm-and-garden/building-garden-fence-boxes.aspx. I used 1" pvc pipe and elbows for my first two fence boxes, because the 1" elbows with supports were, I thought, the smallest diameter (and therefore least expensive) choice available to me after striking out at local Lowes and Home Depot websites. This is what I eventually found at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MNIZM7I/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1. But it turned out when I went to my local Lowes DID have smaller diameter 90 degree elbows with supports: 1/2". So that is what I am going to use for my next set of boxes (much less expensive than the 1", but still not cheap).
The 2 boxes I made came out well, just like they show. I used zip ties to hold the fencing to the pipe, as was suggested by commentors at the end of the article for making the fence boxes. You can buy huge bags of them at Lowes. I think the job would have been a lot harder using bailing wire as the grit.com article showed, because I used a LOT of zip ties to prevent the rabbits from being able to sneak in. I do wonder about how well the zip ties will hold up to weather though.
My son helped me carry the fence box to the garden and it fit nicely. (Make sure to take into account the size added by the pvc joints when you measure!). The one problem is the box does not sit level on the ground, so rabbits could still squeeze underneath it. So I will have to dig down, around the interior edges of the raised beds, so the fence-box will sit snugly below ground, around the bushes. Hopefully this will work!
I do like the fact that I should be able to reuse these over and over again, and that they should be pretty easy to cover with bird netting some eons from now when I actually have blueberries for them to steal.
Ok, so now that I spent too much money on PVC pipe, and my finger tips are raw from tightening up zip ties all weekend, I am ready to learn the much easier and less expensive ways others know of to build fencing to protect your blueberry bushes!
Blueberries were some of the first things that we planted on our new property in St. Albans Vermont. I planted two Highbush plants, as well as one Patriot. We used peat moss and bone meal when we planted them, and they are all within a hop skip and a jump from the house. I have not put up any fencing to protect them, and here we are in the first week of May and each of them are starting to bud. Which is nice.
Thanks for the warnings are the critters…..
Maybe you won't have the same problem I had with the rabbits or whatever if your blueberries have made it this far into spring untouched.
I'm encouraged that you also used peat moss for your blueberries. Thanks also for mentioning the bone meal. I had to look up what that was for, and read it was good for adding phosphorous to the soil, which can help with berry formation. Good to know!
No, pinecar, that is not my garden – my camera broke and I just got a new one so photos soon. It's similar though.
Regarding blueberries: if they get off to a bad start they experts tell me they will never bear well, so my experience is to just replace them or add more bushes. Extra water and nitrogen when they are developing fruit is always good, though. I just put in a "pink lemonade" blueberry bush (t was a gift) and will have to add more since I shocked one years ago with wood ash (alkaline, I did not know any better) and planted the others in too much shade based on the bad advice of a volunteer at the local Ag coop office. I buy mine from Ty Ty Nursery in GA.
Here is what else we have this year, going from the northwest corner of our property counterclockwise. Our house faces west.
I've tried to concentrate on perennials and edible landscaping, so along with the not-happy-in-partial-shade blueberries, in the front yard we have an olive sapling and a new honey fig and a Chinese chestnut sapling (both in their 2nd year) – all very carefully planted so when they reach their final growth they will not interfere with each other. The old brown turkey fig had a rough winter but that will not slow its fruiting down much, if the leafing out is any indication. New blueberries will go along the front fence, as a hedge. Ginger is in a pot on the porch.
The southwest corner has two new Arapaho blackberry canes, chosen for their drought resistance. behind those is a muscadine grape trellis. Behind those along the fence on a slope are tiger lilies and then an asparagus patch. behind that is where we will plant either a dwarf pie cherry or a peach tree. Behind that is our mulberry tree, compost pile underneath, and behind that is a row of hazelnuts. Across from the mulberry the south side of the house has a long raised bed with a trellis. Currently this bed has cabbage, kale, radishes, beets and peas – all doing well. We bought a hen house but have not yet assembled it since a neighbor is providing eggs. We have an old beehive that needs cleaned and filled: another neighbor has a huge apiary though, so that is not a priority.
The back yard is not fully planted yet. It has 17 raised beds. One is currently producing strawberries, another walking onions that overwintered, another is producing lettuces interplanted with carrots, and one is full of perennial herbs: lavender, thyme, borage, celeriac (for parsley), and oregano. I will add sage and basil and cilantro/coriander to the herbs today.
The beds that were planted last weekend contain sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes), cucumbers, green peppers, banana peppers, and Kentucky wonder pole beans. Going in soon are bush beans–wax & blue lake green beans–as well as Hungarian bread seed poppies, tomatoes ( I have a volunteer seedling in the compost!) and okra – as well as annual flowers in a box I reserve as a draw for pollinators.
Back the landscaping/perennials: we have two apple trees whose tap roots seem to have finally hit and are taking off, and a peach tree that has to be removed. The entire side fence is covered with grapes. The cinnamon ferns I put in last year are coming up. We're in the process of putting in shiitake plugs in logs, and will move a trellis to put in more green beans. We are about to put tomato plants in fresh soil in tubs, since they get bacterial wilts here otherwise. Behind the fence in the woods we have a wild peach tree, a hickory nut tree, and have planted more Chinese chestnuts.
It's all humming! Off I go to add some purple-leafed basil, mainly for salads. So good!
Asparagus harvest is over in Texas. Irish potatoes are starting to blossom. We have had unprecedented rains this spring and wild flowers are going crazy. Probably the wettest spring since 1984. Have not put tee-tape drip lines out yet because it seems we get a rain every week. Last frost was march 20th more or less. Often we have an Easter frost. Fruit trees are loaded (due to no late frost), with peaches, plumbs, figs, apricots, and pears. Sweet potato slips (500) are coming from somewhere in Tennessee and should arrive for planting in about a month. Going to try a large crop of butternut squash for storage this year.
Most fun thing I'm going to try this season is a loofa tree. Going to put lots of finished compost around the base of a big tree and plant loofa gourds that can use the tree canopy as a trellis. It looks really cool. Will have to fence off the circle around the tree to keep out deer and other unwelcome guests.
Finally finished my greenhouse. Hope to publish an article about it and do seminars on passive greenhouse construction. Have an underground heat storage and transfer system and a cooling chimney effect that is working very well so far. Got through the project without a divorce, but it was close.
Yes! They need acid soil. You can acidify with sulfer (not aluminum sulfate) to get to your target pH. Apply wait, test, repeat as needed.I use cottonseed meal to fertilize each year.
They also need a good amount of water as they do not have the fine root hairs that other plants use to maximize surface area. Many recommend removing flowers for the first 2 -3 years to allow the plant to establish before producing fruit.
As far as bonemeal in the planting hole, I used to do this too until I found out it was a 'garden myth' and can be harmful.
Check this site out, you can impress you friends with your uncommon gardening knowledge!
We have had a mild winter with average rainfall here. The result has been an outstanding winter garden. I have recently harvested the onions and garlic. The onions are of exceptional quality this year. They should be fully cured in 2-3 weeks. The carrots are about 1/2 harvested, also of excellent quality. This weekend I will dig a few potatoes to see where we are. Historically we harvest them the first week of June.
Beans (green and wax) have not fared as well. We had a moist week during their germination, resulting in an unknown fungus. I replanted about half of them and doubled down with 2 more 20 foot rows. Peppers and tomatoes have been planted, but we will have to wait until late June for any meaningful production.
The fruit trees, including peaches, nectarines, and an aprium, had low to average sets. All have been thinned at least once. No bug damage yet.
Unlike our rainfall, the snow pack, source of our irrigation water, is at only about 10% of normal. We have about 10 acres and I am considering growing a winter grain (wheat, oats, or rye) and letting the ground lie fallow during the summer. One option I am checking out is a very drought tolerant legume (Tepary). Everything I have read indicated that a crop can be produced with 1 irrigation.
Blueberries are now planted here, but we have had issues with plants requiring acidic soils. One area of interest I have are drought tolerant permanent crops – mainly almonds and grapes. This is an area that has enormous potential and I suspect the larger treevine breeders are actively working on it.
I've had the problem of lifeless blueberry bushes for 2 years, also, so I appreciate the discussions above. I went to my local gardening supply store and found out that in this area the soil tends to be acidic naturally. No need to use spaghnum peat moss to acidify it here. I also was given cottonseed meal to fertilize with and told to water the blueberries more often during rainless spells. (We usually have afternoon thunder showers several times a week, but not always.)
I planted an apple tree today–dug a 4' diameter, 2' deep hole (Yes my back is killing me right now!) and filled it back with the Virginia red-clay soil that I dug out mixed 50:50 with hard wood mulch. Then dug a little depression in the center, removed the tree from the container and put the tree in the depression. I was careful to plant the tree so that the junction of the roots and trunk (which has a name….) was an inch above the ground. Then covered it with 4" of mulch and gave it a good thorough watering.
I brought 6 trees home from the nursery in 3 gallon containers the other day. If my back doesn't break, I'll plant the next one tomorrow. Hard work for us city-boys. 🙂
How to plant a tree from a container for any other city-boys and girls:
I have a about a 0.2 acre lot, so not a lot of room. Here is a 6 minute video of it a few weeks ago.
I have 11 fruit trees, 6 planted two years ago and 5 planted last spring. Most the berry bushes I planted last year. I have made two raised bed gardens put in earlier in 2015 for blueberries as well, which I augmented with sulfur (no soil tests just added a bunch of sulfur). I have four 4'x8' square foot gardens with a PVC grid that is the watering system as well (works really nicely). I fill them with mostly greens, peas, peppers, onions, carrots and such. I have a very long raised bed along the back wall (boarders a church) which has two older very large grape vines (planted previously to me being here) and I put all my tomatoes, squash, melons, and cucumbers in this raised bed. The vinery plants drape over the wall so everything turns green later in the year. Most of that stuff I am waiting until ~May 15 (last day of likely heavy frost). I got a lot of damaged plants planting a little too early last year so I am learning from that mistake!
Since this video I have planted 6 more grape vines (near the post on the newly build back door pergola), planted a pomegranate bush (a local nursery I trust had it and said they grow great here–zone 6), ten blueberry bushes (small sticks really), and three arctic kiwi plants (they almost died due to transplant shock but I think I saved them…maybe?)
I am using the space I have and doing what I can with it. I am in the mode of planting perennials as fast as possible so they can get established for this year.
Today I learned how to get an video on youtube (unlisted) so I could share this will you all in this post.
Wendy, thanks for asking the question; I am always lurking! I learn a lot from everyone else that takes time to post, and it inspires me. I hope I have something to add to inspire someone else as well!