Archive for the ‘Fruit’ Category

Castles and Spuds

IMG_0310Here is another photo of the blueberry castle all finished. The last post had a photo taken before it was done.

Also I’ve attached a photo of my wee potato box. My brother gave me two potatoes from his kitchen that had sprouted. One is a sweet potato and one is a russet. I planted the sprouted eyes in one of the garden boxes. Today I created a small box so I could build up the soil around the sprouts. As they grow up I have another bottomless box that will go on top to deepen the growing area. Maybe I will get a couple spuds!

IMG_0308I cut the grass and watered today. It is hot today (89F) and muggy. It was so muggy I retreated indoors. I hate the heat and hate muggy heat all the more. I could never live in a humid climate.

We are usually spared excessive humidity here but when it comes it saps all my energy.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Blueberry Castle

IMG_0259

Lawn & Blueberries

We have six blueberry plants in our back yard. Two are early bearing, two are mid-season and two are late bearing. We are not the only ones however who love the blueberries. We have many birds, especially scrub jays, who love the blueberries. Thus I must cover the berries with bird netting to save some for us to eat.

The first couple of years I put up PVC pipe hoops over the berry plants and draped the netting over that. That worked but was less than satisfactory. It did not look very nice and the hoops did not always remain vertical. The biggest problem was that it was hard for me to get to the blue berries.

Last weekend I replaced the hoops with the wooden structure shown in the photo on this page. It will allow for more growth of the plants, it makes it easier for me to roll up the netting to get to the berries and I hope it looks better overall. And, I got to do some wood working which I very much enjoy.

The photo of the “castle’ below is before I removed the hoops – they are gone now.

IMG_0305The blue berries have done well this year and we have had a good crop. This is their third season and they have prospered. I will actually have to prune them some this fall.

The Cycle Begins Anew

For me the gardening cycle begins every year when the first seed catalogue arrives. This is when I give the first serious thoughts to what the garden will look like next summer.

Happily I opened my mail box last Friday to find the Territorial Seed Co. seed catalogue. As I turn the pages dozens of ideas come to mind. I could plant that this year… that would look great in the corner of the yard… I have not grown those for some time, etc.

Of course I have to reign it in. I do not have room for everything I’d like to plant. This is, remember, My Little Organic Garden. Not counting the blueberry patch, the herb garden and the dedicated asparagus box I have 128 square feet of vegetable space divided into three raised boxes. The space is rather ideal for me though some of the area does not get enough sun.

We removed a large pampas grass plant from the SE corner of our yard last fall and that has opened an area of just under 100 square feet that we could add to vegetable gardening. It gets more sun than most of my existing area. I would be ideal for tomatoes, peppers and other heat lovers. Planning that area has occupied my mind for months now.

But what to plant? That is the question. It must be things we will eat. I know I want to plant at least one zucchini plant this year. They take a lot of space but I am making soups these days and zucchini is a staple for them. I will keep the staples we use often: beans, peas, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and spinach. I’d like to again plant beets and carrots. I will also bring back some kale.

If I can make room in the new space I would like to add some raspberries and maybe some Marion berries or Logan berries. I would also like to add at least two dwarf fruit trees. Already I’ve exceeded my space.

For January I will plan away. I will draw out the planting schemes and plan for succession planting more actively than last year. Should I add new raised boxes in the new space or just garden in the ground? I am thinking I may just garden in the ground in that space in beds only slightly raised. Drainage there is good and as I mentioned it gets lots of sun so boxes are not needed.

I also want to make changes in the herb garden. I will pull out some old herbs that are out of control and plant new ones. I’d like to have at least four or five basil plants this year. I will keep the existing rosemary and thyme but add new oregano and others.

So much to ponder and plan. Second to harvesting and eating my favorite part of gardening is the planning.

Happy New Year to all and looking forward to a great garden in 2017.

Happy Gardening,
Dan Murphy

The Grass is Always Greener

preserves

goodfoodawards.org

You never appreciate what you have until you no longer have it.

When I was a child we ate store-bought food only when we could not grow it ourselves. We kept chickens so we had eggs. We harvested fruit in summer to make jams and jellies. We preserved all manner of vegetables. It was the most wholesome food I would ever eat and I never appreciated it enough.

Childhood’s Harvest

We had chickens throughout much of my childhood. They delivered lovely little brown eggs with yolks as dark and rich as I’ve ever seen. I thought they were a sign of our poverty. Well to do people bought large white eggs at the store. How lucky they must be to have those large white eggs. How could I know that those little brown eggs we had were more nutritional and tastier than the eggs from the store?

My mother canned a lot. Jams made of blackberries, strawberries, plums, raspberries, loganberries, and jelly from grapes. She canned cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, spiced apples, apple sauce, and various vegetables. She made tomato sauce and canned that. She made spaghetti sauce and canned that. She made all kinds of pickles, including a wonderful pickled watermelon rind and canned that.

I did appreciate these canned foods. They always tasted so good. (I was never a big fan of grape jelly though). But I was keenly aware that people with money bought all these things in fancy jars in the store and that must have been better, or so I thought.

Adulthood’s Realizations

Many decades later as an adult I came to understand what an amazing blessing we had with all those home grown foods. I now buy at farmer’s markets, from farms directly and I look for foods like little brown eggs in the store that come closer to what I grew up with. I also grow my own foods when I can. I can fruit and make jam.

I buy these things in the store when I have to and I enjoy them, but store bought food is never as good as the food you grown yourself. It is not as fresh, it is not as tasty, it is not as bright and colorful. Transport, storage, handling and time all take its toll on food in the store. Preserves in the store just do not have the same taste as homemade. Why? I am not at all sure.

I find this fascinating actually that what I thought was inadequate as a child I now value as superior. It is also kind of funny. Except the joke is on me. Children cannot fully appreciate what they have because they do not enough life experience to compare what they have with the alternatives.

Before I leave this I need to thank my mother for the long hours standing in the kitchen, often over a hot stove, in the hottest weather of summer, with no air conditioning by the way, putting up dozens of jars of preserves and making crock after crock of pickles.

Thank you mom for all of that.

Happy Gardening,
Dan Murphy

Jay’s Blueberry Breakfast

Jay's Blueberry Breakfast

Jay’s Blueberry Breakfast

Next time someone calls you a bird brain, be proud.

Last year I planted six blueberry plants in a box in the middle of the back yard. This year three of those plants are loaded with berries. Our yard is a bird haven and so I knew I had to protect these gems from the birds. So, I draped bird netting over four sticks to cover the plants as soon as the berries appeared in June.

The netting did not totally reach down to the ground all the way around. In one place there is a two foot gap between the netting and the ground. I hoped the birds would not figure that out, or would be so intimidated with all that draped netting that they would not go near it. I knew I might be wrong and time would tell.

I underestimated the Jay. In my area we have scrub jays. They are noisy, large, aggressive birds. They chase away other birds, something I do not like. However over time the jays in my area have come to live with their feathered cousins better than a few years back. Despite their behaviors I like the jays. They are smart and fun to watch.

On Friday last my wife texted me late in the morning with the photo on this page. This jay perched on the back of the chair you see at left and carefully examined this blueberry quandary. After checking it out visually he figured out quickly there was an opening he could enter and swooped down onto the planter box through that opening. He then hopped in and began having his blueberry breakfast.

When he was done he buried a few of the berries in the grass, a typical jay practice, and then flew up to the fence and squawked loudly. My wife believes he was telling all his fellow jays about the feast at hand. Maybe. I think he was announcing to the world how much smarter he was than a mere human.

The photo my wife took is of the jay as he left the box right before flying to the fence.

For this year I’ve decided to share my blueberries with the smart jays. Next year however they will not have a chance. I’ve already designed five panels of bird netting that will entirely cover and encircle the berries. The jay won’t have a way in. He will be frustrated no doubt and will likely squawk about it, but will have to go elsewhere for his breakfast.

Maybe, just maybe, I will be smarter than the jay.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Blueberries III

Blueberries-2014-1126The blueberries are now planted. They went in yesterday morning. I added the acid mix as I dicussed in the last post on this and then got the plants at U & D Nursery. They are very knowledgeable at U & D about blueberries.

I planted three varieties, two of each.

For an early bearing plant I chose Duke. They grow 4-6 ft at maturity. The fruit is described as very large and sweet. They usually bear fruit June-July. The fall foliage is orange and yellow.

For a mid season crop I chose Chandler. They grow 5-7 feet high at maturity and spread some. They bear July-August. The fall foliage is wine/orange.

Finally, for a late crop I chose Elliott. They are also 4-6 ft and bear in August-September. The fruit is described as large and tangy. The fall foliage is deep red/wine.

I discussed the spacing with the nursery staff. They thought I might get away with the space I have although it will be crowded. If it turns out too crowded I can always transplant a few to provide space. If that becomes necessary I will move a few of them to a boarder planting area. In any case I will have to prune them each year.

The first season the plants need to get established so I do not expect much fruit. In summer 2016 however we should have all we can use. The photo on this page shows them as they appear today. I cannot wait to taste those juicy berries!

Blueberries Part II

Blueberry Box

Blueberry Box

Progress continues with the blueberry project. I filled the raised planting box with fertile mix from U & D Nursery. This is their 50% compost 50% soil mixture. It is very rich soil. Later today I will test the soil. I expect it to have a pH of about 6. It should be 4.5 for good blueberry growth. On Tuesday I will get some of U&D’s acid mix – a mix of rotted sawdust and add that. It should bring the soil to a pH of 4.5, ideal for blueberries.

I will also get six plants: two early bearing, two mid season and two late bearing. This should give us ample berries for fresh use for about three months each spring/summer. We cannot expect a large yield the first year, but in a year or two we should have a good yield. It will be important to dress the bed with the acid mix, about 3 inches, each fall. This will protect the shallow roots of the plants and help protect them from frost.

Before planting I will till the area well making sure the amendments are well mixed in. After planting tilling is not recommended as it will damage the roots. Adding the acid mix and some fertilizer each year should keep things going well.

Photo on this post is the bed as it now looks before adding the acid mix and plants.

I can taste those berries already!