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Posts Tagged ‘raspberries’

Early Summer in my Small Kitchen Garden

Black raspberries

My big garden project last spring included installing a bed of black raspberry plants. Rabbits ate about 1/3 of the plants last autumn—but just what was above ground. The roots are strong and new canes have emerged. Unfortunately, black raspberries produce fruit on canes that emerged in the previous season, so I won’t get a huge harvest this year. On the other hand, the harvest has begun! Immediately after capturing this photo, I ate the two darkest berries you see in it.

In January of this year, I learned I had pancreatic cancer. The tumor was removable, and I had an operation called a Whipple. A surgeon cut out the tumor, part of my pancreas, and my gall bladder, and re-routed my digestive tract, introducing challenges to eating.

With help from my wife, my kids, and friends, I’ve continued to garden, and things are in pretty good shape. However, just over three weeks ago I learned that my cancer has returned and spread. It’s incurable and I’m on a chemotherapy regimen I hope will buy enough time for our medical complex to come up with an effective way to keep the cancer in check—or maybe even cure it.

In the meantime, I’m gardening. Where many activities challenge my stamina or my ability to focus or both, when I’m in the garden I tend to keep working even if it means collapsing on the soil for a break or crawling from place-to-place to reduce the number of transitions from up to down and back.

I’ve chosen photos that show what’s up in my garden as summer gets started—nothing from the community garden; these are all growing at the Cityslipper Ranch. Captions fill in details. I hope your garden is doing well. I’m excited for what’s growing here, and I’d love to hear about what’s growing in your garden. Please leave a comment with details if you’re so inclined. Thanks for visiting!

First blueberry harvest of 2016

We have at least nine blueberry plants in our yard, and they’ve been beat up by rodents every winter for years. I finally got adequate protection around them, and this year the plants show promise of developing into actual blueberry bushes. At best, we’ll score a few hundred berries; these are the first. I was chewing on them seconds after I snapped the photo: so sweet and delicious.

Cinquefoil blossom

At some garden center last summer I found a potted cinquefoil in the “oops, we forgot to water it” bin. I think I paid a dollar and I set the plant in a decorative bed next to raspberries I’d planted with my wife in mind (she loves raspberries on her morning cereal). I had no idea cinquefoil produces blooms—though why wouldn’t it? The plant shows vitality, and the first blossom it produced is gorgeous.

First raspberries of 2016

Those raspberries I planted for my wife? Here are the first to ripen… but Stacy beware! It’s not icing on that raspberry. A bird managed a direct hit. The raspberry plants are growing strong, and next year’s harvest should be impressive. This year’s should be about right for many weeks of cereal bowl berries and they’ve started ripening at the right time: Stacy has been traveling in the Philippines for three weeks and arrives home this weekend.

Fig trees regrowing from roots

This is the third season for my fig trees. Their first winter was amazingly cold and I hadn’t gotten the trees under cover before they froze back to the soil line. They rebounded last year and tried to make figs—which all froze before they were ripe enough to harvest. This winter, I got the plants under cover early but made a silly mistake: The tent I made to prevent freezing also kept moisture from reaching the soil. My fig trees dried out… but not as badly as they’d frozen two winters ago. They’re putting out a lot of new growth, some of it from last year’s growth more than a foot above the soil line. I doubt there will be figs to harvest this season, but perhaps with one more winter under cover (and properly watered), these fig trees will have a fighting chance to produce fruit.

Young fredonia grapes

Two summers ago, I found a beat down Fredonia grape plant priced very low at a local garden center. I failed to plant the vine, and it languished through winter and looked dead when the snow melted. Last year, near the first day of summer, I noticed growth on that beleaguered grape vine. I planted it at the end of my black raspberry bed and it grew strong. This spring, it erupted with new growth and it holds many small bunches of young grapes. If things go well, there may be a few pounds of Concord-like grapes to harvest in September. This spring, my wife and I planted four additional grape vines next to the black raspberries: Riesling, Zinfandel, Pinot Gris, and Cabernet Sauvignon, all grafted onto American grape root stock. Perhaps by summer’s end I’ll have erected a trellis to hold the vines as they mature in future seasons.

Wando peas

My wife prepared the soil, and I planted three 13 foot long double-rows of peas at the beginning of April. My wife erected the trellises with some difficulty and it’s hard to tell whether the trellises are holding up the pea plants or the pea plants are holding up the trellises. More troubling: a rabbit came and went as it pleased and ate at least half a row of pea plants before I repaired the fence enough to slow it down (it has since given birth to three rabbit puppies inside the well-fenced planting bed… go figure). Despite the problems, the pea plants are at full height—they’ve grown three feet above the tops of the four-foot-tall trellises and fallen back—and they’re producing well. I made a vat of new potatoes and peas a few days ago and we’ve eaten through it, and I froze about 3 quarts of peas yesterday. Tomorrow I expect to harvest about a half gallon of pea pods which should be enough to make another vat of new potatoes and peas. (Here’s how I make this iconic Pennsylvania Dutch delicacy: New Potatoes and Peas)

French Gold Filet Pole beans from Renee's Garden

I planted climbing beans two weekends ago, and many have sprouted. I’ll fill the empty places with more seeds this weekend. “Pole Filet Beans French Gold” from Renee’s Garden, are my favorite of all bean varieties—a tender, tasty wax bean that you don’t have to bend over to harvest.

Sundrop blossom

I told the story of my dad’s sundrops in a post titled A Patch of Sundrops. I’d collected several plants from his garden and left them in a bucket for more than TWO MONTHS! Finally, I planted them three weeks ago—a day or two after my wife left on her Philippines trip. The plants showed no sign of transplant shock and have already flowered… the photo shows the first blossom about four days ago. I trust rhizomes are already spreading underground and there will be a dense patch of these pretty yellow flowers under the apple trees within two years.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Early Summer in my Small Kitchen Garden

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Smart Pots® and Brazelberries®

Smart Pot with soil

A Smart Pot is a planter made of heavy fabric. Apparently, roots can grow through the fabric, but when they encounter air they naturally stop with minimal trauma to the plant. The first season I had a Smart Pot, I filled it on my deck with a mixture of topsoil and compost and planted it with cucumbers. The cucumbers didn’t impress; I’ve had way better results growing them in a planting bed. Quite possibly summer heat on the deck was too intense for cucumber plants.

In winter of 2011, a company called High Caliper handed out 15 gallon Smart Pots at a trade show in Boston, and I got to bring one home. The following spring, I unfurled the Smart Pot on my deck and combined garden soil and compost to fill it. I planted a single hill of cucumbers, and had a modest harvest; it wasn’t a brilliant success.

In 2012, Brazelberries introduced their new line of container-sized raspberry and blueberry plants. I was fortunate to get free samples at a trade show in autumn, and in October or November, I “fluffed” the soil in the Smart Pot and stirred in additional compost. I planted a single Brazelberries raspberry plant—a variety called Raspberry Shortcake.

In spring of 2013, the Raspberry Shortcake grew happily on my deck. And, by 2014 the plant was pushing up new canes that created a fairly impressive display in the Smart Pot. From what might have totaled six or seven fruit-bearing stems, we harvested several handfuls of tasty berries.

Smart Pot with one Brazelberries raspberry plant

In my second season with a Smart Pot, the folks behind Brazelberries gave me some plants to try. I set a single Raspberry Shortcake cane in the center of the Smart Pot and the plant thrived.

This season, the Smart Pot is chock-full of Brazelberries raspberry canes and there are flower buds everywhere. I’ve provided minimal care:

  • At the end of a growing season, I cut out canes that bore fruit that year.
  • I add organic fertilizer several times through the season.
  • I water if the container gets particularly dry.
  • I pull weeds if there are any; with the expanding mass of raspberry canes, few weeds get started.

My deck gets unpleasantly hot on sunny summer days, but the raspberry plants don’t seem to care; other plants stress out.

This is definitely one of the simplest and most satisfying projects in my small kitchen garden. I’m happy to encourage you: Plant a Smart Pot with Brazelberries raspberries. It will pay you back in about four seasons.

Ripening Brazelberries Raspberry Shortcake

In the Smart Pot’s third season, the Brazelberries Raspberry plant had produced six or seven canes. The canes produced flowers and then fruits most of which ended up in my wife’s cereal bowl.

Brazelberries Raspberry Shortcake in a Smart Pot

By late April of this year, about 17 raspberry canes were leafing out in the Smart Pot on my deck. Raspberry Shortcake canes are about 18 inches tall and free of thorns! It’s a pleasure to harvest from these little gems.

 

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Grubs and Birds

Nest of robin eggs

I didn’t stretch to capture this photo; the robin’s nest is at shoulder level where two paths converge in my yard.

A robin has nested in the spruce tree that stands just four feet from my compost heap. The spruce tree is quite large; the nest could be thirty or more feet above the ground—and it could be deep in the branches. But no!

The robin chose stress. It built at shoulder level on a branch you almost have to brush as you walk between the compost heap and the house—or as you step off the front porch taking the shortest path from the kitchen to the compost heap. To live as I’m accustomed, I pass within 18 inches of that nest several times a day—on some days I’m there ten or twenty times!

Future raspberry bed

I’m expecting 30 raspberry plants to arrive by mail some time this week. Since I didn’t start last fall when I should have, I cut in a planting bed. There’s already a raspberry plant in place—and a grape vine. This photo shows the line I stretched to guide my shovel as I removed sod.

Cutting in a new Planting Bed

I’m cutting in a new planting bed. I vowed never to do this: if I’m putting a bed in an existing lawn, I want to start four months ahead, lay down a weed barrier (cardboard or newspapers), and cover that over with compost, manure, or mulch. The approach turns the lawn into decent soil structure and nutrition while minimizing digging.

Here’s the challenge: you can’t just plan to start new beds this way, you actually have to create them four months before you plant in them. I didn’t. But I ordered raspberry plants anyway.

The plants will arrive this week. The bed (or beds) must be ready. I’ve only myself to blame: I’m cutting sod.

But this post isn’t about cutting sod and making a raspberry bed. It’s about grubs and birds.

Grubs from the lawn

Nearly every patch of sod I removed to make a planting bed for my raspberries exposed several grubs. This handful went onto a piece of cardboard along with others that I eventually offered in friendship to a robin.

Grubs in the Sod

I don’t take care of my lawn. My family mows the grass to keep it under the maximum length allowed by law. That is all.

My lawn is free-range. If it wants to fight off turf diseases, or root-damaging nematodes or insects, or burrowing animals, it is free to do so. If it’s thirsty during drought it is welcome to drive roots deep or to drink out of the dog’s dish. Heck, if it wants to fly south for the winter, it can go! I won’t even ask it to write.

Apparently, the lawn lacks motivation. When I started cutting my sod, I discovered it hosts a whole bunch of grubs! Supposedly, these grubs can damage a lawn. Far more importantly (to me): the adults the grubs will become may eat leaves of my food plants.

Robin on fence

The robin fled when I laid out grubs for her, but when she returned she paused on the garden fence to examine my friendship offering.

Making Friends with a Robin

If it hasn’t made sense so far, this post is about to come together (it still may not make sense). It dawned on me the annoying, shoulder-level robin might help dispose of grubs I unearthed while cutting sod.

So, as I worked, I collected grubs on a piece of cardboard. Then, when I wanted a break, I flipped a large planter upside down next to the compost heap and dumped the grubs onto it. The robin didn’t hang around to watch, but once I backed away, she returned and immediately spotted the bounty.

She was gorged by the time she returned to her nest, and I had a few photos… but I don’t think we truly bonded. Maybe it’s hard to build a relationship over grubs, or maybe I need to be more persistent. Whatever the case, the robin and I will be rubbing shoulders for many more weeks.

Robin enjoys grubs

The robin clearly enjoyed the grubs, but she gave no sign of appreciation. I don’t think we’re friends, but I’ll keep trying to win her over—or at least I’ll scare her out of her nest several times a day.

http://www.smallkitchengarden.net/gardening/grubs-and-birds

 

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