Archive | Gardening Tips and Tricks

Edible Landscaping

Blueberry blooms in my backyard

My wife and I love blueberries! We always go picking each year and bring home pounds and pounds of blueberries – all of which are eaten within a few days. As we looked at our small back yard, we got to thinking, “I wonder what it would take to plant some blueberry bushes in our backyard.” We were working on landscaping the backyard and were going to purchase some shrubs anyways.

So, instead of putting in traditional landscaping shrubs, we put in 11 blueberry bushes. Now, each year we get to go picking in our backyard and enjoy the benefits of edible landscaping. Each Fall, the blueberry bushes turn fiery red and orange for a beautiful splash of fall color. In the Spring, little white bell shaped flowers cover the bushes as we anticipate another harvest of blueberries.

Blueberry bushes lining our patio

You can do edible landscaping too. All it takes is some planning and planting. I would suggest using both annuals (you can mix lettuce, cabbage, and kale into your landscaping) and some perennials (blueberries and raspberries). Add a dwarf apple tree and a little herb garden and you will be eating your yard all summer long!

The other day I was reading a great website on edible landscaping. Rosalind is one of the pioneers of edible landscaping and she has some great tips and tricks on how to get started. She also has some great pictures of her own house – pretty incredible! Check it out by following this link: (www.rosalindcreasy.com).

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Pears on the way

As you might know we’ve been pretty excited about the upcoming tomato crops.  The tomato starts at our house survived the freakish hailstorm that blasted the Portland Metro area on Friday.  But to keep the blog from turning into “TomatoFarm.com” I thought I’d report on what seems like an upcoming bumper crop of pears.

Pear Blossoms

Pear Blossoms

Quite honestly, I had not been paying much attention to our two trees growing along our side yard until today when I noticed a huge burst of white blossoms that seemed to appear from nowhere.  Our main tree is comprised of four varieties of pears:  D’Anjou (winter storage pears); Bartlett; Bosc; and Seckel.  My wife planted a second tree last year and it too has blossoms.  However, I do not expect too much fruit since most trees take a few years before they are producers.  Though if last year is any indicator, we will have more than enough to share with friends from just the one tree.

A couple of things to keep in mind while growing pears.  According to the Washington State University Extension, the “Pear Psylla is, by far, the key pest. The species, Cacopsylla pyricola (Foerster), is particularly suited to the climate and pear production systems of the region, and is a constant threat to fruit quality and tree health.”  Apparently they have become pesticide resistant, so constant vigilance is a must.

Pear psylla

Pear psylla

Another problem to watch for is pear blight. We were hit by this when the tree was young though it seems to have become more resistant over the years.  Pear blight, or Erwinia amylovera, is a “severe bacterial disease for virtually all pear cultivars, particularly in warm, wet springs. The bacteria are carried by bees from tree to tree at bloom, and can kill all or most of the flowers on a tree if severe,” according to FruitCrops.com.  We’ve sprayed blossoms in the past and this seems to help.

Pear Blight
Pear Blight

 

All in all, we have been pretty lucky and raising these home crops have been effortless.  Many root stocks are available now in local garden centers and nurseries.  If you have the space, I’d very much recommend planting a tree or two in your yard.  The results are well worth it.

 

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Planting Tomatoes – Best Kept Secrets

Sungold Tomatoes

A couple of years back I learned a trick from a magazine that Al’s Garden Center puts out. It had to do with how to plant a tomato start. I had always known that it was helpful to wait till a tomato was about 12 inches tall before it was transplanted from the container to the garden bed. I had also known that it was important to bury about 80% of the plant when it is transplanted because tomatoes will grow roots from any part of the stem that is under ground. More roots equals more surface area to take in nutrients.

Planting a tomato start in a trench

But, what I didn’t know was that it is actually best to dig a small trench, about 4-6 inches deep and bury the tomato plant almost horizontally in the trench with just the top inch or so sticking out of the ground. Trench planting of a tomato plant has a couple of advantages. First, it allows for the stem to grow a root system that will be close to the surface, soaking up more water and nutrients more efficiently. Secondly, (and this is super important for those living in an area with a shorter growing season) trench planting of a tomato plant helps the plant mature quicker because the roots are near the surface of the garden bed where the soil is much warmer.

The last tip that was listed in the magazine article was specifically for growing tomatoes in a climate like Portland’s. They advised not watering the tomato plants after July 4th. The strategy behind this is that a tomato plant goes in to full fruit production stage when it gets less water. If you keep watering the tomato plant, it will just keep growing more leafy stems and not necessarily produce as much fruit.

So, there you have it. Give it a try this season and let us know how it goes. The last 2 years I have grown Sungold Tomato plants that are at least 6-8 feet tall and produced more golden tomatoes than a small village could eat.

Source article link from Al’s Garden Center: A Tomato Tale

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