Glorious Blackberries

More Berries

It seems I can’t resist the call of sweet berries in the summertime!

I spied a blackberry plant on sale at my local grocery store. I just couldn’t resist. Reasonable price. Nice looking young thang.

And here it is, my very own Triple Crown thornless blackberry baby.

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FYI

The Triple Crown Blackberry Plant:

  • Grows medium sized, sweet fruit through the summer
  • Is thornless- we can all agree- that is a plus
  • Likes full sun
  • Is happy in USDA Zones 5-9
  • Will probably require some trellising and support

 

Trellising? Oh Dear!

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I have this bad habit of going to the nursery/grocery store/pharmacy/anywhere and purchasing plants. Just because I think they are pretty and beautiful and perhaps they will be yummy on my plate.

And then I get home. And I begin to research. And then I have to go back out and purchase soil amendments (my compost is still a-cooking). And then I get home. Amend the soil. Plant the stupid beautiful plant. Water the stupid beautiful plant. Fall in love with the stupid beautiful plant. Find out I have to buy a trellis for the stupid beautiful plant. And out I go again. All this with a toddler. She is mostly alongside digging or watering and being my gardening version of a wingman. She is awesome.

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Miss Toddler being my garden wingman

What Not to Do

My blackberry plant is finally in the ground- with some magical, acidifying organic… grey looking…. stuff… the lady at the nursery gave me for… free… Now that I’ve actually written that sentence- I’m a little worried. What on earth did I amend my soil with? The lady at the nursery was very helpful and she did say it was organic, but really that was a rookie mistake not knowing what I was amending my soil with.

Perhaps I’ll create a new category- “things not to do when you are learning how to ‘culture hortus’. Or however the Latin goes.”

What to do

  1. First, give your blackberry plant a nice talking to. Tell him/her (this variety is considered to be self-fertile) not to grow too fast or too crazy.
  2. Dig a hole about 1 foot by 1 foot and remove the plant from its pot gently.
  3. Put the plant in the hole.
  4. This step is important– add a soil amendment. When you do, it is preferable that you know what that soil amendment is– peat-based potting mix was recommended on my instructions.
  5. Water it well and keep that baby moist until shoots appear. After that, water 1-2 times per week.
  6. Fertilize with acid fertilizer- again know what your putting in your soil (I am totally addressing myself here).

You can choose to build a trellis to start training your blackberries and supporting them as they grow. I am currently working on one myself. Here is a video I recommend watching. Short, informative and to-the-point, and you’ve gotta love the guy:

Has anyone had experience growing blackberries? Feel free to leave your advice.

Happy Gardening!

Our Gardens Are Little Pieces of Our Earth

In honor of Earth Day, which has just begun for you Aussie folks, and which is tomorrow for those of us in the US:

Gardening For Our Earth- Not Against it

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A little piece of Earth

Your garden can be your place to start small in making an environmental difference. (Starting gardening on a small-scale in your garden is a whole other story). When the world seems too big to ‘save’, when we throw our hands in the air and say ‘how can one little me make a difference?”, sometimes the best place to start is simply in your own backyard. A garden is a manageable slice of the world to make a difference in.

I am not dismissing the many other vital large-scale environmental causes. We can, and should, contribute to these things- that is one of the things that Earth Day is all about. What I am saying is sometimes it helps to start right here in our own backyards.

Why?

  • It helps us see that we can affect change- When I began to compost, I very quickly saw the beginnings of a closed system style of gardening. It felt so good to make all of my food waste, paper products and garden waste work for me. Each time I added this “trash” to the compost pile I imagined the dump that they might otherwise be rotting underground in. I began to understand that ‘little me’ could do things to affect change.

 

  • It can create a micro-ecosystem- where wildlife and domestic life can co-exist. That same compost supports a budding ecosystem of microorganisms, worms, fungi and creepy crawlies. If you are purposeful, you can also use garden waste to create mini habitats for various animals. Check this article out for inspiration and direction.

 

  • We become more in tune with our consumption- Pushing the whole climate change debate aside, we are still massive consumers of a huge amount of crap. Reducing consumption, reusing and repurposing, growing our own food- all of these things are what gardening should be all about. Gardening in a responsible way allows us to reduce the amount of crap we consume. That is certainly my hope and goal.

 

  • We can begin to appreciate this beautiful earth- Once you’ve seen your arugula seeds turn into super ninja plants you can’t help but marvel at the incredible design of creation.
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My “Super Ninja Arugula”- prospering despite a slug assault- helps me appreciate the forces of nature

 

What can you do? 

  • I’ve endeavored to use only organic products in my garden
  • I’m weeding by hand instead of using herbicides
  • Compost, compost, compost! Did I mention I love compost?
  • I’ve started to grow my own vegetables- the more I eat from my own garden, the better for the Earth
  • I’ve stopped killing every critter I see!

You, my fellow gardener, can do one of these things, all of these things, or your own thing. When things feel too big and too complicated for you to make an environmental difference, just step outside. Add some compost to your plants, pick some berries, feed some birds, let some wildflowers bloom. Allow your garden to inspire you. And then, when you’ve done all that- if you feel the call, you can move on to the bigger things.

Here is how you can take action, in big ways and little ways, this Earth Day.

Blueberry Rescue

Allow me to introduce to you my rescued blueberry plant

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A blueberry baby I saved from Grocery Outlet

 

I found him at my local Grocery Outlet- on sale and looking kind of pitiful. I thought I would take him home and give him the chance he deserved. And he has already started to grow beautifully. I have even seen a few blossoms!

I have been adding an acidic soil amendment- blueberries do like their soil acidic (we are talking around a 4-5 pH). I have planted him next to a cluster of perennials and am hoping that the plants will all get along- despite their differing opinions on ideal soil pH.

Has anyone had any success with blueberry plants? Any tips or advice that has worked for you?

 

Gardening is Not Boring

Gardening is Not Just for the Senile

As a child I had the perception of a gardener as an old frail women. In my mind’s eye, she was crouching over a patch of lavender, or maybe some white lilies. This old women, pained with arthritis, stood up slowly from her lavender/lilies with a basketful of freshly cut flowers. She breathed in the fragrance and peacefully walked into her cottage. Flowers cut. Placed in a vase, by her bedside. In my imagination, that night, she died.

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Lavender makes me remember

 

Gardening is Not Just for the Grumpy

My own grandmother is a gardener. Fierce and stern. A practical woman, arthritis does not stop her. She was a farm girl and a talented equestrian. My memories are of her shoveling horse crap into her garden beds. Those garden beds always smelled- and not in a nice way. And they never turned out to be all that inspiring- she had a farm to run after all. In her older age my grandmother has softened, but my memories of her gardening are still ones contaminated by her own personal pain. Needless to say I never wanted to be a gardener. I did not want to be old. I did not want to be stern. I did not want to shovel horse crap. What lie was I believing about the art of gardening?

But Gardening is for People who Really like to Compost

Yes, something pulled me in to the magic. Sounds crazy but I became enchanted with composting. Just ask my husband- he had to listen to me rant about the stuff all day long (still does!). Placing all this “trash” into a rotating plastic bucket and 6 months later out comes black gold. I was smitten.

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Composting has quickly become an obsession

I realized that I’d better learn to garden, because I sure as heck did not want to give away all this awesome compost.

So now my perception of a gardener is a girl, overalls on, trowel defiantly in hand. She is saying “I will make my own food, thank you very much” and “I will create my own beauty today if I wish to do so”. This gardener is not so much a feminist (though that’s okay too), as she is a human being seeking an escape from consuming- consuming all day long. She is a gardener that is partnering with nature, partnering with God (it’s Good Friday- let me have this one), to create magic and sustenance.

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Co-creating beauty

 

What did you think about gardening before you fell in love with it? And how do you feel about it now? Leave a comment if you dare.

The Beauty of Escaping to the Garden

Get me Out of my House

I feel a tide of responsibilities swelling. My to-do list is ever-growing.

My toddler is clinging to my leg. My washing is piling up. My husband is away on a business trip.

Let’s escape to the Garden!

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Miss Toddler at play in our concrete backyard

 

Time Outside

One of the greatest blessings of my foray into gardening has been it’s effect on my baby girl. Any mom of young children will tell you that it is challenging to entertain those little boogers all day long. I never intended it, but my gardening has been an outlet for the both of us. We are forced outside, everyday, rain or shine, to tend to my  budding oasis.

Watering the Garden

In our garden, we don’t have irrigation so watering is an everyday chore. Most of the time I water with a hose and nozzle. But sometimes, when I’m feeling inspired, I use  a watering can. And Miss Toddler has her very own watering can. So, as I go about my watering, I have her fill her watering can and I assign her one, maybe two plants of her own to water. Off she goes- doing her very important yard work- spilling most of the water on our concrete. But that is the beauty of it. I secretly come in after her and make sure the plants that she missed get the water they need. In the mean time Miss Toddler is building confidence, independence, skills, strength, co-ordination and a sense of responsibility.

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Miss Toddler’s Watering ‘Can’

My Beautiful Surprise

I was going about my usual garden chores. Miss Toddler was keeping herself busy with Easter decorations. And then I saw it. Miss Toddler’s empty watering can. And one watered tea tree plant. Perfect. No spills. Just a watered plant. I hadn’t even asked Miss Toddler to do any watering. She had taken it upon herself to do so. Yes, my garden is a blessing. An escape for me. But for my girl it is a magical place to blossom into a responsible and passionate young girl. And I am one proud mama.

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Miss Toddler successfully watered this beauty all by herself

Ready, Set, Seed!

How to Start From Seed

For me, one of the most simple decisions I made when I started gardening was to start plants from seed whenever I could. Why?

  • It saves so much money.
  • There is much more variety in seed choices than there are pre-grown seedlings at your local nursery.
  • It’s magical to watch those babies sprout into beautiful plants that you one day get to munch, crunch and gobble.
  • Just look at how pretty these sweet basil seedlings  are.

So say you, “how the heck do I make a seed into a plant?” It might not be as simple as ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ might have you believe- but it’s still relatively easy.

Purple Opal Basil

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 First I gathered together some seed starting mix and a tray. I re-used an old seedling tray.

When you do this, be sure to scrub the tray clean with soap and hot water to ensure that you do not spread any nasty plant diseases.

Next I lined my tray with newspaper (totally optional)

My packet instructions called for seeds sown:

1 inch apart and 1/4 inch deep

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So I made small holes according to the instructions.

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I poured some of the seeds out of the packet- I like to use a white ramekin because then I can see all those teeny-tiny seeds.

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I placed one seed into each hole.

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I then covered my seeds lightly and wet my seed tray thoroughly.

These two steps were points of contention for me, as I’m fairly certain I upset the seed starting mix and moved those seeds around a little.

Next time perhaps I should water the seed starting mix first?

 I’m hoping that this wont mess up the germination of these purple basil beauties.

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I placed the top over the tray, which allows for the environment to be controlled as the seeds germinate.

I can’t wait to update you on how these babies go. The packet instructions say that germination will take place in 7 to 14 days.

 Are there any seeds that you have started lately? If so feel free to comment and leave a link to any posts you have about seed starting.

Happy Gardening!

Semi-permanent, Semi-raised Vegetable Beds- a seriously easy DIY project

Are you a renter?

One of the challenges of renting is that you can’t make huge changes to your garden.

Reasons:

  1. Your landlord probably doesn’t want his front lawn turned into a tropical landscape complete with banana trees.
  2. You don’t know how long you’ll be renting your property- 1 year or 5 years- a huge investment in landscaping is just not worth it.
  3. You don’t know how to grow banana trees.

The good news is there are so many shortcuts to making your garden more horticulturally friendly whilst still respecting your rented property.

One of my projects in my Concrete Backyard was the construction of slightly raised vegetable beds. This is a project I  am super proud of. They are certainly not sleek nor  are they professional-looking- but that’s part of the fun! They are completely temporary, probably taking about two days of work to return the garden bed to how I found it (with significantly amended soil, might I add).

Today I want to show you how I achieved my slightly raised vegetable beds:

Step One

Have a a garden bed- of some sort. I kid you not, this helps immensely. Building your own raised beds over lawn, or other challenging scenarios  like that, are worthy of their own posts. But if you have some sad, neglected garden beds lying around, this project is for you.

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Step Two

Prep your materials. All I used was:

Garden Edging- bought from a Big Box Store, I painted mine white

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A trowel,

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Soil- which, is hopefully already there, and

Compost or other amendments, as a little added bonus

Step three

Dig yourself a shallow trench, a little larger than the garden edging.

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Step Four

Place afore-mentioned garden edging into trench. Use soil to secure garden edging in place.

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And Viola

This was the last of my “semi-permanent-semi-raised” beds.

And here is my ‘Before and After’ 

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All I have left to do is amend the soil in the area of the vegetable bed that I just created. The other side of the bed, (where there are already flowers planted) has already been double-dug and amended with manure and compost. This end of my skinny concrete backyard is aimed at attracting butterflies and other pollinators. I am also nursing a baby blueberry bush back to life here- but that is another post for another day.

So that’s it. If you’ve been staring at an uninspiring patch of soil in your garden, here’s your chance to change that. Let me know how you go.

Happy Gardening!

Sweet Basil Seedlings

Sweet Basil- Ocimum basilicum

Allow me to introduce you to my basil seedlings. These babies are annuals, and will hopefully grow one to two feet tall and eight to twelve inches wide.

According to the packet instructions, I need to wait six weeks until I can transplant them to the big wide world that is my garden.

When they are all grown up they will prefer full sun and well-drained, moist soil.

 

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Right now they are happy in my kitchen window sill under a heat lamp. Obviously they need a little thinning but otherwise they seem to be doing well. They have just sprouted their first true leaves and I am preparing to treat them with foliar seaweed spray in the next few days.

Are you excited about any of your up-and-coming seedlings? Feel free to comment.

The Blessing in the ‘Here’


diantha

 

Oh to be an urban homesteader!I dream of the day that I will be able to cook a meal entirely with food from my own garden. To can my own tomatoes. To collect eggs from clucking chickens.

But where I am at, as a young mom and wife, as a renter, my homesteading days have not yet arrived.

And that’s ok. Where each one of us is at in our lives is a blessing. The fact that I am here, on this rented property, gives me the opportunity to experiment and to learn. Here, there is less pressure to get it right the first time. Here I can practice my gardening. I can learn both the art and the science of horticulture.

And here, even as a beginner, I can already begin to see the beauty coming up.