Friday, December 20, 2013

A Royally Good Berry

Evergreen, dark green older leaves accented by bright green new growth and a touch of pink on the ends, reddish pinkish stems, loads of white bell shaped flowers in the spring to be followed with smallish blueberry sized fruit said to be the favorite of queen Victoria. Did I get your interest? The Chilean Guava (Ugni Molinae) is a South American relative of the Guava and member of the Myrtle family. It is somewhat cold hardy. I've seen reports of anything from zone 7 to zone 9. Mine has survived 9 degrees with minimal protection. Only slight tip die back on a few branches. When I saw the cold coming I dumped a bunch of willow leaves I had saved from our big willow tree abd covered it completely for the 3 nights that it got below 15 degrees. This is only it's second year in the ground and I don't plan on babysitting it as much one it has established. I do know once well established they usually will resprout from the base if badly damaged. My fist year I got 1 fruit but that was enough to have me hooked. No idea how to describe it other than blueberryish but more of a spicy flavor. I cannot believe these are not more popular. Very aromatic when in bloom. Have a strawberry scent. They stay 3-4' typically in the pnw but can get up to 8' in warmer areas. The borderline hardiness is my only complaint but I will get it going and let it do it's thing. Put one of these baby's in and I'm sure you will be the king of the block.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Turkey just got a new best friend

When I ordered this little evergreen bush that promised to replace cranberry sauce on my thanksgiving day plate I must say I was skeptical to say the least. That's like a football game without potato chips or Alvin and Simon without Theodore but this little gem may have won me over. Lingonberries (Vaccinium Vitus-Idea) are small plants growing 6" to 1' tall most things I have read say they are about 2'wide but they also say they spread through underground rhyzomes so it sounds to me like they will fill in the area given. I have 2 in the ground and 2 in a pot. The ones in the ground are both Koralle variety which is said to be a faster spreading variety

and the ones in pots are Ida. Ida is slow spreading and are very heavy producing.
As I mentioned they are evergreen and bloom in early autumn and fruit in late autumn except for Ida who fruits late summer and again in late autumn. They change colors from dark green to lighter green to pink depending on the season. My Ida plants fruited their first year but the Koralle plants didn't. They are blooming heavily right now so I am hopeful. The fruit fresh taste to me a lot like a mushy cranberry but when turned into a jam or sauce they will blow your mind. They may have replaced raspberry jam as my wife's favorite. Not an easy task to accomplish. Don't believe me? Go to Ikea and get some Lingonberry jam for yourself. It might take a while before you will have enough to make jam or sauce but you can enjoy the beauty of the bush while you're waiting. They are self fertile but produce more when planted with other varieties like most vaccinium species.

This bird lays fruit

There are some fruits that were doomed from the beginning by name alone. One of them being the gooseberry. It really is a shame though. I have a Hinnomaki Red gooseberry bush. Mine is going on its third year and has grown to be about 3' tall and 4' wide.  It is sandwiched between a Hosta and a Hydrangea so I do have to keep pruning this group.  
Fruit is born on older wood so if you are going to prune existing limbs do it immediately after fruiting so it can have some new growth in the current season. Otherwise you will end up like me and accidentally prune out most of your crop. Another way is prune out the oldest canes when you have a good 5-7 canes going. The one downside to this plant is they have some massive thorns so do be careful but when these guys are ripe you will forget all about the javelin spears covering them. This is the first year I let mine truly ripen and I was shocked how good they are. Mine were ripe in mid July. The skin had a touch of tartness and the flesh is very sweet. To further condense the plant it can be grown as a cordon or espaliared against a fence.

A stroll in a diaper

I have a routine that I enjoy very much. Everyday since my baby was born I come home, pet the dog, kiss my wife, grab my baby and walk the garden. It helps me to unwind from my busy day and gives me a way to quickly do maintenance before things get out of hand. One of our favorite stops is by the oregano and alpine strawberries. 
My daughter who is now 9 months old likes to smell the different herbs such as thyme, mint, lavender and lemon balm. Today is more focused on that family than one plant. Herbs. Take off the s and it might be your favorite uncle. Put it in the ground and it might become your favorite plant. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cover your nakedness and eat fruit

When I started gardening I was extremely naive to what can actually be grown here in the pnw. The last thing on my radar was a fig tree. They are really an amazingly beautiful tree and those long droopy leaves where an obvious choice for Adam and Eve. The leaves where not what interested me though. I was after the sweet fruit so rarely experienced fresh in my part of the country. We are all aware of the dried ones and fig newtons but I wanted to see what the fresh ripe ones tasted like so I go to the local nursery, look through the 3 varieties and find the show tree I was looking for. Desert King. Known to produce a very heavy breba crop (early crop born on older wood). This is important because my cooler climate cannot ripen the main crop. Also one of if not the most cold hardy varieties. Bam! I was ready (after some begging and pleading with the wife as well as having the nursery worker get involved in the plea) to make myself the proud papa of a new baby fig. Turns out this parenting thing is tough stuff. Now I have an 9 month old baby girl (for real) and a 4 month old baby fig. When I brought it home it had a few tiny figs on it but it lost them after transplant. I am growing it in a 15 gallon pot. Apparently figs have super vigorous root systems and if you constrict them it will help the plant to produce more fruit. Every 3 years you do need to root prune but other than that it's just typical pruning. You can maintain them to 10' or less by pruning annually and I've seen reports of much smaller. Great for a patio or for areas that you have to bring them in for the winter. Figs don't require a lot of fertilizer and if you ever lose all your clothes in a bet at least you can go to work Monday styling your fig suit.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

This town ain't big enough for the two of us

Often I find myself day dreaming about having acreage to plant every goofy edible plant that has a zone 8 sticker on it but I do declare that I cannot, for you see I am confined to a lot that has 1/16 of an acre of growing space. That black walnut tree or seaberry that I have been dreaming of is not realistic but that does not mean you cannot grow a fair amount of fruit on your lot. Granted, my garden is only 3 years old and I may have some surprises in store when things really take off but with a spring in my step and pruners in hand I plan on taking them head on. 

These next 31 days I am going to highlight my 31 favorite small edible landscape plants I own and give you a size estimate as best I can. Remember that I am in zone 8 so I'm sure many of you cannot grow what I am. I think that you may come to enjoy the challenge to see what you can fit in your space as I have. Then you may find this town maybe is big enough for the two of us :-).

Making it not count

so most of the time you hear "make it count". Not me. When it comes to the garden at least. I am a bit of an obsessive personality and when my wife and I started the garden we had a few plants we wanted to get. The problem is that my list was much bigger than hers. It became so bad that she started keeping count. Now where making it not count comes in is anything off of her list reduces the lopsidedness (is that a real word) of the list so if she wants something that is secretly on my list but I make her think that it is hers it doesn't count against me. This so happened on the second item we got. A Meeker raspberry. My Wife loves raspberries and so do I. This worked out well. 

The middle pot is the Meeker. It is a summer (floricane) fruiting raspberry. This means that the fruit is formed on the previous years growth. This is early fall so I pruned out the stems as soon as the fruit for that stem was done. This helps keep the plant tidy and gives energy to growing new stems that will be next years fruit. This is a 2 year old bush. Also in this picture to the left is a Reka blueberry, to the right is a bluecrop blueberry, and the little one is an Amity fall bearing (everbearingraspberry. This means you get a small crop on 1 year old wood and another crop late into the fall on current year wood. This is just a start so we'll see when it's ready to produce.