Berries in the Backyard

Food berries: Raspberry and Blackberry.

Both raspberries and blackberries are hardy and productive. In the wild these berries create large brambles. They can be susceptible to viral diseases, especially if they receive too much moisture. I have seen conflicting advice regarding applying mulch.

The biggest thing I have found helpful: Know your varieties. Many plants produce a primicane, or first year cane, that just grows the first year, then becomes the productive cane the second year.

The deer ate the top off of the primicane last year, which led it to send out a bunch of lateral branches. The lateral branches are the ones that bear fruit, so this year, it is now covered with bunches of green berries. I may throw some bird netting over it. Last year our total harvest–after the birds and squirrels were done–totaled about two handfuls of berries. They taste amazing.

Native berries:

Cranberry (highbush).

Several of these have been growing since last summer. They produce white lacy flowers in the spring, and now have green berries. These will eventually turn red. Over the winter, the birds really like the dried berries. I have noticed the stems are reddish, and the leaves are also reddish when young.

Deer eat what they can reach, so there are usually some red-edged leaves.

Elderberry.

These have also been growing since last year. The cranberry and elderberry bushes are about 4 feet tall, although I think this may have more to do with the deer eating anything that gets taller than the cages.

Elderberry is famously used in syrups and wines. Supposedly, it boosts immune function.

The berries are extremely tart. The birds harvest ours diligently, and will continue to until the shrubs get much bigger and more established. We enjoy trying to identify the various wild birds that like these for both berries and habitat.

Happy growing!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our backyard blackberries and their friends. Try growing berries of some kind. They are fun plants. Native species can help increase biodiversity too. They really do bring all the birds to the yard and with little to no effort.

Fifteen Garden Ideas

Now it is summer in the garden.

I started this fifteen garden ideas post in winter. Originally, it contained fifteen ideas looking ahead to the summer. Now I find that it is summer and some of those ideas worked out. Others not so much.

Red and yellow onions
Teeny tiny tomatoes

Here are the fifteen garden ideas that actually were implemented this spring.

  1. Put up the fence. Simple wire fence with t-posts that we take down at the end of the growing season. With the addition of an electric fence along the top to keep the deer out.
  2. Fixed an old bird feeder and added it to the other two.
  3. Added compost to the top of the straw bale planter, and planted onions, garlic, and peppers. (This is where the tomatoes were last year.)
  4. Added three new raised beds, and planted tomatoes, basil, cilantro, nasturtiums.
  5. Refreshed the large raised planter, and planted rosemary (annual here) and onions.
  6. Cleared last year’s annuals from the front planters. Planted Swiss chard. Re-planted it after squirrels dig up most of the seeds, and added pothos vines to the front of the planters.
  7. Planted another raspberry and blackberry in the back.
  8. Planted black beans and pinto beans in large pots. (Deer LOVE bean vines, so these are in pots to keep them portable and close to the house.)
  9. Moved the lemon and fig trees out to the garden in their pots.
  10. Planted parsley and nasturtiums in pots.
  11. Planted some marigolds and echinaecea, but to no avail. May try again if I can figure out what went wrong.
  12. Started figuring out where to put the Egyptian onions, Alpine strawberries, peppermint, and Russian comfrey from last year, all of which are pretty much outgrowing their respective containers. Great problem to have. They should all be perennial. The strawberries especially will need to be kept safe from critters. TBD!
  13. Harvested the first few alliums as well as parsley, dill, and cilantro.
  14. Experimented with using bean vine leaves in lieu of spinach, since it is difficult to grow greens here. Pretty tasty, especially on pizza or in egg scrambles. About as tasty as spinach is, anyway. It’s not so much difficult to grow greens, but rather to keep the wildlife from eating them.
  15. Also, installed a second rain barrel.

Happy growing!

So, what do you think of these fifteen ideas for the garden?

Looking ahead to next summer, I plan to use a comparison chart like this one to pick out at least 2-3 basil varieties to try out.

Alpine strawberry plants
Nasturtiums (take three; the squirrels ate the seeds in takes one and two)
Unripe blackberries in progress
Pinto beans
Teeny, tiny baby lemon
Peppermint
Rosemary

Three Garden Benefits of Catnip

I planted catnip (aka catmint) a couple of years ago. Popular in landscaping, it produces small purple flowers essentially from spring to fall. As it turns out, the deer leave it alone while demolishing hostess and every other supposedly deer-resistant ornamental. Although, we did salvage a few veggies. Here are the top three garden benefits of catnip that shows up right away. (Not counting that the cat loves it.)

Since then, I planted a bunch more, and this is why:

  1. It looks nice. A compact, rounded shrub, it does not seem inclined to spread and forms an orderly procession right where it is planted.
  2. It is indestructible. While deer eat everything and summer storms alternate with high heat, the plants just keep on blooming. So far, I have only tried a few types of mint. Some are invasive, especially peppermint. While I have only begun to explore the various benefits of the different types, so far the deer and occasional rabbits do not seem to like any of them. This is huge. Where we live, there are so many woodland critters. They are cute. They are also wildly destructive to almost any vegetation.
  3. This is the biggest one, and least expected. Pollinators love it! I see bumble bees (the big, slow bees), mason bees, only a few honeybees, and they never bother us. I see occasional butterflies. This spring, there is an ongoing patronage from a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds. Just the other day, I saw a pair of goldfinches (I think they were eating pollen) hopping from stem to stem for their lunch. I have also seen an indigo bunting I hadn’t seen before, and a little brown and white hummingbird. And counting… I hope you consider the garden benefits of catnip the next time you are looking for a cute, hardy, perennial plant to add to the front yard, side yard, or garden border.
Catnip flowers enjoying the sunshine.
Catnip flowers enjoying the sunshine.