blueberry

Broccoli Babes

As my peanuts finish out for the season, it’s time to introduce a new crop. To best utilize my garden space, I interplant based on crop rotation rules. Crop rotation is an organic gardening practice where you change the placement of your plants from season to season. Doing so improves the structure and quality of your soil as well as minimizes the risk of disease and pest infestation. I use a rotation of beans-leaves-roots-fruits. Basically, this means that after my “beans” have produced, I plant “leaves.” In this case, beans = peanuts and leaves = broccoli. Peanuts fix nitrogen into the soil and broccoli requires lots of nitrogen to produce big green leaves so this rotation makes good sense.

baby-broccoli-and-mature-peanuts

In between the broccoli sprouts will be spinach. Both love nitrogen and are good companions in the garden. Other crop rotation considerations are how my tomatoes followed peanuts from earlier this season, corn followed my bush beans. These peanuts (shown above) actually followed okra, although I normally try to follow a fruit group, say tomatoes, squash or peppers.

my-fall-garden-2016

Above is my fall garden to date (just prior to the insertion of my tomato stakes and cables). Blueberry bushes are located in the farthest row. Black beans are in the ground next to them. Then there’s my corn, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, broccoli and spinach. Still to come this season are sweet onions and carrots, cabbage and chard. Potatoes will go in around January. Can’t wait!

These Dollars I DON’T Need

These are dollar weeds. Also known as hydrocotyle, or pennywort, they’re an incessant nuisance. They grow ferociously in moist, well-watered areas. Like my garden.

dollars everywhere

Basically, they’re lily-pad like leaves attached to vines that grow deep in the soil sprouting leaves every six inches. I spray them with garden safe weed-killer but it only succeeds in killing off the leaves I hit. The vines beneath the surface simply detour, or sprout new leaves. The only way to rid your garden of them is to pull them. UGH. No fun.

tractoring dollar

Or call tractor-man. He’s always helpful when it comes to churning up roots and dirt. More

Blueberries in Bloom

I love blueberries, plain, on yogurt, in a pie or straight from the bush…

blueberry breakfast

Blueberries are magnificent in every way. And best of all, they’re easy to grow. Seriously. Sun, pine (acid), water, done. That’s it. That’s pine mulch around the base of the plant.

blueberry pine mulch

And they’re forgiving, too. I moved these blueberries (shown below) away from my house and out to the garden this winter.

strings over blueberry plants

I decided that my romantic notion of blueberry bushes sequestered in a shady mountainside in the North Carolina where an off-trail hiker discovers their wonder and devours the glorious fruit hidden from view was just that–a romantic notion. Blueberries like sun and lots of it. Similar to my Knockout roses, they can survive in part sun, but thrive in full sun. Don’t they look happy?

new blueberry rows

They are–so happy. Just look at the bunches of blueberries they’re yielding!

bunch blueberries

I love it! All I did was dig the hole, add water and pine bark mulch (acid), and they’re good to go. Oh, and twine. I’m not the only one who loves blueberries. Birds love blueberries and are usually out and about at the crack of dawn dive-bombing the plump ripe berries before I ever get a chance to stop them. Sheesh! So I run twine over the bushes and it’s problem solved. I used to use netting until I learned it keeps the bees out, too. No good. Blueberry blossoms need bees.

blueberry blosooms to berries

Bees work to make those white blossoms incredibly become fruit.

blueberries 2016

Quick fun facts about blueberries:

July is National Blueberry month.

Blueberry muffins are the most popular muffin in America.

Blueberry muffins are the state muffin of Minnesota. (Who knew muffins had state status?)

Maine produces more blueberries than any place in the world. (I’ve actually visited some blueberry orchards in Maine and was quite frankly, surprised to find them there!)

Blueberries are relatives to the rhododendron and azalea bushes.

Feeling Blue & Loving It

Spring has arrived which means there’s a bunch of stuff to do in the garden. Great times! I get to till and toil and snack on sugar snap peas all while strolling the rows of organic vegetables. This doesn’t make me feel blue. That happens when I approach the house.

new berries 2015

And pass my blueberry patch! Aren’t they gorgeous? The blueberry blooms are out in full force along with the berries I love and adore.

blueberry blooms 2015

Berries the birds love and adore as well, but we’re not discussing those bad boys right now. We’re discussing berries. Decadent, full and delicious berries. I’m not sure how plentiful my harvest will be this year due to the fact that we didn’t have a very cold winter. Blueberries require a certain amount of “chillng hours” to produce fruit. Chill hours are considered between 32 degrees F and 45 degrees F. I’m taking the blooms I see as a good sign, though. Blooms mean berries. They also mean “bait” for birds. Grrrrr…

Another consideration to bear in mind is that blueberries need to cross-pollinate, so you must have at least two different varieties in your garden. I chose Southern Highbush Sharp Blue, Windsor, Jubilee, Jewel and Gulf Coast  varieties because they require the least amount of chill hours. If you can get your hands on some Highbush Misty, they are supposed to get along particularly well with Highbush Sharp Blue. I also have some Rabbit Eye varieties to round out my berry garden.

delectable blueberries

These varieties work well for Florida because we don’t get a lot of cold weather and these require the least amount of chilling hours. Choose wisely, according to your growing region. And now is the time to find blueberry plants at your local garden center (in warmer regions, later for my Arctic Amigos), another sign that spring is in the air!

Once you have these babies in your hot little hands, plant them in organic-rich slightly acidic soil (4.0 — 5.0 pH) and mulch well. Feed with a 12-4-8 fertilizer and prune during the summer months after harvest for more vigorous growth. They aren’t what I consider high maintenance, but they do require some.

Blueberry & yogurt stock photo

And they’re well worth it. In yogurt, cereal, pie, cobbler or fresh off the bush, these berries are my all-time favorite. You know you want to grow some. What are you waiting for? Get going and DO share how it’s going!

Tami’s Last Hurrah

After a long summer of vacay and summer rain, Tami’s garden has survived, albeit her tomatoes and compost have succumbed to neglect.  What can she say?  She’s busy.  It’s hot.  You get my drift.  It was a valiant first effort that will blossom anew this fall, with more tolerable temps and a fresh new attitude.  But not all is lost.  Her green peppers look great.

Turning to red as they mature.  While it doesn’t look as pretty, it will taste sweet and delicious.

Don’t even ask about mine.  Talk about succumb!  I’m not sure who was harder on them—me, or Mother Nature.  But we won’t go there.  We’re talking about Tami’s garden at the moment.  The basil is blooming up a storm.  Needs pinched, but it’s still producing, still thriving.

Her aloe is gorgeous and full and the perfect remedy for an oven burn.  Slice off a piece of one thick, juicy leaf and smear the oozing liquid over the burn and voíla!  No scar, quick healing.  Careful:  the stuff is stinky and it will stain.  So take care when using.

The blueberry looks lost but not forgotten (entirely).  A little weed pulling and this baby is back in action! 

Now for all you tomato lovers, take note:  this is what hornworms can do to your plants.  In a matter of hours. 

Yep.  It’s ugly—and the main reason you want to make daily visits to your garden, for the sake of vigilance.  Beyond the garden is the compost pile.

Or two.  The overgrown pile in the foreground can easily be remedied with a weed whacker and transferred/mixed in to the second pile.  No big deal, giving the dirt time to “ferment” and turn rich and organic.  I do love nature when it proves low maintenance, don’t you?

Now, for my next project….  Who will it be?

Spring is in the air

I don’t know which I like better, harvest time or planting time.   I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love harvest time!   Reaping the reward for all my hard work?  That’s about as good as it gets when it comes to the garden.

Until you venture out after months of cold.  Okay, this is an exaggeration, but darned if it hasn’t felt like months of cold in Florida this past winter.  Locked up indoors all this time, you wander out to the garden and notice the buds sprouting anew.  Actually, it was the bird swooping down upon my largest blueberry plant that caught my attention, but what a lift to the spirit!   Especially after losing those gorgeous tomatoes to the freeze.   And the potatoes, the beans…   My peas are still touch and go, but let me tell you, when I first caught glimpse of my blueberry buds, followed by the emergence of their pink little blossoms… 

I went light-headed.   They survived!   Sound the alarms!   My blueberries made it through the winter.

Yes, I know.   They grow wild in North Carolina where the mercury dips a tad lower than Central Florida, but the exhilaration is the same, I assure you.   These sweet bushes had me convinced they were dead and gone–until these buds appeared.   And blossomed!  Yes ma’am, these pups will prosper, of that I’ll make certain.  I’ve already purchased my anti-bird netting having learned my lesson after those hungry varmints, er, I mean, beautiful winged neighbors of mine feasted on the sumptuous berries last summer.   Sure, I like to share, but not give away the farm!  There are limits! 

Limits these kids pay no mind to whatsoever.   As though it were open season on wild fruit.   Grrrr…   Even the kids shoo the beasts off!

Eh, hem.   Back to my original point.   I love springtime!   I’m back in the garden, tilling in my first batch of compost, affectionately referred to as black gold, something I’d sell, in kind, if I were able, but that’s another post.   For now, I’m eagerly anticipating the boost in growth I am certain to witness.   Once my seeds get a taste of black gold they will race for the skies, grow twice as big as before, three times —  maybe four!   My compost is so potent, I have sproutlings rising out of nowhere!  I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this little jewel is not the Lima bean I planted yesterday.   After confusing this gem with the pole beans, I can IDENTIFY a Lima bean leaf when I see one.

The biggest reason to celebrate spring?   I can eat all the Girl Scout cookies I want.   Well, maybe once I’m able to fit into my jeans, again, but at this rate, with all the exercise I’m getting in the garden, it will happen in no time! 

You see?   Yet another reason to revel in spring!   Warm sun on your skin (not your face — you don’t want any more carving than absolutely necessary), the pump of your heart, the flow of blood tingling down through your tippy-toes…   Spring is the time to get active and I for one am whole-heartedly filled with the gusto.  Already planned for crop rotation.   A tricky endeavor for me, since I realized there was not quite the rhyme and reason to my fall planting I thought there was–but I’m good, nonetheless.  So what if I extend my garden a few feet to accommodate the corn and watermelon, the sweet potatoes and pumpkins.   I have the space, why not give em some elbow room?

And the sproutlings are too cute.   Nearly as cute as newborns and a whole host easier to care for, they are gobs of fun.  Kinda like a puppy.   So long as it’s not me chasing the sweet pea through the house, slipping on splatters of excitement as my heart races with each near miss of the china cabinet.   Oh, yes, those days are OVER.  These days are HERE!  Not that we parents don’t love every hair-raising minute, but I’m getting too old for that kind of thrill.  Remember, I’m on schedule to achieve centenarian status.   A bone fracture could take me out of the running.

As it stands, I plan to enjoy the moment.  Line my rows with fresh hay, tend to my babies while keeping a steadfast eye on their elders — the garlic should be nearing maturity, along with my sweet onions —  and focus on my aggressive planting schedule.   Do you know how many bean bushes you have to plant to produce a serving for four?  For one night? 

More than I believed.   Whew.   Tons more.  But this time, I’m ready.  

And excited!

P.S.  My cabbage have offspring!  Look at these kids.  Aren’t they darling?  Not only did their mama provide me with a bowl full of cole slaw, but the kids promise more of the same.  These are the result of scoring the base of the cabbage plant after cutting the mature head for consumption.  Yum.