Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Posts about Fruit and berries

Catching up with the Edible Estate

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 4, 2014 - 10:55 AM

Remember last year's Edible Estate? That was the front yard in Woodbury where an artist/horticulturist tore up the traditional lawn and replaced it with a dense forest of food crops.

So what's going on this growing season, now that the Schoenherr family is on their own, with no donated plants or free expert help? 

Pretty much the same as last year -- that was the surprising news when I visited the family last week. They're still growing more than 100 edible crops, covering almost all their large suburban front yard. About half of last year's crops returned or self-seeded. The rest -- about 1,000 plants -- they started from seed in their basement, under grow lights. 

Now that they can choose their own crop mix, they're growing fewer eggplants, but they've added some new edibles, including tomatillos and borage. 

And their gung-ho neighbors, who dug in last year to help tend the mini-farm in their midst, are still at it, showing up for weekly "garden nights" to help pull weeds and help themselves to some produce.

"We really do have a lot of help," said Catherine Shoenherr. "It wouldn't be very fun to do this by yourself."

How has the family managed to turn their private front yard into a community garden? Find out in next week's Variety Home + Garden.

Blueberry season is here

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: July 15, 2014 - 8:49 AM

It's blueberry season, both at the farmers market and in my back yard. It's a much shorter season in my yard, where I have three bushes still trying to get established, but it's no less sweet.

Last year I made the mistake of waiting too long to pick them, hoping for the same perfectly ripe berries that the squirrels and birds apparently were too, and they thought it was worth fighting through the netting to get them. This year I picked a tad earlier and have done my best to turn the bushes into Fort Knox once green berries showed up.

Only one of the bushes is producing fruit this year, but that's not surpising given the tough year the other two suffered last year. Before I got savvy to how much bunnies like to munch on blueberry bushes in early fall, they'd suffered a major setback.

So I've only got a small bowlful to show for it so far, but it's a start. Every time I pick them I feel like digging out more of the yard and planting a whole row, with visions of blueberry jam and pie. But the area where I'm considering putting them in is the same area I keep thinking I'll do another blanket of lilies, and so far neither vision has won out.

If you want to start a blueberry patch, keep in mind that many varieties need another compatible plant for cross-pollination, so buying two of the same kind is a good idea.Some high-bush varieties don't require companion plants, but most of them do better with a pollinator near by.

Any fellow blueberry growers out there? What's your season been like? And how long did it take to get your plants established?

Now I've just got to find out what kind a grower at the farmers market has: Best berries ever.

Enjoying Fruits of the Garden

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: June 25, 2014 - 8:46 AM

 

When I knit, I like to make things that people can wear.  When I garden, I like to grow things that people can eat.  A walk last night showed me how my personal landscape is so much different than others.

Tomato

 

I have a small city lot, so there is not much room.  But where there is room, I grow things I can eat.  Where a neighbor may have spirea bushes, I have blueberries. 

Their flowering lilac tree is my plum tree.  Something inside me says, if you grow something, make it worthwhile.  Certainly, lovely tropical plants and flowering annuals are great, but when I look at a rose bush, I think of rosehip tea.  

Apple

 

Last night, I photographed fruits from my garden, and I mean that literally.  I have plenty of vegetables, but these are fruits.   And yes, tomato is a fruit – the seeds are on the inside.  Because of the rain, these fruits have been growing very well.

Photographed here are:

mulberry -- hope I get them before the squirrels

blueberry - without any fruit thanks to the polar vortex

tomato - waiting patiently for my Mortgage Lifter

apple - time to prune fellow growers

plums - fruit is really heavy right now.

Plums

 

What fruits are growing nearby you?  Have you seen anything spectacular at the farmer’s market?

The tree that should not be

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: June 5, 2014 - 8:40 AM

This is a story about a tree that should not be. 

Twenty-some years ago when I planted my asparagus patch, there was a tiny little bush growing in the area that looked interesting.  I thought it was a nice backdrop, so I let it go.  Eventually, it got bigger and my husband trimmed it as topiary and it lived well.  I was a novice gardener; I didn’t know what it was – and I didn’t care.  It had berries, the leaves were nice and it took abuse.

Well, education stepped in and I found out that it was a buckthorn.  So I figured I better do something about this.  The first two years I did my best to pull off all the berries so the invasive plant would not be spread by birds.  Then there was a big “anti-buckthorn” thing going on in my city and I figured as a past Garden Council President, I better yank the tree.

By this time, it was about 8 feet tall so it required a chainsaw and big shovel.  I didn’t want to disturb my asparagus patch too much so I judiciously trimmed roots.

Go figure, the plant kept coming up.  So I hand painted an aggressive weed killer on the leaves of the upcoming buckthorn shoots. Fast forward, the roots rotted, the area was flat, but something else ‘woody’ was growing.  I let it go.  The area needed a little something besides a flat asparagus patch all Winter and Spring.

Something tree-like appeared.  It seemed to have a fruit-like bark, a nice spring bloom and so we twisted

the trunk for some interest.  Fast forward again.  Thorns appear, still trying to determine the tree type.  Next year, a smooth green walnut sized something appears… fast forward next year.  The green things appear again, but in July start to blush and get soft.

I look in my books, what the…. Low and behold, this is a plum tree.  So, adventurous as I am --  I pop one of these fruits in my mouth.  Delicious!

Now this spring I’m enjoying the multitude of flowers and imagine each of those smooth green walnuts as a plum ready for the breakfast table!

Have you ever had a surprise treat in your garden?  Flowers, fruits, animals? 

Thank wasps for luscious apples

Posted by: Lynn Underwood Updated: June 5, 2014 - 9:24 AM

Last fall, I discovered how to get dozens of beautiful luscious maggot-free apples from my back-yard tree.  Make sure a nest of wasps make their home nearby.

I planted the Cortland apple tree - fertilized by the ashes of my deceased cockapoo - 15 years ago.  But fall after fall, the apples were pocked with icky dimples made by adult apple maggot flies laying their eggs.  I didn’t know - and didn’t  want to find out - if there were still maggot larvae inside. Only deer and other critters were brave enough to eat them.

So I decided to try organic methods to stop those darn flies from turning my apples into a feast for larvae. I tried the sticky traps, slathering clear sticky stuff  over big red balls that were supposed to attract the egg-laying flies. But they weren’t fooled by the decoy balls because my apples were still fully-infested come fall. Plus they sure were a pain to clean before storing  for winter.

I’ve also considered trying the bagging method, which a colleague does religiously every summer.  When the fruit is about the size of a walnut, enclose each one inside a plastic sandwich bag and staple it shut. Snip the bottom corner of each bag with a scissors to let water run out.  But by the time I remember to do it - the fruit is way bigger than a walnut and it’s too late.

Last summer, I was sitting on my  deck, resisting the urge to stain it. Then I spied a gray wasp nest, the size of a papier mache pinata, suspended in a crabapple tree about 10 feet away. Of course, I worried that I would get stung by the wasps or they would dive-bomb me when I was gardening. But I never heard a single buzz from the colony.

 By fall, I was harvesting bucket after bucket of apples pretty enough to fill a bin at Whole Foods.
What the heck happened to the tenacious apple maggots? My internet research revealed that the wasps devoured them.

By winter, the wasps had abandoned the nest, and now it’s pretty much disintegrated. So I’m hoping and praying that another wasp queen will make her home in my very welcoming crabapple tree.

How do you prevent apple maggot infestation?  Have you had an unexplained great crop of worm-free apples?

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