Neighborly Garden News Issue 134
Dear readers; please visit our website: www.countrysidelandscape.net for the safety measures we have in place during this pandemic. Grow Your Own: BlueberriesBlueberries are a garden gift that keeps on giving back, all summer long. Growing your own backyard fruit is a fun and rewarding way to add more flavor and healthy eating into your diet. Blueberries are one of the easiest types of fruits for the home gardener to grow. Blueberries can be eaten fresh, baked into pies and cakes, preserved into jam, or easily frozen for later use. They can keep for months in your freezer.
Blueberries do equally well growing in raised beds, containers, or the ground. Their main requirement is acidic soil, with a pH level of 4.8-5.2. You should test your soil to determine its pH. Home testing kits are inexpensive, and straight-forward to use. If your soil pH level is close to 6.0 or higher, it may be better to start off planting your blueberries in containers. It’s easier to achieve the correct pH by using a planting mix formulated for acid plants, like Rhododendrons and Azaleas. It can be time-consuming and challenging to try and correct the pH of in-ground planting beds if you are keen to plant right away. If you do want to create in-ground planting beds, and need to correct the soil pH, best to start this project in the fall, and plan to plant the following spring.
Blueberries attract pollinators
Blueberries are native to North America and can be found growing wild in moist meadows and stream banks. I’ve seen large stands of wild blueberries, and their cousins the huckleberry, throughout Cape Cod, and the Catskills (where I grew up). They are members of the Ericaceae family, which includes Rhododendrons, Azalea, Mountain Laurel, Heather, and Bearberry to name just a few. Blueberries are hardy to Zone 3, (we are in zone 5) so they’re very cold tolerant. For best fruit production, site them in a full sun location (more than 6 hours per day) Many cultivars are available, characterized by varying heights (dwarf varieties suitable for containers to full sized: 6-10 feet tall) and fruit harvest times: early, mid, and late season ripening. It’s possible to have 3 blueberry bushes that can provide fruit over the course of the whole summer by selecting early, mid, and late bearing cultivars.
Ripe Blueberries ready for picking!
Blueberries prefer consistently moist growing conditions; they don’t like to dry out. It’s recommended to put down a 2–3-inch layer of organic mulch on your planting bed to conserve soil moisture. This will also contribute to microbial activity and help to maintain the correct pH. Newly planted blueberries should be fertilized about a month after planting. Established blueberry bushes benefit from twice per season fertilizing; once at the beginning of the growing season, and a second time mid-season. Container grown blueberries should be fertilized every 4-6 weeks, to compensate for nutrient leaching due to frequent watering. Use a fertilizer specifically formulated for acid-loving plants. Blueberries are considered a self-pollinating plant, but you will achieve a bigger crop if you plant different varieties to promote cross-pollination.
Blueberries under protective netting
Birds, and other creatures love blueberries too, and making a frame to drape protective netting over your bushes will go a long way to keeping the fruit safe from unwanted nibbling. Wait until the flowering period is over, and the fruit is beginning to form, before putting on your netting.
June’s to-do listI was looking at photos taken on May 14th 2017, looking out from my deck towards the tree line, and it was a completely barren view, not a leaf on any of the trees. This year the hillside is fully leafed out, and the crabapples have finished blooming already. What can account for this wide swing of phenology? As I begin to write this, we had heavy frost and temps below 32 last night: several days past the zone 5 average last frost date. Certainly not unheard of in this area, but not desirable. It is a tried-and-true practice to hold off planting warm weather plants until after Memorial Day. Unfortunately, our local orchards have reported extensive damage to newly formed fruit, and blueberry growers have almost complete crop loss due to the unusual late season freeze.
A dry winter, with unseasonably long periods of warmth, followed by record lows, has damaged many ornamental plants in our landscape. Predictions call for another unusually hot summer, and the possibility of an El Nino weather pattern beginning. Our gardens require a minimum of one inch of water per week (best to invest in a rain gauge to check), whether it’s from Mother Nature or your hose. Last year’s drought will continue to play havoc in our gardens. Damage from drought stress will often show up 1-2 seasons after the stress occurred. Woody plants installed during the last season should be given supplemental water, and all trees and shrubs will benefit from watering during times of extreme heat and drought.
The latest bulletin from the Umass Extension service warns about the above average tick population this season. According to the CDC, May and June are the peak months for Lyme disease infections. Countryside uses the product ‘Tick Free’, which is 100% organic and very effective for eradicating ticks in your yard, and garden; yet completely safe for people, pets, and beneficial non-target insects. Please contact our spray program manager, Scott Higley, for details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stake tall perennials now, to support their bountiful blooms later. Double flowered peonies especially benefit from a sturdy support system; a quick summer thunder squall can flatten the plants you’ve been pampering all spring in a few minutes.
There’s nothing like pulling weeds to settle your mind. A little weeding on a regular basis is easier and more effective than trying to do the whole yard just once a month. Finding a well-balanced weeding tool can be a real time saver. Some folks really like using a sharp hand tool to cut the weeds off at their roots. I like a combination hoe/cultivator with a long handle. That way I can both cut weeds and cultivate the soil, by flipping it side to side. Common household white vinegar (not salad or table vinegar) is very effective for killing annual weeds. This product is typically 6-20% acidity compared to table vinegar which is about 5% acidity. It is particularly useful for those problem areas between paving stones, and gravel walkways. Just be careful about spraying onto any favored plants; it will not discriminate between ‘good plants’ and weeds. Apply it on a hot sunny day, and the weeds will die in 24hrs. Perennial weeds, because of their substantial roots, might take a few more applications to rid them from the garden.
If you’ve planted a bed of garlic, plan on harvesting the scapes or developing flower stalks before they bloom. By clipping off the immature flowers, you send vital energy back down to the developing bulb. Garlic scapes are a much sought-after delicacy; delicious stir-fried, steamed, or added to stews.
Growing your own tomatoes this season? Now is a good time to clip off the suckers that develop, so the plant can devote more energy into fruit production. Tomato suckers usually form in the juncture between the stem and a leaf. If left unchecked your plant can grow into a rangy behemoth, with many stems all trying to flower and fruit. It is more productive to prune the plant periodically, removing any yellowing leaves, and any low-lying leaves that come in contact with the ground.
Need an extra hand with weeding, and garden chores? Countryside can do the ‘heavy lifting’ so you don’t have to. Please call our office: (413) 458-5586 or email: email@example.com
Save those banana peels: make your own organic fertilizer! It has been said that plants are the new ‘pets’ of this generation. Plant ‘parents’ are keen to seek out new ways to care for their plants; methods to help them grow healthier, whether indoor or outdoor plants. In years past there have been trends extolling the benefits of using common household ingredients like coffee grounds and ground eggshells to supplement plant nutrition. The problem with utilizing those items is that for plants to utilize any of the organic compounds in eggshells or coffee grounds, they would need to be decomposed or composted to release any of the good stuff for plants.
The method I will describe now is a version of an old one I learned years ago. I learned to make compost tea, that was recommended as a cure-all and tonic for all outdoor garden plants. It basically was a way of leaching all the goodness from compost into a liquid form that allowed the organic components of compost to be readily available to plants. You would apply the compost tea to the root zone and use it to water the leaves as plants will absorb nutrients through their leaves as well as the roots.
Using banana peels to make banana water or banana peel tea will give your plants the benefits of the humble banana. Bananas are rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Potassium especially is an essential macro-nutrient that boosts plant growth, promotes fruiting, strengthens stems, and helps plants better resist drought and pests. It also will aid in preventing blossom end rot that can plague tomatoes and peppers.
To make a batch of banana water tea, begin by saving your banana peels. If you have a strictly organic garden, use only organic bananas. Put your banana peels in a container with a lid and cover two-thirds of the peels with water. Keep adding peel and water, until you fill the container. To help the peels break down faster, you can cut them into one-inch pieces or pulverize them in a food processor before adding them to your container. Keep the container in a cool dark place for two to three weeks. The peels will have turned black, and the water will be dark in color. It may have a slight odor, but it won’t linger as you use the banana water to fertilize your plants. To use the banana water, strain the solids and pour the liquid into a watering can. Any leftover solids can go on your compost pile. You can use the banana water as part of your regular watering schedule on houseplants, bedding, and container plants.
Banana water is meant as a supplement to boost your plants’ overall health and vitality. It isn’t meant to be the sole source of nutrition for plants, you may want to use a balanced organic fertilizer such as hydrolyzed fish and seaweed fertilizer, which will contain all of the major and minor nutrients plants require.
Thinking ahead…When I think of the month of June, I dream of roses. Roses hold a special place in my heart; it was my late Mother’s favorite flower, and she had some wonderful roses in her tiny New York City garden. Roses have an undeserved reputation for being fussy, they are very resilient and hardy to the extreme. It is possible to grow roses in containers or in beds; I have been growing a Chrysler Imperial red rose in a pot for several years (just too busy to plant it) and it blooms all summer, and again mid-winter in my unheated sunporch-a real treat. Here are a few of the exciting new roses for 2023.
Heavenly Scented Rose-This fragrant, salmon colored hybrid tea has old-fashioned, cupped and very double, large blooms that are pointed and ovoid. Blooms are on long stems with medium, glossy green foliage. Very good disease resistance. I was given this rose for my birthday and can’t wait to see it bloom! Heavenly Scented has an upright habit, and will grow into a tall bush, to 4 feet tall. All roses benefit from full sun (6 hours +) and consistent soil moisture.
Heavenly Scented Rose
Buttercream Drift Rose– Drift Roses are groundcover type roses, great for planting swaths of beds and edging. Buttercream Drift has light yellow flowers with cuplike petals. Compact bushes will grow only 1.5 feet tall X 2 feet wide. These hybrids are bred to be very low maintenance, no deadheading required, and very pest resistant.
Buttercream Drift Rose
Reminiscent Rose- Each big, full bloom boasts a very high petal count and a delightful fragrance on a disease resistant habit. Clean, vigorous growth and foliage, with no deadheading required for continuous bloom. Dark green foliage accents the flowers and stays clean and healthy through the season. There are 3 color varieties Crema, creamy buttermilk colored, Coral, deep pinkish-coral with coppery colored center, and Pink. Grows 2-4 feet tall X 2 feet wide on a semi-upright shrub.
True Courage Rose-Starts blooming early with eye-catching bright color on dark glossy foliage. Good disease resistance. Carefree low growing shrub rose. A good choice for containers, patios, edgings, and borders. Very cold hardy, with a light fragrance. This upright shrub rose will grow 2.5 feet tall X 2.5 feet wide.
True Courage Rose
Rise Up Lilac Days Rose-is one of the most unique roses to hit the North American market in years. Features unique lilac-blue flowers with a powerful, true-rose fragrance, with a versatile habit that allows it to be grown as a climber or a shrub. Grows 5-8 feet tall X 2-4 feet wide.
Rise Up Lilac Days Rose