Tag Archives: blueberries

European Hornets Persist in My Garden

European hornet in garden.

European hornets are big, bold but willing to share space.

In the interest of knowing my enemy…better….I wanted to find out where European hornets nest.

Penn State’s extension office gave me the full boat on these very big  hornets who, when challenged, can be pretty darned aggressive.

Apparently, they create nests above ground, often in abandoned trees.  I first saw these hornets in my garden 3 years ago when my figs outdid themselves and the hornets have since moved in but I don’t know where.

I do know that they love my blueberry patch – hence the Tyvex suits on my sister and I as we go blueberry picking.  The colanders are just for show!

Blueberry picking around hornets

Meg and I do battle with hornets for blueberries.

Apparently, our choice of attire was a fortunate one. These hornets don’t like black or dark clothing and will warn you off by butting you.  If you don’t get the message, they will bite to defend their nest but, for all their size, European hornets are considered “docile.”

That said, I still wear Tyvex — now when I try to pick blackberries because that’s where the hornets are in August.  Unfortunately, the hornets are still sharing space with the Japanese beetles that are still hanging on, chewing through my plants and eating only the ripe berries, of course!

Anyway, if you see any of these big boys in your garden, back away slowly. Don’t arm wave or bat at them.  They just want you to go away but if you don’t, if you appear to be a threat, remember that European hornets are big; they will bite with malice aforethought and they can sting 8 or 9 times.

Who says gardening is a quiet past time?  It’s always an adventure in my backyard and I’ll bet it is in yours, too.

 

 

 

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Japanese Beetles Decimating My Plants

It must be July.

This is the month when the Japanese Beetles swarm in, over and under all of my plants and make veritable skeletons where once there was beautiful green.

Japanese Beetles destroy Chinese Cabbage

Japanese beetles make lace with Chinese Cabbage.

My Chinese cabbage fell to the Japanese beetles but I am determined NOT to lose the battle over my green beans and my blackberry bushes.

Unfortunately, because the beetles are so bad this year, I have resorted to using my apple tree as a distraction.

Japanese Beetles eat my apple tree.

Every leaf on this apple tree is eaten.

 

And the Japanese beetles are attacking with a vengeance.  The leaves are being eaten on every branch.  I hate using the tree to attract the beetles but, as an organic gardener, I have to or I wouldn’t have a prayer of holding the line in my garden.

So, how do I kill the ones that make it into the garden and chew through leaves of just about any plant?  Well, it isn’t pretty but my method works and it is organic.

Every morning and every evening, I fill a small container with dishwater, grab my big spoon and head out to the garden.  I spend about 25 minutes smacking beetles into the bucket.

Drowning Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetles to drown in dishwater.

When I’m done, I usually have between 100 and 150 beetles floating in the water.

Okay is sounds gross and the resulting “bucket of beetles” looks gross but it works.  And there is a perverse satisfaction in slapping them into the water, knowing their destructive activities are over.

So, the battle continues and I have good and bad days relative to control but I don’t spray; I don’t give up and I do, eventually beat them back.

Volunteer sunflowers

Sunflowers make me smile.

And when I am feeling outnumbered or a bit down, I just look out my office door at  one of the hundred or more volunteer sunflowers that are in my garden and yard and smile.

And to make you smile, I am sharing a picture of my sister Meg, now known as Commander Colander Head, and I heading out to the blueberry patch to do battle with the vicious and varied invaders we call hornets.

This year I’ve got Bald-faced and European hornets and even hornets that look like bumblebees. And of course, there are honey bees, yellow jackets and genuine bumblebees.

So, when we go out to pick, we “suit up” – Tyvex suits are tucked into socks.  Muck shoes are worn and, if it’s really warm, nitrile gloves.

Blueberry picking around hornets

Meg and I do battle with hornets for blueberries.

The protective gear really does make it safer to pick.  And starting just as the sun cracks over the horizon also helps.

I’ve gotten about 85 quarts of blueberries this year and not one bite or one “fatality”, either human or bee!

COLD Air in the Mid-Atlantic & My Garden is Shivering!

Holy cats! It’s so cold here that the heat came on last night!  Temps dropped into the low 40’s and the wind has been keeping up a constant dialogue, sweeping across my recently planted veggie babies at speeds between 15 and 20 MPH with gusts into the 30 MPH range.

Organic blueberries and zuchetta

Zuchetta share space with blueberry bushes.

All of my warm weather plants are speed dialing their lawyers.

But it is May.  And there always is a bit of back and forth with the weather before everything settles down and the warm nights and warmer days of summer arrive.

I did bank straw up around the peppers, eggplant, zuchetta, summer squash and tomatoes.  And I talked with them a bit about the current conditions and the expected warming trend.

I may lose some of my plants.  And some of them may just slow down their growth but, by and large, most of them will be okay.  And so it goes in the beautiful but not always predictable world of growing your own organic produce.

How are your newly planted gardens faring?

2015 Organic Garden in the Ground!

I got all of my plants in the ground – wrapping up planting today.  All organic seed, all raised by me in my basement and all hand-planted.

Granted, the garden doesn’t look like much right now but give it a few weeks and the size and shape of every plant will change as they fill in their spaces!

My garden is all planted.

All my plants are in the garden and ready to grow.

Here’s the inventory!  And, instead of talking about them, here are pictures of the newly transplanted, beautiful babies.

Eggplant baby.

Eggplant transplant just in the ground.

I put in 4 different types of tomatoes – 12 plants – Golden Slicer, Fir, Fox Cherry & San Marzano

Sweet Italian Peppers – 14 plants

Organic Italian sweet peppers

Inverted tomato cages help support my Italian sweet pepper plants.

Eggplants – 5 plants – Dusky and Melanzana Prosperosa

Zukes – 3 plants – saved seeds from last year’s Italian Zuchetta

Cukes – Saber F1 from Seeds of Change and Cetriolo from Grow Italian.

Kale – 10 plants – Curly, Russian, Dino & some unknowns from Adaptiv Seeds

Beets – lots and lots of plants – Cylindra and Early Wonder

Lettuce – Butterhead, Red Oak & a mix of saved seeds from last year and

Organic red leaf lettuce

Organic red leaf lettuce grows quickly and tastes sweet by itself or in salads.

Onions – 100 plants which I did not raise. I got these from an Amish friend.

Oh, and my thornless blackberries are growing and greening up!  And right below them, my gorgeous blueberries are covered with flowers.  Planted once, harvest every year for 20 years+ – organic gardening really is easy!

Thornless blackberries

My Doyle thornless blackberry bushes getting ready for summer.

Blueberry bushes laden with flowers.

Every flower on every blueberry bush becomes a blueberry — 60 quarts every summer.

Growing Organic Blueberries is EASY!

Want to raise your own organic fruit?  Why not start with the easiest and one of the tastiest fruits first?

Blueberries win that contest hands down.  Long before edible landscaping was popular, I began exploring ways to raise fruit like blueberries, one of the more expensive products you’ll find in any store.

Organic blueberries on the bush

My organic blueberry plants yield 40 to 60 quarts every summer and take little or no work.

I put in 12 plants – 4 different varieties and I’ve been harvesting blueberries ever since – 4o to 60 quarts a summer!

That translates to a savings of $500.00 every year and that’s a conservative estimate.  That’s $7500 in my pocket for an initial investment of less than $100.00!

You’re probably thinking, “Oh, I don’t have enough space.” or “I can’t grow anything.”  Or my favorite, “I don’t know how.” I am here to tell you blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow…period.  And I’m going to tell you how to do it.

Pick the spot where you will plant them
Even if you are putting them in pots.  Why?  Two reasons. Blueberries need sunlight and lots of it so pick the sunny side of your house, a sunny spot in your yard or a sunny patch on the deck to plant them.  Blueberries also need good

Organic blueberries growing in my back yard.

Organic blueberries don’t need much to produce – sun, water, mulch and time.

drainage so don’t pick the soggy spot in your yard where nothing ever grows.

Pick the bushes you want to buy
I got mine at Miller’s Nursery (now Stark Brothers) 15 years ago and had to figure it out on my own.  But Miller’s has made it even easier to choose, now.  They tell you about each plant including how hardy they are, how tall they’ll grow and when they fruit.  They even have collections! So whether you’re potting your plants or using them to landscape around your house, it will be easy to get the right ones.

Make sure your dirt is good for their roots.  Blueberries like acidic soil – a ph of 4 to 5.  Any nursery can help you buy the right dirt if you’re potting.  And your local Ag Extension office can test the soil in your yard to see what you have to add.  NOTE:  I didn’t test; I just planted and all of my bushes survived and grew.

Plant them the right way.  For plants, take the plastic pot off, lightly roughen up the outside surface of the root ball. Set the top soil line of the plant about 1-2 inches higher than the existing ground and firm around root ball. Mound soil up along sides of exposed root mass. Water well.   For bare root plants, spread roots out wide and shallow, cover with 1/2″ of soil. Firm soil around roots and water well.

MULCH!
This is one of the best ways to ensure your blueberries will “live well and prosper” at your place.  Blueberries are shallow rooted.  If you don’t mulch, anything from frost, to extreme heat to rabbits can find and damage the roots.  But don’t think you have to buy expensive mulch!  Use my trick – newspaper and straw.  That’s right – Scott and Helen Nearing’s method.  It’s cheap, it provides fertilizer because the materials are acid and do break down and it makes my blueberry patch…weed free.

Sit back and watch them settle in and grow!
In an average year, I harvest up to 60 quarts of blueberries.  That’s 120 pints and 240 1/2 pints of organic, good for you and good tasting blueberries.  I eat them, make low sugar jam (using Pomona Pectin) out of them, freeze them and enjoy them even in the dead of winter!

If you grow your own blueberries, you don’t just save cash, you get all the health benefits that these tiny, blue jewels bring to your table.   Blueberries are one of the superstars on the healthy foods list. Only 80 calories per cup and virtually no fat, packed with vitamin C, a ready source of fiber and near the top of the list when it comes to antioxidant activity per serving.  How could you resist them?

 Bob’s Blueberry Buckle
¾ c sugar
¼ c butter
1 egg
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 c blueberries

Topping:
½ tsp cinnamon
½ c brown sugar
1/3 c flour
¼ c butter

DIRECTIONS:
Toss blueberries in a little flour.
Make topping.
Mix all ingredients for cake together.
Stir in blueberries.

NOTE:  This is a very, very thick batter.  Don’t worry about it.  Just pat the cake batter into a 9 inch square baking pan.  Sprinkle with topping and bake at 375 for 40 to 45 minutes.  While it’s baking, soften the butter and stand back.  When it comes out of the oven, there is nothing better than warm blueberry buckle, buried in butter.

What is landscaping? – ArtyPlantz

I love this essay; I love the underlying thought and philosophy it is base on.  What is landscaping? – ArtyPlantz.

Looking out my kitchen window at my back yard, I have never thought of what’s

ArtyPlantz changed landscaping for me.

Back yards are more than landscaping; they are healing places.

growing out there as anything more than either a means to an end or “mine.”

Blueberries, blackberries, apple, pear and cherry trees live side by side with vegetable and herb beds.  Flowers grow around all of them.

 

This morning and every morning, hereafter, because of this essay, what I see will be forever changed.

With the rising sun, I will begin to look at my back yard as a bit of heaven on earth, a place where the wonders of nature – sun, rain, seeds, wind, all conspire to create a healing place full of plants, full of wonder.

I believe I will begin to understand that I am just the caretaker of this bit of heaven…not the creator of it.  And I know I will feel the richness, the peace and the joy that sprouts in this bit of land even more deeply now, thanks to ArtyPlantz.

ArtyPlantz is a group of people working hard to “grow” love for plants and trees in their homeland.  As described on their website, this group is located, “In the heart of The Garden City of Bangalore, we are located in R T Nagar, just a few minutes away from Mekhri Circle, Palace Grounds.”

Perhaps, someday, I will visit their little bit of heaven but even without traveling half way around the world, I feel as though I have touched and been touched by this amazing group.

NOTE:  ArtyPlantz is a member of the LinkedIn group – Grow Girls Grow Organic.  For more posts like this one or to share your ideas, tips and thoughts, please join our organic gardening group and help us change the world!