Small Space Gardening by Diane Dryden is a series of garden articles that will run the entire summer with information for both new and experienced gardeners. Every two weeks the articles will update as the gardening year progresses; from picking out a site up to harvest in the fall.
Small Space Gardening - Article #9
Garden Update, Berry Bugs, Annuals Vs. Perennials, And Trees
Wisconsin weather is not on the gardener's side this year. Hopefully, you are determined to soldier on despite the cold and the hail.
If you planted spuds, they should not only be up, but you've been adding soil as the plant grows. I'm happy to report that my experiment of growing them in cat food bags looks like a success. The plants are to the top of the bag, and now I'll just let the green tops grow until they flower. At that point, I can tip over the bags and harvest, or as some people told me, wait until the plant starts to die, then harvest.
If you are planting tomatoes and peppers, I hope you've waited until this week to put them in. Especially peppers. They are so fussy.
I have great hope for my peppers, seeing I paid a hefty price for the seeds. They are called Nadapeno and are supposed to be like a jalapeno pepper but with less heat. I didn't put two and two together with the name until I was transplanting them into 16-ounce stryo cups, writing the name of each cup.
"Nada" in Spanish means "no." Peno means pepper. Put them together, and you've got "not pepper." duh.
That's gardening. You learn all the time.
If you have berries of any kind, blues, red or black raspberries, currents, or honeyberries, now is the time to make a few traps to check out the bug situation.
Several years ago, a new fruit fly appeared, sending professional berry growers looking for answers. The fly would appear early in the season and invade the berries. When picked, not only did consumers eat the fruit, but they got extra protein as they munched away on the bug-laden berries.
One easy solution we found for our black and red raspberries is a product called Neem oil. It's an organic oil spray that needs to be applied when the fruit is just coming on. Like other organic products, it washes off in the rain, so it needs to be reapplied often.
Traps are easy to make from plastic pint containers, like the containers sour cream and cream cheese come in. Poke tiny holes around the top. Make two holes on each side around the top for a string to be attached. Put a few tablespoons of vinegar in the bottom, white or apple cider, topped with a few drops of dish soap. Attach the lid, and hang it in the patch.
Check periodically for bugs, and when you find them, continue your spraying.
To answer the question that came in last week, a perennial plant is one you plant one time, and it comes back every year.
An annual is one you have to plant every year. I can't think of even one vegetable that's perennial. This rule applies mainly to flowers.
Before you get too excited about perennials, they have a downside. Make sure you really like the plant or like having plant sales because they "sleep, creep, leap."
If the plant is happy where you put it, you've got lots more of the same plant in a few years. You've been cautioned!
If this is the year you are looking to plant trees, read on.
Here's another growing thing that takes a lot of thought. Is this a stand-alone specimen tree? You know, it's the showoff in the yard that sets off the house.
Or are you planting for privacy, either from your neighbors or the street?
Maybe you're thinking of planting a wind break.
Perhaps you're starting a small orchid.
Some trees fit all of those categories, but you need to think long-term.
Coming from a large city, we saw a common mistake that countless people in the new overnight suburbs made time after time. No sooner were the houses purchased than lots of fast-growing trees filled the yard. This must have made sense to the homeowner. Plant something that would give shade and compliment the house in five years. They'd buy the ones that shot straight up and were quite impressive. That is until they fell over in a storm and smashed something important.
Quality trees take time to grow. It's a sad fact, but you will have to wait years unless you can afford to have large trees dug professionally and moved to your property.
Wherever you buy your tree, check the tag. Remember, we're zone 3, possibly 4.
If you're not sure what you want, check out the neighborhood. See what grows locally.
When it comes to fruit trees, be cautious. A full-size tree, like an apple, can grow so tall it will be difficult to pick without a very tall ladder. Chose a dwarf if you can, and stay in the zone.
It's not just the cold winters that will kill the fruit trees. Sure, some are 'hearty' to -30 degrees, but can they handle a series of late frosts? This is when they are entirely in bloom, and the frost freezes off all the blossoms.
Windbreaks are heat-saving miracles. Plant them on the north/west side of the house for best protection against the bitter winter winds. Evergreens are great for one of the rows, and a hearty bush, like the lilac, works great in front of the pines. Plant them far enough away that they won't hit your house even if they come down in a storm. Planting away from the house also gives protection if a forest fire strikes the area.
There is one common tree and shrub planting mistake that everyone's seen. You know, those little houses swamped by the tiny fir tree planted by the front door that now reaches the second-floor window?
As a caution when planting a tree, take a garden hose and make a circle the size of the mature tree's 'wingspan.' Then plant appropriately.
Fruit trees will bring all sorts of critters into your yard if you plant them too close to the house. Deer love apples, plums, and anything sweet lying on the ground or on the branches. As long as the deer are in the yard, they will take a tour of the rest of the buffet and nip off all your roses and hostas.
So, think. But plant.
In 2001, a tornado followed one of our main east/west road for close to 20 miles. It destroyed quite a bit of the little town on Siren, the Lilac Capitol.
The plucky little town was rebuilt using a log cabin theme for many businesses. Sadly, almost no one planted trees. No one even planted lilac bushes. Here's a town that either needs to do some re-branding or work with their Chamber and their Land Department and do a mass lilac planting. Maybe it's just me.
Corn, the first crop, has now been planted in the Three Sister's garden. We're using a cultivar corn called Glass Gem, and it will grow up to 9 feet tall. It is a grandchild of the corn grown by the American Indians in the Southwest for generations.
Initially, we were growing it to be used as gifts in the fall with its blue, pink, and yellow translucent seeds. Upon further reading in the seed catalog, we found out it can be dried and popped. Or it can be parched, and we have the option of making corn meal out of it.
Bonus! Parching information says this can be done on the stove using a heavy skillet. The end product is eatable and often used in a rustic trail mix. We'll see.
I hope you've had some garden success already this year with radishes, lettuces, table onions, or spinach.
If I can help, let me know. Send your comments, questions, and wisdom along anytime.
Next time, ponds and wildflower gardens.