Tag Archives: edibles

Happy New Year 2013 from The Mountain Gardener

It's a humbling experience to read some of my past columns celebrating the New Year. Once you write something down it's there forever. Like a social media post it can haunt you. Such lofty goals I've set for myself over the years. But now it's that time of year when I look around the garden and think about the good things I accomplished and some that didn't get done.  A garden reflects our lives- always room for growth as well as reflection.

We live in a rain forest. Easy to remember the past few weeks as gentle and not so gentle raindrops fall on the thick redwood duff beneath the trees.  Mushrooms of every color and type poke through leaves still bright with the shades of fall. Last year was pretty dry until March. Not that great for fungi but this year should be spectacular. All the better to continue learning about our local mushrooms. It's one of my favorite goals for the New Year. The fungus fair in Santa Cruz is coming up the weekend of January 11th and I want to be better informed before my volunteer shift as a basketeer arrives.

Each year I pledge to plant more things to eat. Edibles in the garden feed both the body and the soul. They are more than just vegetables and fruit trees. When you grow something you are being a good steward of the land as you enrich the topsoil using sustainable organic techniques. You can connect with neighbors by trading your extra pumpkins for their persimmons. Knowledge of how and what to grow can be exchanged, seeds swapped.
Growing edibles is more that time spent doing healthy physical work it's connecting us to the earth and to each other.

This year I was able to visit gardens in far away places such as Poland to learn about Eastern European landscaping styles and traditions. Some were very different than what we are used to here in western gardens. Gardeners, though, are the same everywhere-eager to show off and share. I also had the opportunity to visit Abkhazi Garden and the famous Butchart Garden in Victoria, British Columbia during the summer. Nothing can prepare you for the wonder that can be created out of nothing. I came back overflowing with inspiration for my landscape designs.

Next I plan to visit Chihuly Gardens in Seattle and a green wall installation in Tacoma. There's no better way to recharge your creative batteries than to see an inspiring garden. Even a walk around your neighborhood can give you ideas for your own garden. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a huge boulder and wished I could magically transport it to my own yard.

New Years resolutions for gardeners should be mere suggestions. Don't get hung up on achieving everything you would like. Your wish list will serve you well during the cold, wet days of winter even if you don't get them implemented. Sure planning a landscape that conserves water will benefit the environment and your budget. And ordering seeds for the spring garden is great therapy for winter blues and future meals. But there's always next year or next month or the summer after next.

Dreaming is more than an idle pursuit. It's good for you and improves the quality of your life over the long haul. So don't worry if you don't get to everything you hoped to accomplish. It's all in the baby steps. We gardeners are eternal optimists. Why else would be plant a tree or a seed or a garden?

Happy New Year from The Mountain Gardener.

Healthy Edibles to Grow from Bare Root

Make this the year you take advantage of planting blueberries, grapes, strawberries,  peaches, cherries and apples from bare-root stock. These crops are .

Because of all the rains that fell in December, the growers are late getting into their fields to dig up the 2 million bare-root plants they harvest and deliver to your local nursery. The Santa Cruz Mountains stay cooler for a longer period in the winter, allowing dormant trees, shrubs and vines to be available to the home gardener in bare root form throughout February, too. The early bird gets the worm as far as best selection goes so take a look around your property and decide which yummy fruit and berry you’ll be adding to your garden.

I love blueberries. They are low in calories and so good for you. They contain the highest concentration of antioxidants of all fresh fruit. They have lots of vitamins and help boost your immune system. The list or benefits goes on and on. On top of all that, they make beautiful hedges with stunning fall color.

One variety I’m dying to try is a hybrid from Australia called Brigitta.  This Northern highbush variety is sweet yet slightly tart. The grower says they possess an amazing shelf. They’ve stored this blueberry for over a month in the refrigerator and they were still crisp with a great taste. The berry is medium to large and ripens late in the season. The bush is a fast grower to 4-6 feet with deep green foliage and bronze tinted new growth. It is semi-self fertile but produces more  planted alongside Bluecrop. Try planting them each in their own wine barrel where you can control the soil, watering and sun exposure.

Apples-you know the saying "one a day keeps the doctor away". There are lots of apple varieties to choose from.  Honeycrisp is a large, scarlet over yellow apple with a well-balanced sweet tart flavor. The texture is similar to a crisp watermelon or Asian pear and is very juicy. They ripen in late September.

Another crisp apple to grow is the Braeburn apple. The skin is green overlaid with orange-red while the flesh is firm, crisp and juicy. It is mildly sweet tart with an excellent flavor, is a heavy producer and stores well. It ripens October to early November.

Love biting into a juicy peach in the summertime? Try growing Santa Barbara, considered the best tasting peach for homeowners. Flesh is yellow, freestone and red near the pit. It has a melting texture, delightfully sweet, combined with the delicious peach flavor. Peaches are self-fertile. This variety requires only 300 hour of chill below 45 degrees so is good for warmer winter areas as well as the mountains.

Your favorite fruit are cherries but you don’t have much room for a big tree? Then the Compact Stella cherry is the tree for you. The fruit is firm, sweet and dark red with good flavor and texture. It’s excellent for eating, canning and preserves while being self fertile and a good pollinizer for all sweet cherries.

There are other edibles available now, too, like figs, pomegranate, persimmon, apricot, pears, plums, asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, grapes and blackberries. They all sounds delicious.
 

New Year’s Resolutions for Gardeners

Last year I was brave and published my New Year’s resolutions– at least those that pertain to the garden. It’s now the day of reckoning. Let’s see how I did and which ones I’ll  keep for 2011.   In the garden, as in life, simple changes can make a big difference over a long time. I’m adding a couple new ones that are important, too.

Learn something new every day. Whether it’s something new in the garden or elsewhere, keep learning. I’m starting to learn about local mushrooms. They come up in the most beautiful places. I’m looking forward to the Fungus Fair in January.
Enjoy the simple things. Laugh often. Life is not measured by the breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.  Everyday is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.


Of the 16 gardener’s resolutions I made last year I can honestly say I achieved half of them.

I did pay more attention to the size that plants grow and believed the tag when it said "spreading habit". But I also found that pruning shears are life savers  when you just have to have that new foliage plant that just came out.

I started making garden journal entries in February instead of January as I resolved. But then I tried to make up for it in March, May, June, October, November and December.  I missed 5 out of 12 months. I get a "C-".

I added more pollen-producing flowering plants to attract beneficial insects which kept the good guys around longer to eat the bad bugs. And I learned what quite a few of the good guys look like.  ( That counts as two resolutions )

I sat in my garden and enjoyed it, not jumping up to rearrange containers. (This one was easy)

I applied to get my little garden certified as a wildlife habitat  with the National Wildlife Federation by making sure I provided food sources, water, cover, places to raise young and used sustainable gardening techniques.

I fertilized my perennials a couple of times this year with organic compost and fertilizer instead of just once and boy were they happy. The trees and larger shrubs really only need a light dose once a year so I was good there.

I wore sunscreen everyday. (My doctor wants a hat, too. Maybe this year I’ll wear one.)

The other half of last year’s resolutions are being recycled as they’re still good ones:

I will not buy a new flower, shrub or tree until I have a plan for it in the garden.

I will sharpen and clean my garden tools so they look spiffy and work better.

I will start a worm bin with my kitchen scraps and a compost pile for leaves and plant debris. (I have so many raccoons it’s like a party out there at night but I’m going to come up with a critter-proof solution.)

I will weed regularly- not waiting until they’re so tall they swallow up my gardening tools when I lay them down.

I will accept a few holes in my plants but tour the garden regularly to identify if a problem is getting out of control and I need to break out an organic pesticide.

I will prune my maples, transplant my overgrown containers and divide my perennials when I’m supposed to.

I will plant more things to eat. Edibles anywhere in the garden feed the body and the soul. (This summer was so cold I didn’t have much luck in my partial shade.)

I will stop rationalizing my plant habit is better than gambling, clothes shopping or smoking.

I will do better to practice what I preach in this column.

Happy New Year in 2011 from The Mountain Gardener