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Flower and Food Gardening

Fresh, summer fruit is a pleasure that even small gardens can afford if planned properly. If you have a sunny spot on your deck, patio, porch, driveway or rooftop you can grow edibles in containers. Shrubs and trees that require root development for ample fruit production will appreciate a large, deep container. Compost rich, fertile, well drained soil produces healthy harvests.  

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Saving Space thru Square Foot Gardening

Reaping a maximum yield from a small, urban garden can be challenging. Employing succession planting scheme avoids empty spots. French intensive methods keep weeds down. Try interplanting, tier planting and vertical planting techniques to produce a long harvest of fruits to your table. Crops grown in hanging baskets are kept from pets and pests. Train bush and brambles against fences or walls to make better use of limited space.

Berry Interesting Facts

Why can the Pacific Northwest grow so many berry varieties? Our climate favors forests and acidic forest soils favor berry plants. They are adapted to summer drought, low light and winter chilling periods. There is little wind on the forest floor. Animals are the most efficient means of seed dispersal. Berry plants rely on tasty fruit to spread its seed over a wide area. Blueberries and huckleberries flourish in North American forests.  

Victory Gardening

In 1943, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted the first victory garden on the White House lawn. Initially created to support the troops in World War II, it also assisted Americans to feed their families in tough economic times. On April 22, 2009 Earth Day, Michelle Obama and her girls helped plant a vegetable garden. Local garden centers are reporting bumper crop sales of seeds, veggies and berry plants this year as the nation hunkers down once more. An increased awareness of organics, sustainability and lackluster economy has raised the victory garden up. Even Buckingham Palace is sporting a vegetable garden on the grounds this year. Everything old is new again, even with great ideas such as the victory garden.

Low Maintenance Edibles

Fertilizer is not required on many berry plants. The main hazard to plant roots in the Pacific Northwest is not freezing, but rotting. Wet soils promote root rot (Phytophthora) which gradually kills roots. Gray mold (Botrytis blight) is a fungal disease caused by poor air circulation. Cut away infected leaves. Prune to provide air flow. Create a double duty landscape by mixing ornamentals and edibles together. A diversely planted garden reduces pest problems.  

pH is the value that expresses sold acidity or alkalinity. The majority of plants prefer slightly acidic soil measuring between 6.0 – 6.5 on the pH scale. Most berries prefer more acidity in the 4.0 – 5.5 range. High rainfall produces soils that range between 4.5 – 5.5. 

 0-2 Very Acidic
 3-4
 4-5
 6
 7 Neutral
 8-9
10-11
 12-13
 14 Very Alkaline
                 

Pruning

Pruning and training develops well shaped plants. Left unpruned, bushes and canes will still bear fruit, but the quality and size rapidly declines. A regimen of pruning in late winter and early fall will keep all fruiting plants healthy. Winter pruning - after the harshest weather is over - is the time to develop and improve the overall plant shape. Thin and open center of bushes for proper air circulation to prevent diseases in spring. After fruiting is another great time to reshape plants. Unwanted canes or suckers can be removed anytime. Proper pruning establishes a gentle cycle of renewal, removing old or unproductive wood to replace with young, strong, fruitful growth.

Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum)
Ornamental shrubs that provide multi-seasonal interest: flowers, fruit, fall leaf and stem coloring.
Blueberries planted with salal or crocosmia to cover shrub leginess in a perennial bed.
 
Site and Soil:
  • (pH 4.0 – 4.5) Acid loving, sunny location, moist well drained soil.
Bearing Age:
  • Takes 5-7 years for larger specimens to bear fruit.
Fertilization:
  • Mulch with Starbucks® coffee grounds in spring or fall.
  • Varieties (*) are self fertile. Other varieties need cross pollinator to produce heavily.
Planting Notes:
  • More fruit production is set if planting two varieties, but if small space, one self fertile* plant will produce fruit.
  • High bush blueberries shrubs can get large.
  • Plant in mixed sunny borders with other acid loving plants (rhodos, azaleas). 

Pruning:

  •  Before planting, prune to 3-4 of strongest shoots.
  •  Prune to prevent overbearing - which can slow growth.
  •  Develop strong root system, by not letting first year planted shrubs bear fruit.
  •  After 3 years, cut back tips 1/3 to promote side branching.
  •  After 5 years, take 1-3 oldest branches to the ground.

Photo: ‘Northsky’  Low on space? Plant blueberry bushes in containers or half whiskey barrels.

Pests & Diseases:
  • Powdery mildew.  
  • Mummy berry (causes fruit to shrivel). 

Bloom Time:

  •  Multi-season interest: urn shaped white delicate flowers followed by blue fruit. Followed by colorful red and orange stems in fall.

Health Benefits:

  • High anti-oxidant content which can delay aging, prevent cancer and improve eyesight. 

Harvesting Tips:

  • Berries should pull off the stem easily with a slight tug.
  • Color should be intense. Freezes extremely well.

Uses:

  • Background shrubs, containers, hedges, groundcovers.  
  • Pancakes, top ice cream, mix in yogurt, lemonade, muffins, fresh off the stem.

Varieties:

  • High Bush (V. corymbosum) ‘BlueCrop’, ‘Blueray’, ‘Chandler’, ‘Earliblue’, ‘Patriot’
  • Low Bush (V. c. x angustifolium): ‘Brunswick’, ‘Nortthblue’, ‘Northcountry’ • Southern Blueberries: ‘Sunshine Blue’*
  • Dwarf Blueberries: ‘Northsky’, ‘Top Hat’*

Strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa)

First fruit of the season. One of the most popular small fruits in home gardens nationwide.

strawberry.jpg
Site and Soil:
  • (pH 4.5 – 5.5) Prefers full sun.
Bearing Age:
  • Bears fruit after 1st year, sometimes same year.
  • June bearing and everbearing varieties. Everbearing produces fewer runners.
Fertilization:
  • Self fertile.
Planting Notes:
  • 6-8” tall clumping plants.
  • Avoid planting in areas that have had tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplants in last 3 years.
Pruning:
  • Spread easily as a groundcover by runners, but easy to pull out if needed.
apple_undergrowth.jpg
Pests & Diseases:
  • Slugs and birds love them.
  • Powdery mildew.
  • Crushed eggshells keep slugs away.
Bloom Time:
  • Pink flowers arrive March – April for June varieties.
Harvesting Tips:
  • They should pull off the stem easily with a slight tug.
  • Color should be intense. Freezes extremely well
Uses:
  • Plant in hanging baskets or use as a groundcover.
  • Examples: Perennial flower border edging material: French ‘Fraises de Bois’. Strawberry jar using French ‘Mara des Bois’. • Preserves, jams, jellies, and fresh eating.
 
Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) and Blackberries (Rubus spp.)
There is nothing better to walk outside in the early morning and pick berries to top cereal.
raspberry.jpg

Site and Soil:

  • (pH 5.5 – 6.0) full sun, moist soil through summer months.

Bearing Age:

  • Canes grow year one and produce berries second year.
  • Fall bearing raspberries produce crops on top 1/3’ of canes first fall. Then on the lowers part of canes in summer of second year.

8010-5_heritage.jpg

Fertilization:

  • To keep growth in check for small areas, fertilization is not required.

Planting Notes:

  • Canes prefer cool summers, cold winters and rainfall during growing season. More sun equates to increased fruit production.
  • Keep soil moist during flowering and fruiting periods.
  • Grow as shrub, on trellis or wire hedgerow system. Twelve year useful life.
  • Plant 1-2” deeper than provided in containers.

Pruning:

  • Mow over raspberries such as ‘Fall Gold’ or ‘Heritage’. In fall, these will produce berries the following later summer without staking.
  • Cut canes that bore fruit, thin and tie new canes in August.

Pests & Diseases:

  • Heat is their enemy, so afternoon shade is advisable.
  • Cane borers.

8015-5_fall_gold.jpg

Bloom Time:

  • White, single flowers. Summer and fall fruiting. Seek out thornless varieties.

Harvesting Tips:

  • Berries should pull off the stem easily with a slight tug.
  • Color should be intense.
  • Freezes extremely well.

Uses:

  • Take oil drums and paint bright colors to hold blueberries or raspberries.
  • Preserves, jams, jellies, fresh eating.

Varieties:

  • Thornless Raspberries: ‘Canby Thornless’, ‘Nova’ (red) ‘Anne’ (yellow). •
  • Thornless Blackberries: ‘Ardenberry’, ‘Black Diamond Thornless’, ‘Chester Thornless’, ‘Triple Crown Thornless’
Columnar Apples (Malus spp.)
You don’t need a large yard to enjoy apples!
column_apple_tall.jpg
Site and Soil:
  • (pH 6.0 – 6.5), full sun, well drained soil.
Bearing Age:
  • Columnar apples bear fruit on “spurs” wood that is three years or older.
  • Prune in summer to restrict growth and encourage fruiting buds to form.
Fertilization:
  • Spring
Planting Notes:
  • Espalier dwarf varieties, columnar or ‘multiple variety’ grafted trees are an elegant way to work in small spaces.
  • Container grown trees can be planted anytime.
  • Water consistently when fruit is developing.
Pruning:
  • May produce suckers at base of tree. Remove suckers yearly. •
  • Thin trees with any dead, crossing or limbs going towards center of tree. •
  • Thin developing fruit in spring to prevent branches from breaking. •
  • Summer pruning (June - August) of new shoots is needed to keep trees small, fruit harvesting simple and within reach. •
  • Remove yellowing leaves as fruit develops to allow sun to ripen fruit.

0192_scarlet_sentinel.jpg

Pests & Diseases:
  • Can get apple scab or worms.
  • Spray with copper solution in early spring as needed.
Bloom Time: 
  • White flowers blushed with pink edging in spring.
Harvesting Tips:
  • Fruit yield depends on age, size and variety of tree.
  • ‘Scarlet Sentinel’ ripens in mid-September. Apples store well until February.
apple_closeup.jpg
Uses:
  • Espalier trees with Xmas lights provides decorative element to garden parties.
  • Create a dwarf apple ‘fence’ by using 6’ tall bamboo pole lattice tied in diamond cordon pattern. Plant bare root spur bearing apples 2.5’ apart slanting trees to 45 degrees to line up with bamboo grid. Tie loosely to poles; remove ties when tree trunks are larger.
  • Create a low “fence” with apples by creating a low, horizontal cordon using spur-bearing cultivars. Start with young, bare root whips as they can withstand being bent over gradually spaced 2’ posts 5’ apart attaching it to post 2” below post top.
  • Great smaller apples for fresh eating, making cider and baking.
Varieties:
  • ‘Golden Sentinel’, Northpole’, ‘Scarlet Sentinel’ (most compact variety.
 
Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
Attractive ornamental and fruiting groundcover.
 
5725_cranberry.jpg
Site and Soil:
  • (pH 4.0 – 4.5) full sun to partial shade, moist soil.
Bearing Age:
  • 1-2 years after planting.
Fertilization:
  • Self fertile.
Planting Notes:
  • Grows to 6” tall. •
  • Full sun to partial shade, great under deciduous trees. •
  • Prefers moist soil.
Pruning:
  • Shear tops after fruiting to keep in a hedge.
Pests & Diseases:
  • Not bothered by pests or diseases.
Bloom Time:
  • Small pink flowers blooms twice yearly followed by dainty bright red fruit.
Health Benefits:
  • Vitamin C, urinary tract health.
Harvesting Tips:
  • Place paper bag under shrubs. Rub shrub to release berries.
Uses:
  • Evergreen groundcover or use in containers.
  • Juice, dried, cranberry sauce, drinks.
Varieties:
  • ‘Pilgrim’
 
Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum opulus)
Multi-purpose deciduous shrub prized for medicinal properties, fruit and ornamental landscape use.
 
5810_highbush_cranberry.jpg
Site and Soil:
  • (pH 4.0 – 8.0) Prefers ½ day sun in well drained or wet soils.
Bearing Age:
  • Bears fruit year two after planting bare root in container or ground.
Fertilization:
  • Self fertile.
Planting Notes:
  • Grows 8-10 feet tall in ground.
  • Keep growth smaller by planting in large container.
Pruning:
  • Prune in fall after fruiting to maintain shrub overall shape.
Pests & Diseases:
  • Not bothered by pest and diseases.
Bloom Time:
  • Spring (April) produces large clusters of snow white flowers, followed by shiny bright red clusters of berries in fall (September) and reddish-orange foliage.
Health Benefits:
  • Prized for medicinal properties to lower blood pressure and treat heart disease. •
  • Tea can be made to reduce fevers.
Harvesting Tips:
  • Clusters of berries ripen in September.
Uses:
  • In Eastern Europe grows on stream banks, forest and meadows. •
  • Tart berries used in jam, jelly, juice and baked goods.
Varieties:
  • 'Compactum’, ‘Ukraine’
 
Ligonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idea)
No need to go to IKEA® for ligonberry preserves when you can grow them yourself!  
 
5700_red_pearl.jpg
Site and Soil:
  • (pH 4.0 – 4.5) full sun or filtered shade with acidic, moist, well drained soil.
Bearing Age:
  • 1-2 years after planting.
Fertilization:
  • Self fertile.
  • Mulch with Starbucks® coffee grounds in spring or fall.
Planting Notes:
  • Grows to 12” tall. • Space 12” – 14” apart to form groundcover.
Pruning:
  • Shear back after fruiting to keep tidy appearance when needed.
Pests & Diseases:
  • Not bothered by pests or diseases.
Bloom Time:
  • Small white flowers in spring followed by bright red fruit.
Health Benefits:
  • Lowers cholesterol.
Harvesting Tips:
  • Place paper bag under shrubs. Rub shrub to release berries.
Uses:
  • Use as evergreen groundcover, great under deciduous trees, rock gardens and containers.
Varieties:
  • ‘Red Pearl’  
________________________________________________________
 
Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)
A Northwest native prized for making Huckleberry pie and ice cream.  
 
thundercloud.jpg
Site and Soil:
  • (pH 4.0 – 4.5), native to Northwest coastal forests. • Moist, acidic soils, sun or shade.
Bearing Age:
  • 1-2 years after planting.
Fertilization:
  • Self fertile • Mulch with Starbucks® coffee grounds in spring or fall.
Planting Notes:
  • Evergreen 2-3’ tall, small shrub capable of thriving in dry shade and full sun.
  • Coppery, orange bronzy new growth on tips.
  • Will grow taller in shade than in full sun.
Pruning:
  • Shear back after fruiting to keep tidy appearance when needed.
5722_huckleberry.jpg
Pests & Diseases:
  • Not bothered by pests or diseases.
Bloom Time:
  • Small, pink flowers in spring and dark blue-black berries in fall.
Harvesting Tips:
  • Place paper bag under shrubs. Rub shrub to release berries.
Uses:
  • Use as a groundcover, hedge or in containers.
  • Great for flower arrangements.
  • Pies, jams, jellies, syrups and fresh.
Varieties:
  • Lowbush ‘Thunderbird’  

 

 Fruit June   July  August  September October  November
 Apple            
 Blackberries            
 Blueberries            
 Cranberries            
 Hucklerries            
 Raspberries            
 Strawberries            
 
 
Books:
  • The AHS Pruning and Training, Christopher Brickell and David Joyce - DK Publishing •
  • The Edible Garden, Hazel White and Janet Sanchez -  Sunset
  • Gardening in the Pacific Northwest, Carol and Norman Hall  - Timber Press
A Berry Good Recipe
 
Blueberry Basil Lemonade
Yields: One container of juice that can be cut with sparkling water for a refreshing drink.
3 - ½ cups of water
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 cups blueberries
¾ cup sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Combine 2 cups of water and basil.
  • Put blueberries and sugar in sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve or colander, pressing blue berries and basil solids with potato masher. Let stand and cool.
  • Add remaining 1- ½ cups of water and lemon.
  • Garnish with whole blueberries and a basil leaf.
Key (EB) = Ever bearing variety
(JB) = June bearing varieties produce fruit over a 2-3 week period during June only.
(SF) = Self fertile. Variety does not need a partner companion plant to produce fruit.
 
 

BeeDazzled Gardens & Designs Specializes in creating fragrant, organic, low maintenance garden vignettes that add value and pleasure to a home or business exterior and landscape. Our specialty is staged, perennial bed planting designs, seasonal potted containers and garden renovations. Learn more about Dawn at her profile www.themulch.com/community/1859-beedazzledgardens/profile.


Photo credit on all photos: Dawn Hummel 

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