Small Space Gardening by Diane Dryden is a series of gardening articles throughout the summer with information for new and experienced gardeners alike. Articles are updated every two weeks throughout the gardening year; from site selection to harvest in autumn.
Gardening in a small space – article no. 9
Garden Update, Berry Bugs, Annuals Vs. Perennials and Trees
The weather in Wisconsin is not on the side of the gardeners this year. Hope you are determined to keep fighting despite the cold and hail.
If you planted potatoes, not only should they be on top, but you’ve added 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 at the top of the bag and now I just let the green tips grow until they bloom. At that point I can tip the sacks and harvest, or as some people have told me, wait for the plant to start dying and then harvest.
If you’re planting tomatoes and peppers, hopefully you’ve waited until this week to plant them. Especially peppers. You are so picky.
I have high hopes for my peppers as I paid a high price for the seeds. They are called nadapeno and are said to be like a jalapeno pepper but with less heat. I didn’t put two and two together by name until I transplanted them into 16oz stryo cups and wrote each cup’s name.
“Nada” means “no” in Spanish. Peno means pepper. Put them together and you have “not pepper”. moron.
This is gardening. You study all the time.
If you have berries of any kind, blue, red or black raspberries, currants or honeyberries, now is the time to build some traps to check the error situation.
A few years ago, a new fruit fly appeared, sending professional berry growers in search of answers. The fly would appear early in the season and invade the berries. When picked, consumers not only ate the fruit, but also got extra protein as they munched on the bug-laden berries.
A simple fix we found for our black and red raspberries is a product called neem oil. It is an organic oil spray that needs to be applied when the fruit is just opening. Like other organic products, it washes off when it rains and therefore needs to be reapplied often.
Traps are easily made from plastic pint containers, like the sour cream and cream cheese containers. Poke small holes around the top. Make two holes on each side around the top to attach a string. Add a few tablespoons of vinegar to the soil, white or cider, with a few drops of dish soap. Attach the lid and hang it in the patch.
Periodically check for bugs and if you find them, continue spraying.
To answer the question asked last week, you plant a perennial once and it will come back every year.
An annual is one that you must plant every year. I can’t even think of a vegetable that is 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 enjoy plant sales because they “sleep, crawl, jump”.
If the plant is happy where you put it, you’ll have a lot more of the same plant in a few years. You have been warned!
If you’re planning to plant trees this year, read on.
Here’s another growing thing that requires a lot of thought. Is this a standalone instance tree? You know, it’s the show-off in the yard that starts the house.
Or are you planting for privacy, either from your neighbors or the street?
You might consider planting a windbreak.
Maybe you start a little orchid.
Some trees fit all of these categories, but you have to think long-term.
Coming from a big city, we saw a common mistake that countless people in the new overnight suburbs made again and again. As soon as the houses were bought, many fast-growing trees filled the yard. That must have made sense to the homeowner. Plant something that would provide shade and complement the home five years from now. They bought the ones that shot straight up and were pretty impressive. Until they fell down in a storm and smashed something important.
Quality trees need time to grow. It’s a sad fact, but you’ll have to wait years if you can’t afford to have large trees professionally excavated and placed on your property.
Check the label wherever you buy your tree. Remember we are zone 3, possibly 4.
If you’re not sure what you want, check out the neighborhood. See what’s growing locally.
Be careful when it comes to fruit trees. A mature tree, like an apple, can grow so tall that it is difficult to pluck it without a very tall ladder. Pick a midget if you can and stay in the zone.
It’s not just the cold winters that kill fruit trees. Sure, some are “hearty” down to -30 degrees, but can they handle a series of late frosts? This is when they are in full bloom and the frost freezes off all the blooms.
Windbreaks are heat-saving miracles. Plant them on the north/west side of the house for the best protection from the bitter winter winds. Evergreens are great for one of the rows, and a vigorous 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 outside the home also provides protection if a wildfire hits the area.
There is a common mistake when planting trees and shrubs that everyone has seen. You know, those little houses that get swamped by that tiny fir tree that was planted next to the front door and is now reaching the second floor window?
As a precaution when planting a tree, take a garden hose and make a circle the size of the “wing span” of the mature tree. Then plant properly.
Fruit trees will bring all sorts of critters into your garden if you plant them too close to the house. Deer love apples, plums and anything sweet on the ground or branches. As long as the deer are in the yard, they’ll take a tour of the rest of the buffet and nibble on all your roses and hostas.
So think. But plant.
In 2001, a tornado followed one of our main east-west roads for nearly 20 miles. It destroyed quite a bit of the small town on Siren, the Lilac Capitol.
The bold little town has been rebuilt for many businesses with a log home theme. Unfortunately, almost no one planted trees. Nobody even planted lilac bushes. Here’s a city that needs to either rebrand or work with their chamber and land department and do a mass planting of lilacs. Maybe it’s just me.
Corn, the first crop, has now been planted in the Three Sisters’ garden. We use a variety of corn called Glass Gem that can grow up to 9 feet tall. It is a grandson of the corn grown by American Indians in the Southwest for generations.
We originally grew her with her blue, pink and yellow translucent seeds to use as gifts in the fall. Upon further reading the seed catalogue, we found that it can be dried and popped. Or it can be dried, and we have the option of making cornmeal out of it.
Bonus! Drying out information says this can be done with a heavy pan on the stove. The end product is edible and is often used in a rustic trail mix. We will see.
I hope you have had some gardening successes this year with radishes, lettuce, onions or spinach.
If I can help please let me know. Send your comments, questions and wisdom anytime.
Next time ponds and wildflower gardens.