Garden Blog

Today lets talk about the dormancy of fruit trees and berry bushes.

Most of the United States does have a winter where fruit trees and bushes need cooler temperatures for a period of resting. That is one way to think about dormancy. It is a period of rest. Just like for humans winter can be a period of rest from taking care of all kinds of gardens. The gardens don’t need to be weeded, watered, picked, or pruned. Also, the final harvest is all preserved or put in the root cellar for winter eating.


Some fruits need hundreds of hours of cooler temps to be in a dormant period. Once the dormant time is starting to lessen up and you start to venture outside as the weather starts to warm up from the winter cold. This is when you start looking at telltale signs that your plants and trees made it through the winter with any possible damage that they might have suffered. For me, I start looking at the gardens and bushes when I see the first robin of the year in our yard.


I do the assessment of each branch or cane for any possible damage. The first thing I prune is our lilac as it is the first thing that shows any sign of life in the late winter to early spring. I prefer to prune it when the temperatures are warm enough that I won’t have my fingers and hands getting cold within just a few minutes. Plus with our lilac, it is large enough that it takes a couple of days. Pruning entails removing the short branches that had blooms and leaves on them the year before. Most people will lilacs in the fall as it is going into dormancy. But with the early spring pruning, I can catch any damage from the winter and take it out as I take the previous year's dead blooms out. Plus with the leaves gone, it is easier to see the dead stuff.


The next thing I look at after the lilac is our fruits. What I am looking at with them is any sign of new leaf buds and shoots coming up from the ground on the raspberry canes, rhubarb poking up through the dirt. Our raspberries we do cut them down to about a foot above the ground in the fall.


For strawberries I prune out the dead like everything else and check for live plants. As I am pruning the dead I am also clipping the runners from last year. This year I might have to replace the mother plants. This does happen every so often with strawberries. Strawberries do reproduce by sending out runners from the mother plants. These smaller plants will take a year to produce strawberries.


As you can see I mainly go for the dead and the winter damaged with all of the plants, bushes, trees in the yard and garden in the spring time. With some plants I will cut them down to the ground in the fall. But those are flowers that come up from bulbs. Also with the bulb flowers I will do what is called dead heading. This type of pruning is trimming off the flowers that have done bloomed and have started to wilt. I will leave the stalk up for the rest of the year til fall. Then I will cut the stalk down to the ground. By doing this the stalk is gathering good stuff to provide the bulb with what it will need to get through the winter. Now this is for those bulbs that don’t have to be lifted each winter. The more tender bulbs like gladiolus and elephant ears just to name a couple that in my area have to be pulled up from the dirt as they  will not make it through a winter in the Inland Northwest. There might be a variety within those two plants that might not have to be pulled each year, but I don’t know for sure. So I tend to stay away from those as I prefer to just plant and let it go and do my dead heading and winter prepping of beds.


Happy gardening.

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So now that you have chosen what you want to grow. Now what…



     Now is the time to plant and watch your plants grow and eat from your own garden. The first thing is to read your seed packet. The back of the seed packet gives you all kinds of information that you will need. It will tell you how deep to plant the seed(s), how long the germination is, time to harvest, etc. This information is very important to you as it will help you judge when you need to thin your seedlings.

      So for a package of Blue Lake 274 bush green beans it shows 6 to 8 days for germination. Planting depth of 1 to 1 1/2 in. deep. Spacing of 20in x 4in. And 55 to 60 days to harvest. If you are doing square foot gardening these beans are good for 9 plants to 1 square foot of garden space. There might also be a chart/map showing when to plant. With this chart/map it is just a suggestion you do need to watch your weather and knowing your last frost dates.

     On Amazon and Temu you can find templates to help you do the square foot gardening. With these templates you will get a piece of plastic with a bunch of holes in it. These holes might have a circle of color around them. These colored circles will help you figure out how many plants to each square foot to plant in the one square foot .

     The following chart on the right I found on Bonnie Bell Plants website.

     This is only a guide to help you along the way of square foot gardening. The smaller that plant the more you may plant in one square foot. To go along with square foot gardening you can intercrop as well. Intercropping is defined as a multiple cropping practice that involves the cultivation of two or more crops simultaneously on the same field, a form of polyculture. With Intercropping you will also need to know what is a good to best plants for companion planting.
     I will be able to better show you when I am finally able to plant my own garden and things have come up.
     An added benefit of intercropping is also covering up more of the soil and that means not as much watering and weeding that you will have to do each day or week.

     I prefer to use a water hose timer set at 15 minutes every day in the morning and evening before it gets dark and it cools down from the days heat. If the heat gets excessive I will expand it to 30 minutes in the evening.

      With this type of watering I do not get any type of mold growing on my plants and they are happy. If the weather is predicted or looks like it is going to rain I will turn off the water spigot that has the water timer on it so that I let mother nature do her job of watering my vegetables.

     Happy Gardening

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Now that you have your containers or raised beds figured out. What do you want to plant in them?


     To figure this out take a look at what you and your family like to eat and the ingredients in a sauce or mix. This will give you very good start to know what to plant. What will grow in your area. Meaning is your growing season long enough for your area. Then you need to figure out just how much each plant of the vegetable that you want to grow will produce on average.

     Figuring out what will grow in your area you need to know your frost dates. This can be done online by going to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA). This will give you your frost dates for the last frost in the spring and the first frost in the fall. These dates are important to know how long your growing season is.

     The next thing you need to know is for your fruit trees and bushes and any other trees or plants that are not annuals. This is your hardiness growing zone. This can be found at the United States Department of Agriculture. On this map you can place your zip code to get your zone.

     These two websites are general guides if you can talk to the local farmers or state university cooperative extension office to get a bit clearer picture of your frost dates and your hardiness zone. They can also help you get information on what fruits do better in your area and what pests that is in your county and what to do to battle them.

     For where we live our growing season is too short for growing sweet potatoes or planting tomato seeds in the garden. For tomatoes here in the Inland Northwest we either have to seed start our warm weather plants like the tomatoes six to eight weeks before our last frost date or buy them as transplants from nursery's.

     But if you are adventurous enough to do seed starting you can do this by so many ways. There are too many sites and videos to list here. The main gist of seed starting is you need seed starting soil, grow lights, humidity, and heat. Of course you can also do this in a greenhouse that has some type of heat inside and some sort of misting system that wont freeze from the source of water to the greenhouse if you are in the northern climates where things tend to freeze in the winter.

     Another consideration to think about for berries is are you at the right elevation for them to grow and thrive. As an example, huckleberries will grow and thrive in the mountains, but not at a lower elevation.

     Let’s figure out how many plants you will need to feed you and your family for the winter and until your next harvest time. Some vegetables and fruits will produce more than one crop if they are picked on a regular basis. This can also be done with succession cropping. Succession cropping is planting your vegetables with a week or two in between each planting or planting in the same spot when the previous plants have stopped producing. Either of these ways can give you more than one crop in a growing season, if your season is long enough. As you can see in the following chart this is just for 1 person. So for green beans as an example for a family of 3 you would need 60 plants. But once again this is an average. You might like more beans than your next door neighbor so you need more green bean plants. Always use these guides that you find online as a starting point and adjust for your amount of space, growing season length, what your family likes to eat.

     This is why I always call my garden the experiment.

     Happy Gardening


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  Getting ready for     Spring

     With spring around the corner for many of us. I am talking within the next few weeks it is time to start getting your yards and gardens ready for the upcoming growing season. Time to gather up all of the debris that has blown in from the storms or from missing the garbage can or for whatever reason there is trash in the yard.


     Maybe you can get together with a friend or neighbor that is making a dump run and you can go in on fuel and cost of the dump. Some counties might even just have dumpsters in a central location that you can go to instead of to the dump. At these dumpsters you still might have to separate the trash into specific dumpsters. But you could save that step if you already know ahead of time then you could have it all separated at home and make the trip even quicker.


     To also help the earth you might have stuff around the house and yard that you can recycle and possibly get money for your recycled material or you can upscale to use somewhere else. With the upscaling always think outside the box.


     We had purchased a nice narrow walk through arbor just as our growing season was slowing down. We have discussed 3 spots to use it in. The first spot was over top of a walkway between the 3 tier raised bed and a 12 ft (3.65 meters) long by 1 1/2ft (0.48 meter) wide. The second spot was within the 3 tier raised bed to help stabilize the sides. With either of these ideas we would have some form of vegetable trellising (growing up) the sides. The third spot is just a purely decorative idea, but still within the garden and not used as a vegetable support.


     Another example of taking something that is used for something else to use in your garden is using goat fencing as a trellis between 2 beds raised or in ground and having a tunnel to walk through and provide shade for your shade growing vegetables. But with our current setup and plans for this year it wouldn't work for us. Maybe one day down the road.



     If you are limited on space but want to still grow some of your own vegetables and fruits then you can use 5 gallon buckets with some hole drilled in the bottom to allow for drainage. You do have to pay attention to the type and variety of the vegetable and fruit that you would want to grow in them. To help with not having to put a lot of soil in the bucket and to help with drainage add some rocks or gravel in the bottom before putting in your vegetable and fruit soil.


     We will be getting old livestock water trough to grow our raspberries to contain their roots. Since they spread very vigorously by roots. Which is fine if you are not worried about new canes coming up outside of the bed that you have them growing in or are using them as a living fence, that would deter anyone from going through the canes if they have thorns.

     As you can see in the following pictures there is still a lot of work to do on our beds and some to be filled with soil. The tiered one in the center will also have partially composted yard and vegetable debris in the bottom to help take up some of the room in the it and thereby, not requiring so much soil to fill it. This is similar to Hugelkultur. Hugelkultur is pretty much adding a compostable material in the bottom of a raised be to take up room and not have to use so much soil to fill the raised bed. As the filler starts to decay under the soil you will need to add more soil to the top of the bed to keep it to the level that you want it to be. But we will be doing all soil as we are also going to be starting the process to get out of the city. It would be easier to just spread all of the dirt than to spread dirt and compost that hasn't decayed around the yard.


     The first year of a new raised bed and purchased bagged soil you will not have many weeds to worry about pulling. This makes it an easy year of gardening. You might still get a stray one or two weeds in your new beds. My biggest pest this past year was slugs and our new puppy that thought that she was helping me with planting. While she was actually destroying what I had just planted and had a plan for a nice neat 3 sister planting in a halved blue plastic 55-gallon drum.


     Remember you are only limited by your imagination on the size and shape of your raised bed design and/or pots. 


     As you can see by the pictures there is still plenty of work to do in the beds for this year along with clean up. But with living in the Inland Nortwest of the United States we are still able to get some snow till the end of March.


     Next week I shall talk about how and why I choose what I will be planting and where in the beds or pots that you see in the pictures.


     Happy Gardening

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Combination Gardening

                                                                                                        My experiment      With spring right around the corner for the Inland Northwest it is time to put the final touches on the plans of what to grow this year in the vegetable garden. Also to look any new/used pots or barrels for fruit bushes, canes, plants. This year we have expanded the number of raised beds or sizes of the existing raised beds. To maximize the space that we have available I will be doing companion and square foot gardening together. My thought on doing this is space saving and helping each other out with keeping pests away, swapping of nutrients in the soil, attract beneficial insects for pollination and keeping pest insects away.

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