Gail of Green Living


Brightwell Blueberry Bushes

Brightwell Blueberry Bushes

Brightwell Blueberry Bushes–I like the alliteration!  Last Saturday Urban Harvest had their fruit tree sale I’ve been anticipating.  I chose the Brightwell variety, because the sign said they had “heavy production“.  Thank you, Mr. Brightwell, for your research in developing this variety.  I don’t understand why someone would choose a variety with “lesser” production.  I’m glad I was early so I could buy these!   My limited research says that the berries will be large and juicy, and almost seedless.  They should ripen in June and July and be of excellent quality.  Since a serving of blueberries has been part of my breakfast every day for several years now, I will look forward to finding them in my backyard, rather than my freezer or refrigerator.  I’ll let my grandson pick the first one; he loves blueberries!

Brightwell Blueberry

Here’s a close-up view of some of the berries that have already set.  The lady from Urban Harvest was considerate to tell me that they require sandy and acidic soil, or it wouldn’t work.  Houston has clay soil that leans toward alkaline, if you are not careful.  So I went to Southwest Fertilizer and told them I needed sandy, acidic soil for my blueberries, and the gentleman asked me to turn around, and facing me was a stack of soil bags labeled “Blueberry Mix“!  What a deal!   Urban Harvest also told me that coffee grounds would be great for the soil, too.

I feel like I have done something correctly the first time, for a change.  I usually have to experiment and find the best practices on my own.  But now that there are so many people who are limited in garden space in Houston, container gardening is very popular and there are lots of classes and places to find information online.

Have you tried something new this year?

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Organic Container Gardening: Class Notes #2

Diane Norman discussed soil, soil amendments and organic fertilizers for container gardening.  I wish I had her class years ago when I started putting my vegetables and herbs in containers, because she could have saved me a lot of water and time, I think.  The BIG AH-HAH in my class last week was …

Expanded Shale

Expanded Shale.  It has porous pockets that allow it to trap moisture and release it when the soil becomes dry.  It also aerates the clay soil we have in Houston.  This year, I had used the correct brand of soil to put in my pots, just not the correct blend that included expanded shale.  You can be sure that from now on, I will use it!

She mentioned some organic fertilizers that were new to me.  Crab meal, shrimp meal, lava sand, and dry or liquid molasses.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I had issues with my compost pile not getting hot enough, and therefore, my plants have weeds sprouting.  Dry molasses added to my compost seems to be the solution.  As soon as I can, I will add that and let everyone know how well it works for me.

Fertilizers I have used with great success are fish emulsion, blood meal, bone meal and Epsom Salts.  Diane says that Epsom Salts minimize yellowing of leaves and the increase blooming and setting blooms on vegetables.  I never had pinpointed that as the reason for my plants having dark, green leaves and lots of blooms.

Sweet Million

It’s hard to see these tiny cherry tomatoes, but there are three of them.  This variety is Sweet Million, and I’ve grown them before with great success.  I would like to expect 999,997 more on this vine, but I think someone is exaggerating!  They are the first to bloom and have the blooms set.  I fed them Epsom Salts about two weeks ago, and then again a few days ago.  It works!!

What organic fertilizers work best for you?



Organic Container Gardening: Class Notes #1

Last week I took an Organic Container Gardening Class from Urban Harvest.  The teacher, Diane Norman was so full of information and didn’t hesitate to answer any and all questions.  She knows her stuff!  The first bit of information was about the various container choices we have.

Clay Pots

I think the most popular and most common container is clay pots.  Clay breathes and dries quickly to keep the plant’s roots from sitting in water.  The bad news is that they are heavy and difficult to move and they break easily.  But because they are heavy, they are less likely to blow over on a windy day.

Plastic Container

Most plastic containers you purchase will look just like the clay pots.  But this clever person has used a former City of Houston recycling bin for starting plants and this could hold a large plant or several small ones.  Plastic is cheaper and lighter weight, so they are easy to move.  Over time, they deteriorate from UV sunlight, but mine have lasted a long time.  They do blow over easily when we have a windy day!

Wooden Container

Wooden containers can rot, but they last a long time.  Redwood and Cedar are the best woods to use.  Avoid using any wood that has been treated with creosote or other toxic compounds, since they can affect the plants.  We once used railroad ties to build our garden, but now, I know better.

Wooden Raised Table

This is a great way to use wooden containers.  No more back-breaking gardening, unless you leave it on the ground.

Ceramic Containers

To make your garden area even more interesting, ceramic containers can match a color scheme or provide a stark contrast, for attention.  Ceramic pots require several drainage holes.

Metal Container

This is my new favorite!  I bought a large galvanized tub, my husband drilled lots of holes in the bottom, and I planted pumpkin seeds in it.  I am going to place it in an area where tree roots keep grass from growing well, and lift it up for drainage, and let the pumpkin vines grow over the edges and spread over the ground area.  The area is not very shady, so the pumpkins should get plenty of sun.  I’ll keep you posted on how that works.

What kind of unusual containers have you used for gardening?



Early Spring Garden–Old Herbs
Thyme

I’ve been learning new things about container gardening; I’ve even signed up for a class with Urban Harvest!  I don’t ever want to stop learning…about organic gardening, real estate, life, etc!  NOTE:  I have never put a chemical fertilizer or bug repellant on my herbs.  They just don’t need it.  A healthy dose of compost a couple of times a year is all they ask!

One thing I know from experience is that herbs are super-duper raised in pots and most last for years!  I have had this pot of Thyme so long, I’m guessing it must be at least 15 years old.  In the winter, the foliage turns reddish, but it tastes the same.  It is a tangled mess, and it just keeps giving!  But having herbs in pots keeps them more contained, because in a garden, they tend to crawl or give out seeds, and they can take over the place!

New Rosemary

The New Rosemary is only about 14 months old at our house, after receiving it as a small Christmas tree last year.

Old Rosemary

The Old Rosemary has been around longer than any other, I think.  It has a wood trunk that has lots of character and the trunk has put out long, flowing fronds full of wonderful fragrance and delicate purple flowers.  These stems don’t even mind the intense heat of the patio in the summer.  We love this herb on chicken and pork roasts and added to garlic new potatoes!

Sweet Marjoram

Sweet Marjoram is from the Oregano family, and this herb is wonderful in stews and soups!  It’s been a part of the herb presence in our yard about 15 years, too.

Oregano

The Oregano bush is about 4′ in diameter and continues to bloom and seed a zillion seeds every year.  I can’t give them all away!  You just can’t make an Italian dish without it!  The Oregano and Sweet Marjoram are way too big to bring in during a freeze, so I just cover them well with a sheet.  They even made it through the 20+ degree freeze we had last winter.

Next time I will post about newer herbs we have added recently.  What herbs have you grown for a long time with success?