The landscape value of blueberry bushes

I’ve become a bit of a blueberry nut. Over the past few years I’ve planted 11 bushes and I’m planning to add 4 jelly bean brazelberries to one of our ornamental flower beds this spring. Most people thing of tasty when they hear about blueberries but their landscape value is just as awesome. Our fruit trees have shed their leaves and gone dormant but that’s not the case with our blueberries. They are putting on brilliant red and orange foliage which gives a nice pop to the orchard:

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Our blueberry bushes have been disease and pest free, produce great fruit (we got 5 – 6 gallons last year) and the honey bees adore them when they flower in spring. Here are the varieties I’m growing:

Brightwell
Climax
Ochlockonee
Powder blue
Premier
Sunshine Blue
Tiftblue

Other than giving them high quality fertilizer in the spring, adding mulch and installing bird netting I haven’t done anything else to get the amazing results we’ve had. FWIW: Last year we used cheap bird netting from Amazon and I found it incredibly hard to work with. This year I’m going to splurge and get some high quality netting from American netting. This netting comes highly recommended on the growing fruit forum so I’m pretty certain it will be easy to work with and last for quite some time. This post is making me hungry. Time for blueberry pancakes!

Learning from bees the hard way!

Yesterday I got the brilliant idea to check honey stores on one of my hives without smoking them. That turned out to be a terrible idea!!! They ended up stinging me three times so I will definitely be suiting up for ALL future “quick” inspections. FWIW: Honey bees put out an attack pheromone when they feel threatened. When I opened their home they did what their instincts told them to and stung the crap out of me. This definitely taught me who the boss was! Bees 1 – Average Dude 0.

The little PVC hoop house that could

Winter can be a tricky time to grow vegetables. You have to fight with cold weather, frost, snow and were we live boat loads of rain. I wanted to keep our vegetable production going into winter so I decided to install hoop houses over our raised hugul beds. Hoop houses have several benefits. They help retain heat, keep snow and frost off of your vegetables and provide a nice barrier to keep pests out. It’s almost January and we are blessed to have beets, broccoli, chard, carrots, kale and cabbage growing:

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Don’t those lettuce greens look scrumptious? Putting together the hoop houses was super easy. I purchased cheap ($2 each) PVC pipe from the big box stores and bent the PVC to form a U. The ends were placed inside each bed and covered with 4mil plastic. To keep the plastic from blowing away I secured it with a few spare bricks. Here is the end product:

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The plastic and PVC set me back about $25. With current organic produce prices the 30 heads of lettuce I’m growing (grown from $6 worth of seeds) will net me $29 in the end. Not too shabby! Should be able to start harvesting greens in 2 – 3 more weeks.

My failed attempts to grow potatoes in potato towers and grow bags

A year or two back I built a couple of potato towers. Various magazines recommended this approach for growing red potatoes so i decided to go all in. My two attempts to grow potatoes this way failed miserably and resulted in a handful of potatoes during each growing season. Not being one to accept failure I decided to try once more this spring. This time I went with a smart pot and used their suggested growing method.

At first I thought I hit gold. My seed potatoes put on massive growth and I was quick to back fill over the potatoes to allow more tubers to form. Then it got hot and my red potatoes succumbed to heat and disease. I ended up harvesting about 10 potatoes at the end of the season and this is definitely the last time I try to grow them in towers and smart pots.

My sweet potatoes on the other hand did fantastic and they appear to handle heat and pests much better then red potatoes. I pulled up roughly 40lbs of potatoes this fall and these will definitely be a yearly addition to the garden. If you’ve had success growing potatoes in towers / smart pots please let me know what you did to succeed. After three attempts I’m throwing in the towel.

Creating a hugul trench for Jerusalem artichokes

If you keep up with the latest musings on the permies forum you will definitely see Jerusalem artichokes brought up in various discussions. These amazing little tubers provide a tasty root vegetable as well as gorgeous flowers that resemble sunflowers. They are also supposed to be super easy to grow! After perusing my garden area I decided to prep the area directly behind my fence for a spring planting.

To retain water and add fertility I decided to create a hugul trench to support my tubers. After a day of digging I had a couple of nice looking 2′ – 3′ deep trenches ready to be hugul’ed:

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I filled both trenches with a variety of wood types and topped it off with manure, leaves and grass clippings. My Jerusalem artichokes will go in after the last frost date hits and I’m looking forward to adding another perennial edible crop to our property. Yumbo!