Archive for Easy Edibles

Selecting Dwarf Apple Trees for Small City Landscapes

Dwarf Apple Tree (Liberty ) with fruit in Cedar Hills Portland Landscape Design

Dwarf Liberty Apple Tree after pruning with fruit

Selecting Dwarf Apple Trees for Small City Landscapes

Recently I specified apple trees for a client with a small yard. I chose ‘Liberty’ for disease resistance and flavor and ‘Akane’.  Along with the name of the apple I wanted, I also specified which dwarfing root stock.  Why should we care about what root stock my apple tree is grafted on?  The first step to success in selecting dwarf apple trees for small city landscapes is picking the right root stock.  I define success as planting fruit trees that stay small but produce lots of fruit and are easy to care for. I picked an EMLA 26 for the ‘Liberty’ and an EMLA27 for the ‘Akane’ which we put into a container.

Dwarf Apple Tree Selection Tip

Please do not buy an apple tree with a tag that only says dwarf.  If the tag does not identify the specific root stock you have no idea how big the tree will be.  Given the small yards most people have these days….not knowing the size your tree will grow to is a mistake that will cause you grief literally as you remove a tree that you cannot manage just when it’s finally producing lots of fruit.

Why Plant Dwarf Apple Trees?

There are many excellent reasons to plant a dwarf apple tree grown on specialized root stock.

  1. Dwarf trees are compact.  If you are a beginner, you probably are in love with having a garden and want everything, all at once. Dwarf trees give you more room for “everything;” because they don’t use much room in the back yard.  Semi dwarf can be 18′ feet tall or more……..that is not small.
  2. Portland area landscape design with Dwarf Liberty Apple Tree pruned in Cedar Hills Oregon.

    Liberty Apple Tree pruned by homeowner

    Smaller trees make picking and thinning the fruit easier.  Dwarf trees produce lots of easy-to-reach fruit. This is very important, especially during the first few years, when you thin (pick off) half or more of the immature fruit so your tree can develop the strong wood it needs for a long and fruitful life. Some apple varieties require you pick all the flowers off for a couple of years which would be hard to do on a ladder.

  3. Spraying is easier, too.  When you learn how to spray the tree with a dormant oil, it will be so easy to completely coat the stems and the areas where the buds will break because you will be able to reach them. Check out this Spring Spraying of fruit tree coating a [watch video] tree with a dormant oil spray.
  4. Modern dwarf fruit tree rootstocks help you avoid common problems.  Please, please, please, don’t buy a tree with a label that just says “dwarf apple” or “mini pear” on the label.  The impulsive buy may cause you to miss all the fruits of recent horticultural progress.  Some root stocks in addition to dwarfing the size of the tree, allow your tree to thrive in heavy clay, you won’t get that from a non-specified root stock.  Instead, make sure that it tells you which specific rootstock the tree is grafted to. For example the label could say something like “EMLA 27 creates a 4-to-6-foot tall and wide tree, grows well in containers, tolerates clay soils and is resistant to rot and other diseases.”
  5. Espaliered apple tree in Milwaukie Oregon landscape design.Pruning a smaller tree is physically less work. You won’t even need a ladder.  Brainy Garden has a video on pruning dwarf fruit trees.  Pruning is not a no brainer.  Many sources conflict with each other on how much you should prune…..so best is a class from a local nursery or through the Home Orchard Society.  Not pruning promises that your little trees will rip and tear their branches from the weight of too many apples, so get some help.

Resources for Dwarf Apple Trees

This list of modern rootstocks and their characteristics gives you an idea of  how critical (and cool) it is to select the right root stock for your fruit tree.  I could come up with some more reasons, but you can see how dwarf fruit trees are perfect for how most of us live and garden—in smaller yards with less time but no less plant lust.   RainTree Nursery, One Green World or Burnt Ridge Nursery are three sources for special rootstock apple trees and more.

Landscape design includes dwarf apple trees 'Sentinel' take little space planted against the south wall in NE Portland.

Sentinel Apple Trees take little room in this south facing garden.

Don’t want to figure out which rootstock?

Talk to an expert at one of these specialty growers:   RainTree Nursery, One Green World or Burnt Ridge Nursery or The Home Orchard Society.  Portland Nursery (503-231-5050) has a specialist on staff who orders their fruit trees and they will be knowledgeable about root stocks.   Call ahead to be sure their expert is in.

 

Gardener Shares Tips for Growing Fruit in Portland

Portland Fruit For Your Garden Design 

Edibles garden front yard in Milwaukie, OregonMy client Sherry has been in her new home and garden for about 5 years now. She has kept me informed about her garden adventures so I’m sharing them with you. It’s great to see people having fun with edibles and her garden and experience show how much you can learn over time and the rewards of yumminess that result. Here are excerpts lightly edited for clarity. 

Fig Report

“Hi Carol, 

My garden is thriving. Be careful what you wish for. You know that fig we transplanted from the old house that I didn’t think would make it has thrived. I had to learn how to prune it for fruit production. At first I pruned it in the winter then I learned that I had to wait until after the late spring early summer harvest to prune it. This way the tree can put on new growth for next years crop. I didn’t know that figs only grow on last year’s new growth. I’m not sure what variety I have, it has green skin and pink flesh. The July harvest is plentiful but determinate—all fruit ripening over in a 2 week period. I had to give a lot away to neighbors and the food bank to keep from wasting them. The fall crop was small so I have taken to doing the pruning in late summer which impacts the fall crop drastically….which is fine. 

This year (2017) I had a large enough fall crop to take fig sample into my weight watchers group. I opened a few eyes on their yumminess   Few had enjoyed fresh figs, fully ripened, right off the tree. These figs are my new summer pleasure. I pruned right after the first big harvest this year instead of waiting ’til later in the summer. There was enough new growth to produce a modest harvest in fall too.”

Berry Report

Blueberry Portland garden

Blueberry and dragonfly in Portland landscape design

“Hi Carol 

Here is my berry harvest schedule:  We start in April with the Honeyberries-great in yogurt or muddled in a sparkling vodka drink. 

May brings the early hood strawberries followed by the blueberries and then raspberries. Salal – a native evergreen shrub I love to eat the bitter but flavorful berries that set in late summer. 

Now in August I am still enjoying a few blueberries as I planted some late varieties to extend the harvest and the day neutral (or ever bearing) strawberries provide an evening appetizer after I park the car. Once the raspberries were done, the OSU Thornless blackberries kicked in and will continue into late September.”

“Hi Carol 

The blueberries are great. I have 4 different varieties and recently I moved them so they are closer together. My husband’s favorite is called ‘Peach Sorbet’. It’s an evergreen with purplish leaves in the winter and green leaves in the summer.  Produces a large harvest, great flavor, medium to large berries. It was planted 3 years ago, and I collected fruit for 8 weeks this year.  I surrounded the plant with a structure covered with bird netting because the birds (should be eating the seeds we provide them and) need to leave the blueberries for me and my husband. Another variety, ‘Top Hat’ is a prolific dwarf bush with small blueberries that pack a  lot of flavor in such a small package.”  

Espaliered pear tree in Portland garden design.

Espaliered pear tree in Portland landscape design

Espaliered Asian Pears      

“I set it up with 2 grafted varieties in 2 rows, but this year I added the third top row because I had the room on the fence. One year I had a very low production rate due to the wet spring causing poor pollination even though the pear trees are near my extensive mason bee hosting program. To combat this I have learned how to hand pollinate and this was so successful that in 2017 I had to provide extra support to the limbs because the weight of the fruit was threatening to damage my tree’s structure. I harvested 99 Asian Pear – 100% success rate!!

coddling moth prevention on Portland asian pear

Organic coddling moth prevention on Asian pear in Portland landscape design

 

I don’t use pesticides so I wrap nylon socks with kaolin clay around each fruit after it gets about an inch in diameter. This is an organic method to stave off coddling moth. I also take off all but one flower from each fruit spur so I get fewer pears but they are bigger. We started getting good harvests in 2016 about 4 years after we planted our trees. Check out my photo…….was I proud or what?”

Dog friendly landscaping in Portland, OregonSherry is a Clackamas County master gardener and enjoys her garden on an 8,000 sq foot lot in Milwaukie.  She has a tiny lawn for their dogs so the rest of the garden is dedicated to entertaining space, plants, edible plants, mason bees and love. 

 

More Blueberry Heaven: Never-Fail Varieties for Portland Landscapes

Perfect Plumpness in Blueberry cluster Portland Garden Designer

Never-Fail Blueberry Varieties for Portland Gardens

A few more thoughts on choosing blueberry plants. Last time we discussed some basics for choosing blueberries. I give you a larger selection to consider and continue to encourage the purchase of big plants.

Here’s a list of blueberries we know will do well in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington State—and tickle your taste buds. The listings summarize variety name, maximum height, harvest time and fall color.

Blueberry Varieties for Portland Landscapes

  • Bluecrop, 6 feet, July, red leaf and stems, tall enough for a hedge
  • Spartan, 4 feet, July, hot orange fall color
  • Patriot, 5 feet, early July, hot orange fall color
  • Olympia, 4 feet, late July, light red fall color, tolerates clay
  • Sierra, 8 feet, August, light red winter twigs, great for privacy
  • Sunshine Blue, 3 feet, August, blue-green (evergreen)
  • Bountiful Blue, 3 feet, August, blue-green (evergreen)
  • Liberty, 8 feet, August/September, red-orange, privacy screen
  • Legacy, 6 feet, August/September, hot red-orange

Now that you have information about specific varieties, here are some more hints to help you choose wisely for your garden:

  • Think—and order—ahead. For example, ‘Sierra’ and ‘Liberty’ are still hard to find and might need to be ordered. Contact your favorite nursery in January to inquire about the varieties you want, so they have time to respond or include your request in their orders. Portland Nursery, Farmington Gardens or Cornell Farms will be glad to work with you.
  • Mail order.   One Green World  If you have fallen in love with the flavor of a particular variety of blueberry, be prepared to wait 5 years for a big crop since mail order typically means a small plant.
  • Buy the biggest plants you can afford.   One-gallon plants take too long to yield a decent crop, so splurge if you can and buy bigger plants. I talked with Jim at Portland Nursery about getting big blueberry plants. They get regular shipments of 5-gallon sized plants throughout the year.
  • Blueberry and Dragonfly in Portland Residential Garden - Landscape Design In A Day.Clients wish they had bought bigger plants.  My clients, Jim and Jodi, just bought a home and I completed our second Landscape Design in a Day. Six years ago (at their old house) they bought and planted 1-gallon blueberry plants. Although their then puppy contributed to the stunted growth, by chewing on the canes and peeing on them, he shouldn’t take all the blame. They moved just before they got a great crop. This time they are going to buy big blueberry plants to start with. Remember we are buying time when we buy a bigger plant.
  • Learn basic pruning. Pruning is an important part of being happy with your blueberries (and vice versa). It’s easy, and proper pruning will increase your yield dramatically. There are many good sources for learning the tricks. However, there is no substitute for having someone show you how, putting the pruners in your hands and having you do the pruning. That’s the best way because it sticks in both your mind and muscle-memory.
  • Two Videos.  Here are two videos to help you: OSU Extension Services     University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Yes, getting those berries into your cereal bowl requires time, patience and a bit of training. But, conjure up the fragrance or flavor of a memorable blueberry encounter, and you’ll agree that the effort is worth it. After all, growing blueberries is easy compared to many other fruit plants.

Next time we will look at some of the newest varieties of blueberry. If you are ready to design your Portland garden, contact me to set up an appointment.


Mental Health Benefits of Gardening

Growing a new Perspective on Mental Health

It's amazing how much food you can grow in a 4x8 raised bed.

It’s amazing how much food you can grow in a 4×8 raised bed.

Tending the land to grow your own vegetables is an exceptional way to improve your diet, but access to unprocessed food at your doorstep isn’t the only reason to dig in the dirt. A recent study published by ScienceDirect clearly outlines the fact gardening has a positive effect on both physical and mental health.  As a Portland landscape designer  I often hear my landscape design clients talk about how good it  feels to engage in growing edibles, putter with plants and relax in their landscapes.  Maria Cannon is my guest blogger today and explains more about the mental health benefits of gardening.

Gardening reduces stress and anxiety

It is well accepted that sunlight is one natural element that can help keep depression at bay. However, gardening offers a double whammy where feel-good chemical production is concerned. Certain studies have found that Mycobacterium, which is found in soil, can actually trigger the brain to release serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter that is largely responsible for mood stabilization.

Tip: A home garden is the perfect place to grow cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, blue potatoes, and oregano, which are all known to contain compounds that help fight depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

Gardening can decrease a person’s risk of diabetes and heart disease

Gardening is a physical activity that can be enjoyed by people of virtually all fitness levels. A 150-pound woman can burn nearly 300 calories working in the garden for an hour. This type of work offers the body the opportunity to build muscle and sweat, both of which are important for overall health. The combination of eating fresh, organic vegetables and the added physical activity can help decrease the risk of certain health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. Chronic illness such as these are also linked to mental health issues like stress and depression.

 Working outdoors encourages family time

Working the land is a labor of love that can be instilled in children from an early age. And, since gardening affects the brain, spending time outdoors with the kids is not only good for parents but can help prevent depression in their smallest little landscapers. Another positive side effect of growing a vegetable or flower garden is that it encourages family time which can also help boost mood and ward off signs of depression and other mental health issues.

Tip: Gardening with children promotes positive communication skills which will last through adulthood and improve social function.

Gardening can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Depression is one of the least discussed concerns of aging, particularly in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Engaging in horticultural activities can help keep the brain sharp and potentially slow the progression of dementia in elderly patients. A recent study found that physical activities, including gardening, can help cut a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by nearly 50%.

Low Maintenance Itoh Peony

Itoh Peony variety, ‘Cora Louise’

Tip: Plant a flower garden to create a bright, colorful, and fragrant environment that will help treat the mind, body, and soul.

The act of harvesting releases dopamine

While society today no longer has to rely on hunter/gatherers for food, the brain continues to release dopamine during the harvest. It is hypothesized that this response evolved more than 200,000 years ago when ancient peoples saw large stores of food, which meant the survival of their community. This biologic function lingers on today, even when harvesting small gardens. Additionally, the harvest creates a feeling of self-satisfaction and accomplishment which can go a long way for someone battling depression.

Tip: Engage in a harvest celebration with friends and family to amplify the enjoyment received from the picking process.

According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, horticultural therapy has been used successfully since Dr. Benjamin Rush first discovered a link between gardening and mental health. Therapeutic gardens are used across the nation to help rehabilitate people suffering cognitive disorders and a host of other physical and mental health concerns.

My Spring Veggie Garden

My Spring Veggie Garden

I’m trying some new things to improve my early spring garden this year.

Carol standing at the entrance to community garden at Rocky Pointe Marina 7 23 2014

Community garden at Rocky Pointe Marina

Early Spring Garden

Overall I’m happy with my edibles  garden experience but I miss out on the early spring garden because I don’t get my plants into the ground soon enough.  My landscape design work is seasonal and by February I’m so busy it’s too late for me to get organized for my personal garden. I’ve been vague about planting start dates.  Is it still too cold?  What is the last frost date?  This year instead of wondering about it, I’m using the Portland Nursery calendar to get out of vague and into organized.

Buying veggie starts

I called my favorite place to buy starts so I’ll know when I can purchase.  Turns out they use the same calendar and will have my starts for mustard greens, kale, collards and more by March.  My grandmother was very thrifty and every penny counted.  Her huge vegetable garden was one of the ways she contributed to her family income.  I’m playing.  The amount of greens I go through in my kitchen is significant but would not break the bank if I bought them.

Carol's winter kale

My garden supplies me with year round greens like kale.

I buy 80 percent of my plants as starts  in 4 and 6 packs.  I don’t have room in my house for setting up seeds and starts provide instant gratification and cover my soil quickly.  My neighbor Betty grows a lot of interesting plants from seed for fun.  I often benefit.  I grow spring greens from seed in my tabletop salad garden and I can start seeds for my favorite smoothie green, arugula in late February.  If it’s too cold I’m out the cost of seeds.  I sow spring greens seeds every two or three weeks until mid June.  I will purchase veggie starts for my summer garden and plant them in May and do starts again in late summer for my fall garden.

Soil Test

I’m doing a soil test this year which I’ve not done before.  My root vegetables don’t do well and I’m curious about lead.  I understand that adding certain nutrients can help lock up some of the lead in the soil.   I hope to dig out one of my beds, lay down a weed barrier and a metal grid.  Why?  One reason is to keep the ground soil which probably does have some lead in it (the garden is below Hwy 30), separate from my nice new clean soil, and the 2nd is to keep the gopher or mole from bringing that soil up into my garden and keep them from moving the soil around and messing up the roots of my plants!!  It’s a lot of physical work so I’m only going to do one bed, probably with help this year.

That’s my plan, we will see what happens!

grafted tomatoes

My husband Bob harvesting tomatoes on our floating home.

My favorite place for vegetable starts is City Farm on N. Lombard.  They grow their veggie starts in a nearby greenhouse. New Seasons often has great veggie starts.  Cornell Farms is serious about their veggie starts so you can expect a good selection.  Portland Nursery, Garden Fever, Livingstone……..lots of choices for every part of town.