Archive for edible plants for your front yard

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. 

 

Scarlet Runner Bean

Gardener and guest blogger Chrissy Lavielle tells us how to grow and cook scarlet runner beans.  Her recipe below, “Scarlet Runner Bean Soup”,  is fantastic.

Scarlet Runner Bean. Photo courtesy of Seed Savers.

Scarlet Runner Bean.  Photo courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange

Early in April, when the soil is just beginning to warm up, I plant the scarlet runner beans.  It seems so cruel to bury those beautiful, thumb sized black and purple beans in the cold, damp earth, but they always burst happily to the surface in two or three weeks – depending on how cold it is.  When they get to be about six inches tall, I tie long strings onto a wire I’ve strung in the eaves of the porch, just above the bean plants.  I tie the other end of each string around the upper part of a plant.  As summer begins to progress, the beans spiral gracefully up the strings.  By mid July they’ve made a 15 foot tall, thick, green curtain dotted with brilliant scarlet flowers that shades the west side of the porch from the worst of the summer sun.

By late autumn, the flowers have been replaced by long dry parchment brown pods filled with those beautiful beans.  The cotton string doesn’t compost well, and it’s slimy remnants catch on trowels and shovels and weeding forks for several years.  And so I choose a sunny afternoon in November and spend it picking beans and unraveling string and summer from the twisted vines.

Shelling the grocery bag full of bean pods takes an easy hour – less if someone helps.  I put the beans in a pottery bowl and leave them on the kitchen counter to dry.  Whenever I find myself standing next to them, I push my hand down into the mass of cool, satiny beans and stir them around.  It feels wonderful and makes a comforting, pattering sort of sound.

I use the spiral cut ham bones from the Yule Ritual to make a fabulous stock for the beans.

To make the stock:

Put a bunch of ham bones or bones saved from several pork roasts in a stockpot and cover with water or chicken broth.  Add some salt and lemon juice to pull the calcium out of the bone.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 4 hours.

After about 2 1/2 hours add:

A few yellow onions, carrots and ribs of celery

A large can of diced tomatoes

10 pepper corns

Fresh sprigs of parsley, sage, rosemary and/or thyme

After the 4 hours, strain stock from bones and vegetables.

To make the soup:

Soak about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of beans in water overnight.  Strain and rinse beans.  Put them in a 1 1/2 – 2 quarts of stock and bring to boil.  Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.  Add a few spritzes of Tabasco sauce and adjust seasonings.  Puree about 1/2 the beans in a food processor and add back to thicken the soup.

You can add pasta and/or garnish with fresh chopped basil.

Family’s Rhubarb Mousse Connects Generations

Rhubarb makes a dramatic and tastey addition to designer pal Adriana Berry's garden.

Rhubarb makes a dramatic and tasty addition to designer pal Adriana Berry’s garden. Photo by Carol Lindsay

I found this story about rhubarb and a family’s history in my vacation house kitchen cupboard.  It was left behind by friends using the house.  I enjoyed reading it and learned it’s a part of a series written by Chrissy Lavielle to pass down her family’s recipes and their history.  She generously allowed me to share it with you.

I really like rhubarb.  It’s big and dramatic; it looks tropical, but survives sub zero winters and anything else you can throw at it; and you can eat it – it’s the only fruit that’s not a fruit.  My rhubarb plant flowered last summer.  A two-inch diameter club shaped stalk shot up six feet and exploded in a mass of tiny greenish white flowers.  The effect was prehistoric and vaguely ominous.  I watched it carefully, ready with my trusty loppers, in case it got out of hand.

Both my mother and Craig’s mother grew rhubarb.  Craig remembers pretending the leaves were clothes and I remember using the leaves and stalks for everything from flags to parasols.  Mothers now days would never allow this, they know that the leaves are toxic – chock full of oxalic acid.  I guess maybe mom told me not to eat the leaves, because I never did.  Or maybe she didn’t.  Why would you eat a boring green leaf when you could bite into a bright red stalk?  That eye watering, tooth roughening, mouth shriveling bitter sourness is a childhood memory of Cincinnati summers that is hardwired into my brain.

Every February my mother began to look forward to the “spring tonics” – stewed rhubarb and dandelion greens from the golf course.  I wasn’t fond of either one.  Her philosophy on fruits and vegetables was to cook them until they were really, really dead.

Red stocks are the tasty part, the leaves are toxic and bitter.

Red stocks are the tasty part, the leaves are toxic and bitter.

My mother in law’s recipe is a much better way to enjoy rhubarb.  I helped her make it once, and smiled to myself as I watched her cut the rhubarb.  Holding the stalk over the saucepan with her left hand, and the paring knife curled in the fingers of her right hand, she put her thumb on the opposite side of the stalk and cut against it.  Pieces of rhubarb fell into the pan in a quick series of metallic plops.  This is exactly and precisely the way my mother, another Ohio girl who lived through WWII and The Depression, cut up rhubarb.  Neither one of them had any use for a cutting board and to my knowledge, only used one occasionally – usually for cheese.

Mother planted her rhubarb at one end of the asparagus bed.  In the years after she died, the rest of the garden gradually faded away, but the rhubarb plants outlived both my parents.

Rhubarb mousse is one of Craig’s favorite deserts.  He also likes rhubarb pie or pan’d outy – but he is dead set against adulterating it with strawberries or blueberries.

Rhubarb Mousse

1 lb. rhubarb cut in 1″ pieces (3 cups) or 1 pkg.

1/2 cup water, divided

1 cup sugar

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

2 tsps. lemon juice

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Red food coloring

Cook rhubarb with 1/4 cup water until it strings.

Soften gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water.  Stir into hot rhubarb until dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Add lemon juice and chill until mixture mounds when dropped from spoon.  Fold into whipped cream and mold.

For more information about growing rhubarb see my favorite garden guru’s article, “Grow Strawberries Tasty Companion: Rhubarb” by Vern Nelson at The Oregonian web site.

Rhubarb at market

Buy rhubarb at a farmer’s market and ask them what variety it is and why they grow it.

His favorites are ‘Chipman’s Canada Red’  which is nearly identical to ‘Crimson Cherry’.  ‘Victoria’ is not as sweet but is a vigorous  “do gooder” plant.

My guest blogger Chrissy got her plant from her mother, and many people get a plant from a neighbor.  There’s nothing wrong with this method but if it were me looking for a new plant I would go with Vern’s suggestions.

Attention Blueberry Lovers: It’s time to plan ahead!

Attention Blueberry Lovers: It’s time to plan ahead!

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough blueberries. If you are thinking, “Hey! I could grow blueberries, they’re easy,” you’d be right!

Blueberry cluster Portland Landscape Design

Purchasing a large blueberry plant means you are buying time.

So now’s the time to take a minute to plan ahead for next season’s blueberry goodness.

Spartan blueberries are my absolute favorite for flavor. In the old days (10 years ago), when my client Diane in NE Portland,  ordered a Spartan blueberry, she got a little stick with roots on the end. She is a plucky gardener, but this was very discouraging, especially when someone stepped on the poor Spartan before it was big enough to defend itself.

Making the Tradeoff: Price Versus Instant Gratification

Buying a big plant is buying time. It’s easy to buy blueberry plants that are at least 30 inches tall and wide. Using Spartan blueberries as an example, you can spend about 40 percent more than for a one-or-two-year-old plant, but you’ll get that fruity deliciousness three years sooner.

Choosing the Right Variety

From March through July, Portland’s full-service nurseries offer plenty of nice, big plants and many varieties. Try these tips for the ultimate blueberry experience:

  • Don’t rush your choice. I can’t say enough about taking your time when selecting an edible. There are so many varieties to choose from, that it’s just plain smart to take your time. You are buying more than food, more than an  ornamental plant. You are buying memories as well as pleasure at the moment of harvest. My criteria for selecting a blueberry variety: totally delicious taste, convenient harvest time, plant sizes and shapes that are right for my garden, and gorgeous fall leaf color.Are you ready to pick out your favorite blueberry variety? If not maybe this year will be about sampling berries at farmers markets and then buying your plant in the early fall.  What fun that will be!
  • Protect your plants. You won’t be the only one wanting blueberries. Birds and your dog will steal as much fruit as they can get away with. Be sure to leave lower branches for your dog to nibble on. If you use nets, check them often, or you will find little bird corpses tangled in the netting.
  • Think about the timing of the harvest. If you are always gone in July, select varieties that ripen in August.
  •  Buy companion varieties to maximize your crop. Remember to buy two
    different varieties that ripen at the same time. They flower at the same time, and the bumble bees can cross-pollinate the bushes to give you a better crop. Bumble bees vibrate the pollen off their feet and bodies from one flower to another and that is how they cross pollinate.  It’s primarily bumble bees that cross-pollinate blueberry plants.

    Dragon Fly visits blueberry plant in Lori's garden

    Dragonfly on green blueberry cluster-another great reason to shun pesticides in your garden. Photo from my client Lori Aveling.

    Don’t use pesticides on any plants because they harm and kill the bees.  Blueberry plants don’t have many pest problems.

  • Consider the newer evergreen varieties for the front yard. For example, ‘Sunshine
    Blue is a variety that local edibles expert Vern Nelson and I really like. ‘Sunshine Blue’ is evergreen, so the leaves stay on the bush year round and it’s small, say 3 by 3 feet. This way, you can have edibles in the front yard without going totally  “Urban Homestead”. (Portland has many new landscapes that are  completely given over to growing edibles. It’s an exciting, fun idea but not for everyone.)

Next time: More about blueberries, specifically a chart of never-fail varieties.

Easy Edible Plants: Blueberries

Blueberries very easy edible plants. Blueberries are great for your brain. Did I mention easy? Once your plants are established, the trick to growing blueberries is proper pruning. We want to encourage new growth and to do that, we have to remove some of the old growth. This is a great thing to do together on a garden coach appointment. Do mulch around your plant periodically with coffee grounds to increase acidity in the soil (any time of year works for this – you could do it up to ten times per year! ) Don’t use peat moss even if other experts say to do it.