My (itty-bitty in the city) Bramble Orchard

Who says you have to have a lot of real estate to have a bramble orchard?  Even in a small city lot you can enjoy fresh picked berries.  Berries such as…



Strawberries (although not a bramble)

You can anticipate picking Raspberries

And blackberries

Did I say bramble “orchard”?  That might be a little misleading.  In a small back yard it would be more accurate to say bramble “corner of the yard.”  Here’s my little micro mini bramble orchard.Four raspberry plants, two blackberry plants (gave one to my mother-in-law),  three blueberry bushes (although twigs might be more appropriate for two of them), and two gooseberry plants.

I fancy myself being a little bit of a plant propagator, so whenever I see the opportunity to get a two-fer out of a plant I go for it.  Here’s Mother (on the left) and Daughter (on the right).Last year I pulled one of the suckers from the mother plant and potted it up.  This year there are a few berries on the daughter plant.

All of the raspberry plants were FreeCycled to me.  Because the plant sends out so many suckers and it’s necessary to keep the number of suckers to a limit for the health of the plant it’s easy to find yourself with extra plants.  The choice becomes whether to throw them away or try to save them.  Since my plants are relatively young, I’m not faced with that situation yet, but I did start some plants last year with some of the raspberry suckers.  I gave all of them away, but I know one of the plants will be producing some raspberries this year.  Easy, inexpensive garden gifts.

Happy Gardening!!!


Garden Update

Five weeks is all it took to go from this



To this…


One of the ladies from the Building Urban Gardens class that we took at the Garfield Park Conservatory stopped by to get a few plants.  She pointed out the fact that what I have been calling turnips are actually mustard greens of the slick leaf variety.  My brain said they were turnips, so my eyes said, “Okay.  If that’s what you say.”  It’s a good thing I actually like mustard greens.

So, yesterday was the first harvest of 2009.


6.8 ounces.  Yay!!

The “hoop house” really made a difference.  The whole bed was planted on 3-15.  The same day I planted the bed with the cover, I planted seeds in the spot I reserve for my elephant ear.  100_0097

There’s a world of difference between the two.  (Left to right:  lettuce, spinach, raddish, beets)

The “hoop house” even outproduced some of the lettuce I started in the house in a long window type planter.  Some of the lettuce I kept in the long planter and some I transplanted into paper pots , which didn’t work out so well because they never really grew much in the paper pots.  I later transplanted some of the planter lettuce  into the yard.  They’re in the first four rows.   Most of the lettuce that germinated was the red lettuce, and they’re kind of hard to see against the dark background.  They’re growing, but slowly.


The lettuce didn’t grow well in the paper pots, but they didn’t die either.  On 4-14 I transplanted some of them into this self-watering container that was sitting outside from last year.


They just started putting on a little growth over the last week (during those warm days).

Well, I guess we have the results of one of my garden experiments.   Newly germinated cold tolerant seeds that get snowed on will continue to grow with the help of frost protection.

The results were so nice, I had to do it twice.


And it’s working great.  In this bed is the chives and garlic chives, the Egyptian walking onions, the few surviving garlic plants, and the strawberries from last year.  Once the cover went on, the strawberry leaves got larger almost over night.  I planted about six tomatoes and a globe basil in the tomatoes’ squares because I read that the basil enhances the flavor of the tomatoes.  I planted the borage, one squash, onion bulbs, I seeded a couple of squares with carrots and a couple of squares with turnips…really, turnips, not mustards.   I planted a few of the lemon cukes and a couple squares with bush beans.   A few marigolds went in and a couple of petunias. 

The third bed is planted with broccoli interplanted with lettuce; kale, which hasn’t hardly grown since it got it’s true leaves; collards, which aren’t doing much better; bell peppers; corn; potatoes.  That’s a lot going on into 32 square feet, but we’re supposed to be able to plant “intensively,” aren’t we?

I may have a raspberry or two…


(containerized raspberries al la Free Cycle)

I may have a blueberry or two…


(containerized blueberry I ordered)

This blueberry plant looks pretty good, but the buy one/get one free for just about $10 looked so bad to me that I complained about them.  They sent me two more replacements, but they weren’t much better looking.


The two on the left were the original and the two on the right were the replacements.  Had I known that these plants would have been so small I would have gotten something else.  But they’re mine now.  Hopefully they’ll start growing.

Here’s a shot of the perennial bed.  The bleeding hearts are doing especially well this year.


The seedlings.  They’re holding their own.  I’m truly tired of shuffling them in and out, and it makes even less sense now since I’ve planted every square foot in the raised beds.  Very soon, I’m going to pass a few on to my mother-in-law, my cousin and a couple neighbors.  I still feel compelled to make sure they’re hardened off before I pass them on.  I’d hate for them to die after all the work I put into them.

And last, but not least…



Happy Mother's Day

What’s better than free seeds?

Free plants.03-21-09

The topic of the Building Urban Gardens class today was container gardening. Everybody got to choose four plants to take home. There’s about 50 people in the class and there were still some left over, so they gave those away too. Cool. Just one more class to go.

I’ve always read that you shouldn’t use the same container soil year after year, but our presenter said she never changes her soil. She’ll add some compost, but doesn’t routinely totally change out the soil. Maybe it’s the folks that sell the specialty potting mixes that put out the rumor that you should change it every year.

After the meeting, I got a chance to do a little work in the yard. I’ve got this pile of leaves that’s been “composting” since October or November…


This was taken in December, and you can see there was enough heat in the pile to melt the snow right in the middle there. I just knew I was going to have some nice leaf mold to add to my beds. Nope. When I removed the plastic and started digging down into the leaves nothing had decomposed. It was a matted down mess. So, I ended up shoveling the leaves into black plastic garbage bags. I’ll poke a few holes in the bags and sit them to the side so it can one day become leaf mold.

Lesson to little back yard gardeners: Don’t put a huge pile of leaves where you intend to plant within the next two years. Leaves don’t break down that fast.

Once I got the bulk of the leaves out of the bed, I kind of leveled what was there and laid down some black plastic to get things warmed up.

Only a few of the garlic bulbs are coming up. I hope I didn’t plant them too early last fall. But it’s still early. Maybe they’ll come up.

I got a chance to plant spinach, radish, lettuce and a few beets in the spot I usually plant the elephant ear. The elephant ear can’t got in until it’s warm outside, and this stuff will be done or almost done by then.

And the last thing I did was pot up the blueberry, blackberry and gooseberry. I was impressed with the size of the blueberry. I had paid about $7 for a blueberry twig that died on me, and this one actually looks like a bush.


The only thing I’m a little worried about is that the roots weren’t wrapped too well, but we’ll see what happens.

Happy Gardening!!!!

Lots of Leafy Lettuce. I’m a Lucky Lady.

I just love seeing things grow, that’s why I haven’t picked any leaves off the lettuce I transplanted and brought in the house back in late October.

Here is one of the three trays I planted. I gave one to my mother-in-law.

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Some of the leaves have gotten pretty big.

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This was a lettuce mix I got at Jewel Foods and there are a few different varieties. There’s the one above, which seems to be the fastest grower and these…

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I’m also, as an experiment, trying to over-winter the herbs.

parsley…12-11-08 (4)

sage…12-11-08 (3)


and thyme…thyme

Nah. I didn’t really grow thyme, but it would have been musical. Remember that Simon & Garfunkle song?

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”

I did grow parsley, sage, rosemary and chives, though, and that has a musical ring to it.

The sage and the parsley look a little droopy, and you can see I haven’t even properly potted two of them. My goal is to keep the roots going even if the top growth suffers. I want to see if they’ll perk up when they get back outside in the ground.

I took cuttings from the rosemary and sage (they’re too sad looking for pictures right now). If they root I’ll post pics later.

I even broke down and bought a package of that expensive pre-packaged organic mint from Jewel Foods because I learned of the joy of Mojitos.

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My Mojito didn’t look quite as pretty as the photo, but it tasted pretty good.

**caution – excessive consumption of Mojitos can lead to prolonged feelings of euphoria.

Just as another experiment, I’m trying to root some of the stems.

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In the summer I’ll just use some of the runners from my neighbor’s yard that find their way onto my side of the fence. Free plants…always a good thing.

Happy Gardening!!!

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