Picking Homegrown Blackberries

The first ripe blackberries on my cattle panel arbor. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The first ripe blackberries on my cattle panel arbor. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Picking Homegrown Blackberries

I have been thinking about doing this for years.

The garden dream was to set up arbors of some sort where I could grow blackberries and pick the fruit as I walked under the arbors.

Two years ago, I put up two cattle panels to guide visitors into my hillside apiary. I covered some of the panels with cedar boughs to cover some of the metal. At the same time, I planted thornless Navajo blackberries on either side so the blackberry canes could grow over the cattle panels.

The cedar boughs add extra support for the vines as they make their way over the cattle panels.

Two cattle panels covered in cedar boughs have blackberries nestled along the sides. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Two cattle panels covered in cedar boughs have blackberries nestled along the sides. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

It’s hard to estimate how long plants will provide fruit on my Missouri hillside garden. My semi-dwarf pear tree took almost 30 years before it grew my first Bartlett pears. A limestone hill is difficult for root systems to get established.

At the end of July, I started to see the beginning of blackberries. They tend to flower in May, when the nectar flow starts where I live. Once the flowers finish blooming, the plant turns them into fruit, which contains the seeds.

As I started to spot ripe blackberries, my dream came through. I would walk through the archway and pick a handful of berries.

Two more blackberries ready for picking as I walk through! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Two more blackberries ready for picking as I walk through! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

There truly is nothing better than picking blackberries and eating them straight off the plants!

I don’t use chemicals or pesticides in my garden so I can freely pick the fruit without being concerned about their exposure.

These are also thornless blackberries, so reaching through the cattle panels to pick the fruit is quite easy.

I will be adding compost mixed in mulch this fall, getting the blackberry plants ready for more blooming, and fruiting, next year.

Love it when a plan comes together!

Charlotte

Removing Daylily Stems

Daylily stems after flowering and still green. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Daylily stems after flowering and still green. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Removing Daylily Stalks

The daylily blooming season is wrapping up here in Missouri USDA Hardiness zone 5b/6a. The season started with the traditional single orange daylilies blooming. These edible plants were originally brought over from Europe by our settlers in the 1600s and now are considered one of Missouri’s native wildflowers, featured on this Native Wildflowers handmade quilt. The daylily season starts mid-May. They are now nude tall green stems, some with seed heads.

There is a tendency to want to grab clippers and go cut them down but I suggest waiting. In a couple more weeks, the stalks will dry on their own, making it very easy to gently pull them out of the leaves without having to bend over and cut them at the bottom.

Every day I see more and more of these dried stems among my flower beds.

When daylily stalks dry out, they can easily be removed. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

When daylily stalks dry out, they can easily be removed. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

The dried out daylily stalks are now hollow, making them lightweight and easy to remove.

If you compost them, cut them up into smaller pieces so they can mix into the other green items. They will count as a “brown” in the green/brown mixture in your composter.

I have also considered whether the dried stalks can be used to weave something. A basket comes to mind but a floor mat would probably be a better project to try.

Let me just add that to my “to do in winter when I have nothing else to do” list.

Charlotte


Missouri's Daylily Season

Tiny grasshopper visits one of my orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tiny grasshopper visits one of my orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Missouri’s Daylily Season

It’s still amazing to me when I think about our European ancestors. They packed up only a few belongings to travel the Atlantic to make a new home in North America, carrying with them dandelions and Hemerocallis fulva, what we today call Missouri’s Orange daylilies. Actually some in Missouri call these “ditch lilies” because that’s where they can sometimes be found but in general, they are often considered a nuisance or a “weed.”

Not to our European ancestors. They depended on these daylilies for food and on the dandelions for medicine.

As someone who “discovered” these lovely perennials many decades ago, I find them handy in my Missouri hillside garden for a number of reasons.

First, since I garden on an acre where my neighbors told me “nothing would grow,” I use Missouri’s orange daylilies to help me hold in soil. Missouri’s orange daylilies will grow in almost any condition and soil including gravel and clay. They also nicely will help hold in soil, not so easy when one is gardening on land that has an incline.

One of my limestone hillsides covered in Missouri’s orange daylilies.(Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of my limestone hillsides covered in Missouri’s orange daylilies.(Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In addition to holding in soil, I use Missouri’s orange daylilies to help mark paths since once the blooming period is over, the greenery helps to cover plants that may die back behind them.

Missouri Orange Daylilies on the way to one of my apiaries. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Missouri Orange Daylilies on the way to one of my apiaries. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Missouri’s orange daylilies are quite versatile, they will grow well in both sun and dapled shade, like this flower bed with my “cats” in the garden.

My garden “cats” sitting in the middle of Missouri orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My garden “cats” sitting in the middle of Missouri orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Last but not least, Missouri’s orange daylilies are entirely edible. These Missouri native wildflowers are still grown in European kitchen gardens precisely because the plants are edible. The newly-growin stalks are called “poor man’s asparagus” and the flower buds are delicious in salads.

Since I don’t use chemicals in my Missouri hillside garden, I can pick orange daylilies with confidence but I would not try that on a batch of orange daylilies from the side of a road - or a ditch.

Orange daylilies line one of my paths down the hill. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Orange daylilies line one of my paths down the hill. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Missouri’s orange daylilies may not be the best cut flowers because the flowers only last a day. If you pick some with buds, the buds will open on the second and third days so you can mix them with other fill in flowers for a bouquet.

I frankly enjoy a cut bouquet of just orange daylilies. I pick off the dead flowers every day and watch the buds unfold.

If you look closely, these often overlooked Missouri wildflowers are actually quite lovely.

A close up of Missouri’s orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A close up of Missouri’s orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Add a few to your garden and see for yourself!

Charlotte

More Tomato Woes Factors

A green Beefsteak tomato in a Bluebird Gardens deck pot.

A green Beefsteak tomato in a Bluebird Gardens deck pot.

More Tomato Woes Factors

Summer is a time when local farms sometimes share their extra produce, assuming conditions have been good for growing. This year, record hot and humid conditions have made tomato growing challenging.

In addition, two other factors have contributed to the challenge of growing tomatoes.

Proper Fertilizer

Tomato plants taller than their growers usually means tomato plants may be getting too much nitrogen fertilizer. Nitrogen encourages the green growth that spurs plants to unnatural heights.A balanced plant meal requires nitrogen for growth, phosphorous for moving energy through the plant, and potassium for stress tolerance.  Our Ozark soil can provide nitrogen but the other two fertilizer elements usually need a boost. 

Soil testing through a local University of Missouri Extension office will help determine what is missing. A test costs $14 and includes not only what is in your soil but what you need to do to amend it.

Even Watering

The other delicate part of raising tomatoes is watering. Tomato roots in open ground can grow to 5 feet deep. Tomatoes even grown in containers prefer to be evenly moist so with temperatures, and humidity, either at record levels or varying widely requires careful monitoring.

I have sunken plastic bottles with holes in pots keeping my tomatoes company so that I can better keep the roots moist. I also use a paint stick propped into the side and moved over an inch to check how wet the soil is before I water.

Charlotte

How to Pick Blackberries

There are so many fruits available in summer from cherries to watermelon. One of my favorites are so tempting, little dark berries at the tips of arching shrubs available in north America mid-summer. Little does one realize how thorny these plants can be!

Blackberries grow in almost all continents, a plant so flexible it has adopted to a wide range of climates. Regardless of where you are planning to pick them, make sure you are:

  • Wearing a thick pair of pants to catch thorns before they hit skin.
  • Boots if you're walking into a blackberry patch after a rain. Some plants grow shoots that can't be seen above soil but you sure can feel them when you step on them.
  • Don't wear a long sleeve shirt, it will just get caught in thorns.
  • Gloves are optional but if you do wear them, select a pair with good finger dexterity.

When picking, go slowly and focus on berries at the ends, away from thorns. Some berries look ripe but may not be so make sure you have good lighting on the plants.

Worth the effort?

You bet!

Charlotte