Kansas Blues

Three years ago, long before I even imagined taking the Master Gardener classes, I planted blueberry bushes on the north side of my house. Why the north? That’s where my mother planted hers. Growing up in NJ, we had blueberry bushes that I remember as at least ten feet tall and five feet wide.

I know I wasn’t able to pick the berries without a ladder.

So now, 50 some-odd years after childhood, I plunked three expensive-yet-straggly-looking blueberry bushes in the ground and hoped for the best.

Little did I know that acidic-loving blueberries hate Kansas soil. I’ve written about my soil test before. Blues grow best when the pH is 4.5 to 5. My soil, two years after planting, tested at 7.5.

Ouch!

I side-dressed with sulfur and again, hoped for the best. But at the end of last fall, I was pretty sure those bushes were dead. A bit of research led me to growing blueberries in containers.

I pre-ordered the right types of Blues (Top Hat and Northblue dwarf bushes), devised a soil-less mix of sphagnum peat moss and cedar mulch, and bought pots. Here is the result.

KS-Blues_02_IMG_2911

Wandering through one of the big-box store nurseries about a month ago, I stopped to see what kind of Blues they were selling. Next to me, studiously reading labels, was a young man who seemed to be struggling to make a decision.

Me: “Buying some blueberries?”
Him: “Maybe.”
Me: “Have you had your soil test?”
Him: “Huh?”

Now imagine me giving forth, chapter and verse, about the proper growing conditions for blueberries versus the growing conditions in Kansas. And imagine him looking befuddled.

Him: “So I should add lime?”

Yippee for the chance to show off how much I know. I explain how lime reduces acid in the soil while sulfur increases it. By the end of my little nerdy lecture, that poor guy had moved on to raspberries. I had successfully prevented yet another disastrous planting of Blues in Kansas.

And now for the punch line.

Remember those Blues I planted in ignorance three years ago? Here they are today.

KS-Blues-IMG_2909

Blueberry pie, anyone?

Excuses, excuses…

CrabApple-IMG_2891

I haven’t posted a Blog since March 22 – the longest time between Blogs since I started! And I have excuses aplenty.

I’m interviewing the gardeners selected for the 2015 Miami County Garden Tour, writing descriptions and photographing their gardens. Takes time and leaves me with a major case of garden envy.

I’ve been planting in my own garden. Raspberries, blackberries, and sugar snap peas. Horseradish, red onions, and radishes.

I’m checking the asparagus every morning for harvest. Luscious and lovely spring asparagus, photo to follow someday soon.

It’s rained so I can’t take photos. It hasn’t rained, so I have to water. My Internet went out for several days.

Excuses…

Hopefully, I’m catching up and back on track. Meanwhile, I thought you’d like to see the results of the radical crab apple tree and/or bush pruning that we did in February. The darn thing has shape. It has blossoms for the first time ever. It’s almost beautiful.

Hope you’re enjoying spring as much as I am.

Mixed Metaphor

MixedMetaphor-IMG_2749

“I’m thinking about moving the raised bed near the house to the back.” That was me thinking out loud. Next morning, the raised bed was gone and a blank square of soil sat in its place. Elves? Gremlins?

No. It was my handy husband, Jim, who lately seems to be in your-wish-is-my-command mode.

Okay. A little fast on the uptake, but no complaints here!

So what to do with this blank spot? Originally, I envisioned lining the bed with four inch clay pots. Found pots the next day – 24 for less than $20. How could I resist? Or maybe three Medicine Wheels, using some of my rock pile? I have a LOT of rocks.

Thinking, thinking… meanwhile, my thinking out loud resulted in a bed raked and smooth, ready for anything, or in this case, everything.

Thank you, Jim!

Now what to plant…?

All’s Well that Ends Well?

HardeningOff-IMG_2738

Saturday, I set my lettuces and cabbage seedlings outside on the deck to harden off. Out of enthusiasm, I didn’t bother to look up any how-to articles. Or maybe I thought I knew how this should go.

But if I had researched the hardening off process, I would have known that “…Initially, you will put plants outdoors only for short periods of time, perhaps for a couple of hours.”

The rationale? Seedlings started indoors are spoiled, delicate creatures. The harsh conditions out-of-doors may do them in.

Uh oh. Beginning day one, I left mine outside all day.

Lucky for me, Saturday was a bit cloudy since I also didn’t know that “…You’ll want to set them in a semi-shaded area of the yard. Gradually, you will increase the time plants are kept outdoors; you also will gradually increase their exposure to sun.”

Really? They’ve been outdoors for three days straight and at least eight hours a day.

I’m blaming the sudden change in weather for trying to rush the process. Today the thermometer on the deck reads 79.8 (that’s Fahrenheit). My worry is that the weather turned too warm for cool weather crops. I have to remind myself that in March we can still get more snow, much less more frost.

Reading on, I discovered a third important how-to, which is “…As part of acclimating the plants to the outdoors, you also will cut back on watering. This will allow plants to toughen and will prepare them for being transplanted.”

Oops. I watered my seedlings every other day, as usual.

Despite my errors of laziness and ignorance, my plants have thickened and grown. They don’t seem as leggy as they did under fluorescents. A couple of pots that hadn’t germinated now have.

I plan to transplant them to the garden on Sunday. That will give them a full six days of hardening off. Maybe it will be cloudy so that they won’t wilt in a day of full sun. And hopefully, we won’t have freezing temps before they have a chance to fully acclimate to the out-of-doors.

Need more information about hardening off? Look for Hardening Off Isn’t Hard from the University of Colorado, quoted in this Blog, and Hardening Off Transplants, from the University of Nebraska.

Wasn’t that bad for me last week?

Spaghetti-04A-IMG_2596

My parents ate the same breakfast every morning for as long as I can remember. Breakfast consisted of two soft boiled eggs and two slices of toast with butter. But uh oh – eating eggs causes high cholesterol. And butter contains saturated fat. So they switched first to oatmeal and when my Mom started to gain weight, to yogurt.

Milk builds strong bones and teeth, so my mom also forced milk on her older two kids, including me. I hated milk. I spent my entire childhood with a stomach ache but who knew back then about lactose intolerance? And judging from my dental bills, I don’t think it helped my teeth any.

Are you old enough to remember when oatmeal was good for you? What about artificial sweeteners to reduce calorie consumption? Soy is still considered to be a miracle food by some but a damaging source of inflammation by others. Do you eat red meat? If yes, do you worry about mad cow disease? Is coffee good or bad? What about wine? Is bread the staff of life or the stuff of addiction?

I could go on and on, but I won’t.

Good-Week-03-IMG_2212

The recent advice from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee about eggs, shrimp and other no-longer-cholesterol-producing foods left me wondering about who to trust and what to eat. It reminded me of my reaction after reading Ronald Deutsch’s The New Nuts among the Berries back in the 1970’s.

That book took the good and the bad out of food, leaving me with no moral compass for choosing a meal. If a donut is just as good – or bad – as celery, which would you choose?

Of course, donuts and celery aren’t nutritional equivalents in any universe. Or are they…?

But here’s an interesting fact about a list of my favorite vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. These have been labeled Goitrogenic vegetables, which contain substances that suppress thyroid function.

Really? Guess I’ll have an egg.

GoodWeek-02-IMG_2677

The thing about food – you can’t live without it. But what to eat? Does food really keep us healthy or make us ill depending on the food choices we make? And what studies do we trust to tell us the truth? Does anyone know the truth?

GoodWeek-01-IMG_2663

I love the Berekley Wellness statement in their online article about eggs. “Words to the wise,” they say, “Many of the egg studies have been funded by the egg industry and have lasted only a few months, so the long-term effects of eating a lot of eggs are still largely unknown.”

Words to the wise, indeed!