Small Space Gardening: Garden Update, Berry Bugs, Annuals Vs. perennials and trees

Small Space Gardening
Small Space Gardening

Diane Dryden's Small Space Gardening is a series of gardening articles that will be published throughout the summer with information for new and experienced gardeners. Every two weeks the articles will be updated as the gardening year progresses; from choosing a site to harvesting in the fall.

Small Space Gardening – Article #9

Garden Update, Berry Bugs, Annuals Vs. Perennials, And Trees

Wisconsin weather isn't on gardeners' side this year. Hopefully, you are determined to keep going despite the cold and hail.

If you planted potatoes, not only should they be on top, but you've been adding soil as the plant grows. I'm happy to report that my experiment of growing them in cat food bags seems like a success. The plants are at the top of the bag, and now I'm just going to let the green tips grow until they flower. At that point, I can dump the bags and harvest, or as some people have told me, wait until the plant starts to die, then harvest.

If you are planting tomatoes and peppers, I hope you waited until this week to plant them. Especially peppers. They are so picky.

I have high hopes for my peppers as I paid a high price for the seeds. They are called Nadapeno and are supposed to be like a jalapeƱo pepper but with less heat. I didn't put two and two together with the name until I was transplanting them into 16 ounce stryo cups, writing the name on each cup.

“Nada” in Spanish means “no”. Peno means pepper. Put them together and you get "pepperless". duh

That is gardening. You learn all the time.

If you have berries of any kind, blue, red or black raspberries, currents or honey berries, now is the time to make some traps to check on the bug situation.

Several years ago, a new fruit fly appeared that sent professional berry growers searching for answers. The fly would appear early in the season and invade the berries. When they picked them, consumers not only ate the fruit, but also got extra protein while chewing on the insect-laden berries.

An easy solution we found for our black and red raspberries is a product called Neem Oil. It is an organic oil spray that should be applied when the fruit is just emerging. Like other organic products, it washes off in the rain, so it needs to be reapplied frequently.

Traps are easy to make with pint-size plastic containers, like the containers that sour cream and cream cheese come in. Punch small holes around the top. Punch two holes on each side around the top to attach a string. Put a few tablespoons of vinegar in the bottom, white or apple cider, and cover with a few drops of dish soap. Put on the cap and hang it on the patch.

Small Space Gardening
Small Space Gardening

Periodically check for bugs and when found, continue spraying.

To answer the question that came up last week, a perennial is a plant that is planted once and reappears every year.

An annual is one that you have to plant every year. I can't think of a single vegetable that is perennial. This rule applies mainly to flowers.

Before you get too excited about perennials, they do have a downside. Make sure you really like the plant or you like the plant sales because "they sleep, they crawl, they jump".

If the plant is happy where you put it, you will have many more of the same plant in a few years. You have been warned!

If this is the year you are looking to plant trees, read on.

Here's another growing thing that requires a lot of thought. Is this a standalone specimen tree? You know, it's the flaunting in the yard that gets the house going.

Or are you planting for privacy, either from your neighbors or from the street?

Maybe you are thinking of planting a windbreak.

Perhaps you are starting a small orchid.

Some trees fit all of those categories, but you have to think long term.

Coming from a big city, we saw a common mistake that countless people in the new night suburbs made over and over again. As soon as the houses were purchased, many fast-growing trees filled the yard. This must have made sense to the owner. He plants something that will shade and complement the house in five years. They would buy the ones that shot straight up and they were pretty impressive. That is until they fell in a storm and destroyed something important.

Quality trees take time to grow. It's a sad fact, but you'll have to wait years unless you can afford to have large trees professionally dug up and moved onto your property.

Wherever you buy your tree, check the label. Remember, we are zone 3, possibly 4.

If you're not sure what you want, check out the neighborhood. See what grows locally.

When it comes to fruit trees, be careful. A full-size tree, such as an apple, can grow so tall that it will be difficult to pick it up without a very tall ladder. Pick a dwarf if you can and stay in the area.

It's not just cold winters that will kill fruit trees. Sure, some are "plentiful" at -30 degrees, but can they take a series of late frosts? This is when they are fully in bloom, and the frost freezes all the flowers.

Windbreaks are miracles for saving heat. Plant them on the north/west side of the house for better protection against strong winter winds. Evergreens are great for one of the rows, and a bushy shrub like lilac works great in front of pines. Plant them far enough away that they won't hit your house, even if they fall during a storm. Planting away from the house also provides protection if a wildfire hits the area.

Small Space Gardening

There is a common mistake when planting trees and shrubs that everyone has seen. You know, those little houses flooded by the little fir tree planted by the front door that now reaches the second story window.

As a precaution when planting a tree, take a garden hose and make a circle the size of the "wingspan" of the mature tree. Then plant properly.

Fruit trees will bring all kinds of bugs to your garden if you plant them too close to the house. Deer love apples, plums, and anything sweet on the ground or on branches. As long as the deer are in the yard, they will make a tour of the rest of the buffet and cut down all your roses and hostas.

Then think. But plant.

In 2001, a tornado followed one of our major east/west highways for about 20 miles. Destroyed much of Siren's small town, the Lilac Capitol.

The plucky little town was rebuilt using a log cabin theme for many businesses. Unfortunately, hardly anyone planted trees. No one planted lilac bushes. Here's a city that needs to do a rebranding or work with their House and Department of Lands and do a massive planting of lilacs. Maybe it's just me.

Corn, the first crop, has now been planted in Three Sister's garden. We are using a corn crop called Glass Gem, and it will grow up to 9 feet tall. It is the grandson of corn grown by American Indians in the Southwest for generations.

We were initially growing it to use as a gift in the fall with its translucent blue, pink and yellow seeds. After reading more in the seed catalog, we discovered that it can dry out and burst. Or it can be dried, and we have the option of making cornmeal.

Cousin! The drying info says this can be done on the stovetop using a heavy skillet. The end product is edible and is often used in a rustic trail mix. We'll see.

I hope you have already had success in the garden this year with radishes, lettuce, table onions or spinach.

If I can help, please let me know. Submit your comments, questions, and wisdom at any time.

Next time, ponds and wildflower gardens.

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