Thursday, April 30, 2009

Back to the Basics: How Blackberries Grow

This blog has always been meant to serve two purposes: 1) keeping track of my garden progress, and 2) documenting exactly how things grow in the garden so I and other beginners can know what to expect from these plants. Lately, I've been doing a lot more quick progress snapshots than actual explanations of plant development. To get back to the basis, here's how blackberries grow.

Up until 2004, all blackberry plants grew in about the same manner. From each plant, shoots come up from the ground and grow into long "canes". These canes grow for a season without fruit, and go dormant during the winter. In the spring, they leaf out again and fruit develop during the summer. These are called "floricane" varieties. In 2004, new varieties were developed called "primocane" blackberries. These grow new canes that can fruit in their first season, go dormant over the winter, and fruit again the following summer. Raspberries also have both floricane and primocane varieties. My Lochness blackberry is a floricane variety. Here you can see the whole plant, with several canes grown last year:Last year, my Lochness blackberry did not produce fruit. This is the plant's second season of growth so it will produce fruit this summer. On each cane, shoots grew from buds along the cane, producing leaves and flower buds above. This picture shows 3 of these growth points.Here, I have pointed out the flower buds on each of the 3 shoots I showed you in the prior picture. It seems that there will be at least 1 flower bud, producing 1 blackberry, from each growth point. The middle shoot here has 2 flower buds.
This summer, new canes will also be growing, but again, they will not produce fruit. At the end of this season, I will have to cut down the canes that made fruit this year so that the new canes can be healthy and strong next year.

In other news, my arugula is growing well, but looks messy. My lettuce is not growing as well. I think the problem is that my drip system does not evenly wet the surface soil. It seems better adapted to watering individual large plants with deep root systems. Maybe the solution is to start my leafy greens in flats on the fire escape and wait until they are large enough that their roots can be adequately watered by the drip system before transplanting to the roof.
Here also are my first creeping phlox flowers of the season. I really love creeping phlox! The green bushy part is so vibrant =)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spring is a wonderful time!

Spring is a wonderful time because every plant holds hope and promise of the tastiness to come! Nothing has died yet from my failure to water, the pecking of pigeons, or the occasional insect pest. Instead, there are flowers, buds, and lush green leaves to enjoy =) This pretty white flower might just turn into a strawberry I can eat...These plants could be covered in big juicy blueberries!
Even this Lochness blackberry plant, which grew wildly long canes last year with nary a bud...could be heavy with sweet dark fruit for eating in yogurt, smoothies, cereal... Yum!Tiny arugula sprouts might just fill my salad bowl one day...Purple chive flowers might make some lovely pink vinegar... (We can just ignore the bug infestation you can see if you zoom in on this pic! =( Wah!)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

First Rooftop Foray of the Season

The balmy weather and my quickly growing pea starts helped me overcome my laziness and get out on the roof today for the first time this year. And what a nice visit it was! I spent about an hour looking around, cleaning up the dead leaves from the strawberry plants and planting some peas. Just 1 bucket so far. Maybe I'll get the rest in on Sunday. It was just so nice to see that the vast majority of my perennials survived the winter and have high hopes of flourishing this year! Certainly these blueberries are looking spectacular.The strawberries look lush and happy, like every spring.The chives are so strong it looks like they never died over the winter.The flowers are starting to come up again too, though it does appear my experiment with overwintering the bulbs in flower boxes had some casualties. I think my hyacinths just rotted away, as I can find no trace of them. A couple of the lily bulbs may have, as well. We'll see what comes up later. Maybe I'll try my hand at more of these low-growing creeping type perennials. They seem to have been quite successful.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Late Start to Garden 2009

I can't believe it's already April 2nd! I had serious plans for my garden this year. They were going to include 3 varieties of tomatoes, a more serious attempt at watermelons, and peppers! That was before I remembered that I am leaving the country for 3 months, starting July 31. That cuts my normal summer growing time in half! And, while I'm sure I could get some smaller tomatoes ripe by then, I wouldn't be able to glory in all of their deliciousness through the end of the season. So, I'm cutting out all those long growing season vegetables this year and sticking to things that will grow well early and quickly. So far, I've started a lot of sugar ann snap peas. I'll probably try lettuce, spinach, beets, and chard in addition. Same as I tried last year, but in greater quantities, now that I will have more buckets free.