Tuesday, September 29, 2009

native plants in the edible landscape

So you've been intrigued by the idea of using edibles in your home landscape. But you're conflicted because you are a savvy, modern gardener and know the benefits of using native plants in the home landscape. (Check out this UM Extension bulletin if you need a refresher.) Well, who's to say you can't do both? Native perennials intermixed with fruits, vegetables and annuals can add a lot to the Edible Landscape:
  • First, of course, they are well-suited to your particular location, if you've chosen plants properly.
  • They have few insect or disease problems.
  • They improve soil organic matter and soil structure.
  • They can help reduce/prevent runoff and erosion.
  • They generally require little maintenance.
  • They attract beneficial insects and provide food and shelter for birds and other small creatures.
  • They provide a reliable, permanent foundation for the garden.
  • They offer long-lasting color.
  • Lots of textures, heights and forms to choose from.
There are a few native plants in the edible landscape including Echinacea, Monarda and Rudbeckia, and I hope to incorporate more as the project progresses.

The Minnesota DNR is a great resource for Minnesota gardeners interested in working native plants into the landscape. There's also a nice book titled Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota by Lynn Steiner, in which you may find inspiration and information about many of the species native to the state. Here are a few other UM Extension sites that may be helpful:

Friday, September 18, 2009

navigating the sea of gardening information

The web is a great resource for information on gardening. It can become overwhelming however when you start searching for planting guides, pest and disease information and so on. It is important to remember that just because you find it online doesn't make it true. It is best, when seeking such information online, to look for sites owned by universities and extension services. The information they provide is based on research and is the most reliable. It is also usually best to find information from a university in your region, because climate and zone can make a big difference when it comes to garden advice. A great resource is www.extension.org. It is a cooperative extension system, bringing together extension information from land grant universities across the country. One of the great features is that the system will automatically determine which is your closest extension service, and connect you to information relevant to your region. Be sure to check it out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

the numbers are in

After entering all the harvest data from the last month, here's the grand total to date with a few totals from individual crops.

Total harvest from the Edible Landscape: 485 pounds
Chard: 88 pounds
Zucchini (1 plant): 38 pounds
Lettuces: 33 pounds
Eggplant (7 plants): 64 pounds
Tomato (5 plants): 43 pounds
Cucumber (2 plants): 30 pounds
Carrots: 25 pounds
Peppers (8 plants): 30 pounds

We're still harvesting lots of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, chard, zucchini, yellow squash and herbs. And as the days grow cooler we'll be harvesting winter squash, kale, radishes, beets and more lettuces.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Raspberries are a great addition to the edible landscape.
Last week I harvested the first of the raspberries...15 to be exact. They were beautiful and delicious! From the looks of the plants there will be a lot more to harvest in the coming days. There are two varieties of raspberries in the Edible Landscape this year, Autumn Britten and Caroline, both primocane bearing raspberries. More about that in a minute. According to U of M variety trials, Autumn Britten is a fairly hardy, early season variety with good productivity. It produces large, attractive, firm fruit with excellent flavor that freezes well. Caroline is a later variety which is also fairly hardy. It is a good producer of large, attractive, relatively firm fruit with very good flavor that freezes well. There are many other varieties that can be grown in Minnesota, and the U of M conducts variety trials on these and many other fruits. The results of these trials, and a wealth of other information can be found on the U of M Commercial Fruit website.

Now, Raspberries 101. There are two main types of raspberry plants: "floricane-bearing" (aka. "summer-bearing") and "primocane-bearing" (aka. "ever-bearing" or "fall-bearing"). Floricane-bearing raspberries have fruit only on the second-year canes. This means the canes grow only vegetatively for the first year. In the second year, these canes produce flowers which then become fruit in the summer. These canes then die. Primocane-bearing raspberries can produce fruit on the first-year canes as well as on second year canes. Fruit on the first year canes will be ready in the fall, after the second-year canes have finished up their summer crop...hence "ever-bearing". Make sense? If not, keep reading and you'll be directed to some helpful links.

You have to be a little careful when growing fall-bearing raspberries in Minnesota because our occasional early frosts can wipe out an entire crop. However, if you prune them correctly, you can get a nice harvest in summer and another in fall, hopefully before the frost hits. Pruning is essential to maintaining a controlled raspberry patch, especially in an edible landscape. Trellising will also help keep raspberries under control. Be creative with trellising and it will even add an ornamental aspect to your landscape. However, if the natural, rambling, thickety raspberry patch is your thing, by no means let me dissuade you. Except for this one thing...you might be inclined to pick a lot more if they're easy to access and relatively tidy. With that said, raspberries are a wonderful treat in the edible landscape, offering height, texture and color to your design in addition to all that delicious fruit! Click here to learn How to Grow Raspberries in the Home Garden.

Other helpful tips on growing raspberries and using them in the landscape can be found at the following links:
Raspberries in the Home Garden (Cornell Univ.)
Raspberry Diseases (U of M Extension)
Raspberry Insect Pests (U of M Extension)
Small Fruits for the Home Landscape (Colo. State Univ.)