Edible Gardens and Fruitful Vines

Edible gardens are sprouting up everywhere. Boysenberry and blackberry are taking over where bougainvillea once was king, snap peas are usurping the territory of snapdragons, and potato patches are proliferating in the place of pansy plantings.
As produce prices reach new heights, it makes increasing sense to grow your own vegetables and fruits. With cherry tomatoes selling for several dollars per pint, my wife insisted that I grow them this year. Nothing grows more easily than cherry tomatoes, which you can plant through the end of this month if not beyond.
Prior to planting, make sure you erect a strong fence or trellis behind your cherry tomatoes since, several weeks after planting them from one-gallon containers, they will start producing heavy clusters of fruit and you will want to avoid having to scramble at the last moment to prop them up. You will marvel at the flavor of your homegrown tomatoes, cherry or otherwise, as compared to the taste of supermarket equivalents. You may never buy a tomato again.
Of course, there are also environmental stewardship elements involved in an edible garden. Growing your own food is an invitation to recycle garden trimmings and clippings into compost and mulch. Compost, the end product of garden and kitchen waste decomposition, builds well-drained, yet spongy soil that leads to healthier plants, while mulch radically reduces the frequency of irrigation. An edible garden that is well-composted and mulched will yield abundant harvests even while watering becomes no more than a weekly or twice weekly event.
Last but not least, there is the simple joy of growing your own tomatoes, berries, greens and a cornucopia of other edibles.
More about berries
An email from Laddie McCabe, who gardens in Long Beach, makes a powerful case for selecting boysenberry as your next vine.
“Last year,” she wrote, “my neighbor gave me five small vines to try planting in our backyard. We didn’t expect anything from the first growth last summer and were surprised that we actually got about 20 berries. This year, however, by the time the crop was completely harvested, we had actually put together 86 mason jars of boysenberry jam.
“As the berries ripened we would pick, then freeze them on a cookie sheet. Once frozen they were put into zippered bags. Remember that you need to cut back this year’s growth at the end of summer as the fruit only grows once per vine.”
Myke Sheets, a correspondent from Redondo Beach, maintains that blackberries are sweeter than boysenberries.
“We’ve been growing and harvesting blackberries every year since the late ’80s,” he wrote last week. “This year, the berries were the sweetest we could ever remember. My wife makes blackberry jam, jelly and cobblers and I have four one-gallon Ziploc bags full of frozen blackberries for next year’s jam. Plus, we’ve been eating them fresh every day since about May 25 (they are almost done bearing fruit as of this writing).
“I got sick and tired of the thorns about eight years ago and replaced one section of my blackberries with thornless boysenberry canes. I grew those for four years and never really got large berries nor were they ever sweet, so I ripped those out last year in favor of the larger, sweeter blackberries again. You highly recommended those boysenberries but they are not superior to the large blackberries we harvest every year.“I’ve also given away blackberry shoots to friends who live in Orange County and one of the guys this year couldn’t thank me enough, told me he made a pie with his first year’s blackberry crop and eats them daily in his cereal.
“Blackberries are not hard to grow. All you need is some good sun and sandy soil.”
Sheets’ 30-foot-long support system, which would be appropriate for any cane or vining crop, consists of 2-inch diameter, 6-foot tall galvanized poles, installed at 2-foot intervals. Galvanized wire, the type used in growing grapes, is strung between the poles. His canes have been trained into 6-foot diameter wreaths, a horticultural innovation that reduces space needed to grow the berries and makes it easier to harvest them.
Roy Moffett, who lives in Alta Loma, wrote: “This year has been pretty bountiful. Our 10-foot-tall Floridaprince peach was a real trooper yielding over 150 peaches. It’s always been a champ. Our Babcock peach, nectarine, Asian pear and Granny Smith apple are all laden with fruit. But the real standouts were the brambles.
“We planted four Black Satin blackberries from Home Depot and they are producing fruit like crazy. The most prolific bush was the Apache blackberry. We have harvested over 100 berries from the bush. Our freezer is full of frozen berries. We give tons of them away and people love them.
“My assessment is that all three berries do well in this area, where the elevation is 1,850 feet. Also, I fertilize everything very regularly, water more than adequately and apply micronutrients on a regular basis.”
It should be noted that gardeners living at higher elevations will be able to grow more types of deciduous fruits and more varieties of cane berries than those of us who live at lower elevations. Floridaprince peach, on the other hand, should grow well anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area.
Plum pests
“Our Santa Rosa plum tree is past its 20th year, and gave us less than a dozen fruit this year. This is after many years of bounty, and freezer bags full of delicious plums. I used to rig netting three feet above the ground, and catch fruit by the hundreds.“The tree has been infested for years with borers and galls. We would like to replace it with another tree, but if we plant another tree in the same location, will it inherit these same problems? Are there treatments for the soil that could be applied?”
— Barry and Judy Blades, Westlake Village
Plum tree borers are beetles that generally bother the trees only after they have aged and are already in a weakened condition. The tumors or galls on your tree are known as crown galls since the bacteria that create them enter through wounds in roots or wounds in crown bark, at the base of the trunk.
Crown gall bacteria, known as Agrobacter tumefaciens, live in the soil and may be controlled, if not eliminated entirely, with soil sterilant chemicals. There is also a biological control product called Galltrol, containing a bacteria that produces antibiotics that disrupt the activity of gall-producing bacteria.Soil solarization, where soil is soaked with a hose and then covered with plastic, or growing grass for three consecutive years in the area where your plum tree grew, are two other approaches to reducing if not eliminating the problematic bacteria, which can infect a large variety of plants, including apple and walnut trees as well as roses.Crown galls do not typically have a significant effect on the performance or productivity of backyard fruit trees.

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