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When it comes to berries, Strawberries are definitely one of my favorites. To me, a strawberry that has been ripened to ultimate sweetness is a heavenly experience.
I used to think I would never have enough strawberries, that is, until I had over 300 different strawberry plants, which range across different cultivars and kinds.
I have at least 5 different kinds of strawberries currently growing in my yard. By request of AngelsGarden, I thought I would share which are my favorite and some of my experiences with them.
Overall, I like having a mix of everbearing and junebearing strawberries. The benefit of junebearing strawberries is that they have a whole lot of strawberries that all ripen about the same time over a few weeks. This makes it easier to be done with picking them. I like to freeze them for use over the months that fresh strawberries aren’t available. The benefit of everbearing strawberries is that their season is extended longer, allowing you to have fresh strawberries over a longer period of time. If it was possible to have everbearing strawberries year round, I wouldn’t need junebearing ones.
I have preference for different kinds of strawberries depending where they are planted. The way I look at it, there are normal garden strawberries, alpine strawberries, musk strawberries, ornamental strawberries, and wild strawberries.
I believe that when people think of strawberries they are likely thinking of garden strawberries. These are the kind you see in the store and usually see offered in nurseries and have the recognized traditional strawberry flavor.
Everbearing Garden Strawberry
I am growing Tristar strawberries. At one time I thought these would be enough, that with their longer season from June until the fall, I wouldn’t need any other strawberries. However, this hasn’t proven the case in my situation. The strawberries are average in size and the plants spread their season over a longer time, with a slower rate of berry production than the junebearing varieties.
In my experience, they require full sun, fall/winter work in cleaning up runners and dead foliage, and watering during dry times. Of all my strawberries, these tend to be the ones that struggle the most with insufficient boron, which is evident by misshapen strawberries that look more like mutant red growths than something you buy in the store. So, this is something I watch for and occasional have to supplementally feed the trace nutrient of boron for.
Junebearing Garden Strawberry
I am growing two different kinds of junebearing strawberries, Seascape and Whopper.
I got the Seascape plants on a sale that I just couldn’t pass up. The plants tend to be a little bigger than my Tristar plants and the berries also tend to be a little bigger. The first berry of the year on that particular plant tends to be the biggest one of the season.
I ordered my Whopper strawberries from Gurneys. I was really intrigued by their description of them getting almost as big as peaches, which has proven to be true. The first berries on these plants are huge, almost as big as peaches. Their size requires some special care though. I’ve found that if the berries sit on the ground that sometimes one side of them could get over ripe while the other side is still ripening, so if you can, you will want to try to raise the berries up off the ground. Since I don’t have the patience or time to do this, I tend to not wait for these berries to get a dark red for this reason, but pick them when they are still a light red color. The taste is still pretty good.
The plants are also some of the biggest strawberry plants I’ve ever seen, with them reaching over a foot in height. This year I’ve had some problems with the weight of the leaves and runners laying down on top of the berries, hiding the berries pretty well under the mat of foliage.
In my experience both cultivars require full sun, fall/winter work in cleaning up runners and dead foliage, and watering during dry times. I do sometimes see some problems with boron deficiencies, but not nearly to the degree as I see in my everbearing Tristar plants.
Personally, I believe Alpine strawberries are all around the best strawberries for landscaping. I’ve written a lot about them in a previous blog entry, so I won’t go into so much detail today, other than to say that this week I was pleasantly surprised to see a stray alpine strawberry plant producing berries in a spot that never gets direct sunlight.
In my experience, alpine strawberries can grow in full sun to full shade. They do require watering during dry times to continue producing berries, but seem able to recover even if allowed to dry out pretty bad. Very little fall/winter cleanup required of dead leaves.
In the past, at a different house, I’ve grown Capron musk strawberries and the Profumata di Tortona varieties of musk strawberries.
I had these berries planted in full shade with just diffused light to grow with and yet they were still producing a lot of berries and spreading like crazy via a whole lot of runners. If you want strawberries that spread fast, require little light, and don’t mind that the berries are smaller than garden strawberries, then I’d recommend musk strawberries. One thing to be aware of is that musk strawberries require more than one variety to be planted, since they do need pollination.
In the past I’ve grown lipstick strawberries.
These have a nice pink blossom, which is a nice change from the usual white blossom of other strawberry plants. They also grew much shorter than all my other strawberry plants, so would make a good low growing groundcover if you didn’t mind that their berry production is less than other strawberry plants.
In my yard and landscape I like having a balance between the wild of nature and an ordered structure to things. My favorite parts of my yard are the areas that are a little more on the wild side. I think of it as being a kind of structured chaos or Japanesque style of landscaping.
An example of this is the garden rock steps my wife and I put together a few years back.
These are by no means the symmetrical steps you would see if done by brick or wood. If you tried hard, you could almost imagine that they had somehow by pure chance fallen in this arrangement on their own. Yet, they serve their function as being an easy access way from one level of the yard to another.
To give them an even more organic and wild look to them my wife picked out and planted various herbs in the nooks and crannies with exposed soil.
Plus there is a stray ostrich fern and some strawberries that voluntary joined the party.
The low growing Corsican mint and Thyme plants are great for things like this, since they can withstand some foot traffic and give off some wonderful smells when rubbed against. Both are fine in some shade. The Thyme is a bit more drought tolerant than the mint, though the mint has a stronger and more pleasant scent.
This weekend soaphouse asked me if I knew of any organic solutions to ants in veggies, which is a GREAT question! I love questions that get me to thinking and push me to learn more.
Since I have an edible yard, where my kids have been encouraged to freely graze at will and pets are unable to understand warnings about not eating things, I am very careful about using any kind of poisons. This means I stay away from not only toxic synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, but even various “organic” pest or weed controls, since some would also be toxic to my family. In most cases, this means plants are often left to fend for themselves beyond any kind of manual labor on my part.
So to be totally honest, I really haven’t paid that much attention to ants in my veggies, berries, or fruit, unless I start seeing damage. Last year I saw some actual aphid farms on my artichokes and fava beans, which was being tended by ants. It was amazing to watch the ants moving among the patches of aphids, as if they were caring for livestock. But I quickly got past my fascination since my poor artichokes and fava beans were suffering. I solved the problem with some non-toxic and organic soap spray, which wiped out the aphid farms via suffocation due to the soap layer temporarily stopping air exchange.
Soaphouse’s question prompted me to do some more study on ants, which led to finding some interesting ways that other people have gone about dealing with them. The way to deal with them depends on how much information you have. I am going to focus on organic solutions, since that is what soaphouse asked for. A combination of methods would probably be the most effective way to go.
Attack their home
If you can figure out where the ant nest is, you can attack it directly. One idea is to poor boiling water on it.
If possible; remove what they are feeding on, usually sweet things. Since in the garden this can be veggies, fruit, or berries, this might be difficult. I was able to do this in my garden by killing the aphid farms they were living off of.
Destroy their means of communication
Ants communicate with scent trails. If you spray or powder strong smelling things on those scent trails, like vinegar, cayenne pepper, black pepper, baby powder, mint, it will disrupt them and the ants will be lost as to where to go. You could even try spraying/powdering your plants with these things to see if it will stop the ants from finding them.
Fill them full of holes
Some have reported that dusting food-grade diatomaceous earth along the ant’s pathways will cut through their exoskeleton and they will dehydrate and die.
I find it kind of funny to see the parallels of fighting ants to medieval warfare, though this happens to be with ants rather than knights fighting castles.
When it comes to ants in my home and walls, I am not against using poisons. It seems like almost every year I have lived in my home, about this time of year I get an encroachment of carpenter ants.
These are nasty big black ants. They can bite really hard, as my Mom can attest to from the time when I was a kid and one went down the front of her shirt. As a seven year old kid, it was a kind of scary experience seeing my Mom running around the living room screaming and tearing at her shirt while some ant was biting her. I have no truce with these ants.
With carpenter ants I have no qualm about using poisons. I prefer using borax based bait, which they carry back to their nest and queen, and within a few days kills the nest. There are bait stations that are designed to keep kids and pets out of them. I look for the borax based bait stations, since many others kill the ants so quickly that they don’t get the stuff back to their queen, allowing her to bear more eggs to replace to ants killed, which I don't want.
Yesterday I was very surprised and honored to see Marc at GardenDesk mention my blog in his, in which he invited me to participate in a blogging activity listing 7 random things about myself.
I am relatively new to the whole gardening bloggernacle and only started writing about three months ago as part of an exercise in seeing how well the new changes at GardenGuides were and in the process I got hooked. My passion for gardening just synched with my passion for writing, and before I knew it, here I am.
Writing seven random things about myself is kind of difficult for me. My goal in blogging has been to keep things on gardening and not about all the craziness in my personal life.
Seven random things about me:
It was only a couple of weeks ago that I started looking around at some of the incredible gardening blogs that are online, leading me to realize that I am but a beginner in comparison to people that have been doing this for years.
The rules of this blogging activity are:
Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to then report this on their own blog with their 7 random facts as well as these rules. They then need to tag 7 others and list their names on their blog. They are also asked to leave a comment for each of the tagged, letting them know they have been tagged and to read the blog.
I fear that I have not had time to even really get too much of a sense of many of the great gardening blogs that are online, so I am doubtful I can select 7 that I am really familiar with.
My favorites, which I keep track of are:
Veggie Gardening Tips by Kenny Point
The Garden Kitty by Sweetlebee
I dig my own holes by Rkayne
I also keep track of many other great gardening blogs on GardenGuides
I am going to be on the lookout for other great gardening blogs!
Sugar peas are something I really enjoy growing in my garden and yard in both the spring and fall.
I like the way that the pole varieties attach themselves to just about any structure and grow up it, making it possible to use them in a landscape like many other vines, be it on trellises, arbors, fences, wire frame yard ornaments, bamboo poles, etc.
This year I chose to grow my spring time sugar peas on a bamboo structure I made, with some wire frame towers intermixed for variety. As they have grown over this structure they have formed a living fence, which has further sectioned off my herb beds into a virtual room.
If you want to be really creative you could try growing peas on other sturdy plants, like small trees, corn stalks, etc. as a companion plant.
This year I planted an open pollinated variety called Cascadia, which is described by my seed company as;
“This enation-resistant snap pea comes to us from Dr. Jim Baggett at Oregon State University. The short, 32 inch vines yield an abundance of dark green 3 1/2 inch pods that are thick, juicy, and very sweet. Also resistant to powdery mildew. Interchangeable with snow peas and also makes a fabulous snack!”
What attracted me to this variety was that I can use it both as a snow pea or sugar snap pea. Meaning, the pea pods are tasty as well, so I can start picking and eating the peas even before the peas have formed in the pods, or I can wait and shell the peas.
Since this particular variety is open pollinated, I am hoping to save some of the peas for replanting for a fall harvest. However, I seem to be having a hard time letting any of the peas get to the point of being suitable seed, since they are a favorite snack of not only everyone in my family, but also my dog. While I was out for about half an hour picking some of the strawberries growing around base of the peas I observed my dog eat at least 4 different peas right off the vine. She will sniff around to find one she likes and then balance on her hind legs to reach up and pull the ripe pea pod right off the vine to eat.
This spring I have experimented with using pea vine tendrils in my stir fries. Pea vine tendrils are sometimes used in Asian cooking, such as stir-fries, Asian salad, and garnishes. One day I picked some of the top 6-8 inches of pea vines (tendrils) and included them in a stir fry. I made the mistake of not cutting them into smaller pieces, so my kids weren’t excited about finding string like things in their stir fry. I won’t make that mistake next time. The Cascadia variety I planted is reputed to have been one of the favorites in pea vine tendril trials conducted at Washington State University Extension.
Peas are usually a cool season crop, which is why I plant mine in the spring, before most other garden plants, and I then plant them again in the summer for a fall crop. Inbetween, I miss having fresh peas in the hot days of summer. They also like to be planted close to each other, so they can support and shade the other vines. A few years ago I tried growing them spread out on a chain link fence, thinking I would get a better harvest by giving them more space, however they instead did poorly and seemed to dry out and die quickly, as if the sun was burning them.
I am thinking I will need to plant more for fall than I did in this spring, since I am hoping to freeze some as snow peas for stir fry mixes. Currently I don’t seem to have enough to get past everyone, including myself and my dog, eating them as quick as they grow.
Sometimes when I tell people that I do edible landscaping I get blank stares or even worse I get a look like I am from some alien world. I really have no idea what could be going through their head, but my guess is that they are either drawing a total blank on what edible landscaping is or else picturing in their head something like a front yard filled with rows of corn instead of grass. For some I think it might be like hearing me speak a foreign language and having no clue on what is being said. It is times like that when I wish I had pictures with me of some of the incredible beauty that is possible with edible landscaping, so they could get a sense of why this topic excites me so much.
One of the pictures I wish I carried with me was of cherry trees drenched in pink or white blossoms.
My picture from this spring doesn’t do this tree justice.
When I lived in Japan I was amazed by the Japanese people’s celebration of the blossoming of the cherry trees. Every year they celebrate their sakura (cherry blossom) festival with great emotion and exuberance as a way of welcoming spring and a new year. The cherry blossom is seen as being an incredibly powerful symbol of beauty and renewal.
I see people plant various ornamental cherry trees and am really sad by it. They are missing out on the best part of edible landscaping, the fruit. At times I hear people seem to associate fruit bearing trees as being a burden or chore, as if the fruit is a nuisance. They’d much rather completely rely on the grocery store for all their food and not bother dealing with all the strange things that could fall off a tree and mess up their manicured lawn. I have difficulty describing how frustrated I am by this way of thinking.
My dream is someday to see the best qualities of the ornamental cherry trees successfully crossed with the qualities of the best fruit bearing trees. I believe it is possible that some day we will see things like weeping cherry trees covered in delicious red or yellow cherries, it is just a matter of time before someone does it.
My cherries are enjoyed so much by my family members that they never make it far from the tree before being eaten. I feel lucky to personally get even a few each year. As soon as my kids discover that the cherries are ripe enough to eat, they tend to drag my step ladder out and pick the tree clean. The only evidence I usually see of a good harvest of cherries is a forgotten step ladder and cherry pits around the base of the tree.
Here is a picture of the unripe cherries from a few weeks ago.
Since taking this picture, those cherries have turned red and begun being consumed by eager kids and birds.
Even if you don’t want to harvest the cherries, they can be a great way to attract birds to your yard, since they love cherries. But if you are like me and want to enjoy your own cherries, you will need to find ways to discourage the birds from taking all your fruit. This time of year is when cherries are ripening, when birds are flocking to cherry trees, so steps need to be taken to safeguard your cherries.
Things I have tried or seen that has worked to discourage birds:
If you are buying a new cherry tree to feed and attract birds, then you won’t mind getting a full size one, which can get something like 40 feet tall. Otherwise, I’d suggest looking for a dwarf tree that is at a much more manageable size. I’ve found that the taller trees are very difficult to pick the fruit from. There are nurseries that offer grafted cherry trees that are dwarfs and more disease resistant. Another option is to grow bush cherries.
Some cherry trees are partially or fully self-fertile, like the named varieties Lapins, Stella, Glacier, White Gold, Black Gold, Vandalay, or Sweatheart. If you aren't getting a self-fertile variety, you will need to get two different varieties for pollinating each other. Tart or pie cherries are self-fertile but unable to pollinate sweet cherries.
One other thing I would like to point out that cherry trees not only are a good source of fruit, but the wood is also valuable in the use of home interiors, cabinetry, and photo paper. Before removing a cherry tree you might want to check with wood brokers to see how valuable it is.
One of my goals in gardening is to make things as easy to maintain as possible, which is a necessity for me since my whole yard of half an acre is planted as an edible botanical garden.
One of the biggest maintenance chores I have in maintaining a beautiful yard and garden is weeding. I can't foresee me ever being able to totally eliminate weeds, but I can minimize them.
Here are some of the strategies I am using to minimize weeds and to make the chore of weeding easier.
Painted sage, also known as Salvia viridis, Clary Sage, or Horminum Sage is technically not an edible flower, but the vibrantly colored leaves that at first glance look like flowers are actually the edible part of the plant.
In the below picture you can hardly see the small flowers lower on the stems, but the colorful top leaves really stand out in their shades of purple, red, pink, and mauve.
I planted these last year, they reseeded, and came back even stronger this year, with no work needed on my part.
In my yard, the plants are roughly up to two feet tall and started putting on their visual display in May.
I’ve read that they are great dried and due to the nice aroma can be used as “everlasting flowers.”
Both the seeds and leaves are edible. The leaves can be cooked or used raw in soups, salads, and cooked greens. The seeds are used as flavoring in things like liquors, which are supposed to greatly increase the potency of the brew.
The taste of the leaves is floral, so something that wouldn't be bad in a salad.
The bane of gardening in my yard is Himalayan Blackberries.
Himalayan Blackberries are a non-native and invasive blackberry that was introduced in Western Washington some time ago, and since then have spread to such a degree that they are taking over many wild spaces with giant brambles that are very difficult to deal with. They have huge thorns and at times seem to jump out and grab you in a painful embrace that is hard to extract yourself from.
As you might be able to tell, I have no love for this plant.
I do like blackberries as a berry. Every year my kids and I go to some of the many parks that have been infested and pick buckets of sweet and delicious berries for jam, cobbler, and pies. I just don’t want them in my yard.
When I moved into my house a few years ago, half my backyard was a giant blackberry bramble. It was so bad that for the first few months I didn’t even know exactly how big my yard was or that there was a spring flowing through my yard. After a month or so I got up some courage and spent over an hour to hack myself a little path through the blackberries, so I could find the fence poles that marked the edges of the yard. I then spent months fighting the blackberries in combat that left me bruised and bloodied. To this day, the battle still rages on as the monsters refuse to die and new ones seem to pop up every day.
My neighbor gave up on the fight, so now my yard is threatened with a wave of invaders from his place of safety for them, waiting for me to lose interest so they can leap across my fence in mass force and re-take my yard.
I am a gentle man, not prone to violence, slow to anger, and abhorrent of chemical warfare, but when it comes to Himalayan Blackberries, my protector self comes out and all bets are off. I’ve tried hand to hand combat, trying desperately to wrestle them out by the roots. I’ve tried repeatedly attacking them with weapons of destruction via my brush cutter. And now I have fallen to new lows of attacking them with chemicals. My strategy of late is to poison them via snipping a vine and dipping the end in concentrated RoundUp, hoping that the poison will spread to the roots, killing the whole plant. So far, I haven’t seen the desired effect, but I am still giving it some time.
Yes, I am a plant murderer. I have to be if I have any hope of protecting my vulnerable fruit trees, berry bushes, herbs, and vegetables.
With over 300 strawberry plants, over 50 raspberry vines, roughly 20 blueberry bushes, plus at least another dozen or so other kinds of berry plants in my yard, I do a whole lot of berry picking. In other words, I get a whole lot of practice and plenty of time trying to figure out how to do it well.
Of the many different things to put picked berries in, my favorite is a milk jug with the top corner cut-off.
It is cheap, light, easy to wash, and has a good handle, so is easy to keep a hold of while crawling around berry bushes. I like using the half gallon jugs for my kids and the gallon jugs are about the right size for adults. Once the berry season is over, simply recycle or dispose of the jug, so it doesn’t have to sit around the rest of the year.
These are some things I have found helpful for me:
I’d love to hear any berry picking tips that work for you as well.
Last year I planted a mix of calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis) from seed. I don’t remember really seeing any grow last year, though last year was pretty hectic for me and I wasn’t paying that much attention. This spring I did take notice as they have burst forth either from seed that was from flowers re-seeding themselves or from left-over seed that had not yet germinated.
I saw the first one appear a couple of months ago, surprisingly hidden under one of the giant leaves of my rhubarb.
Then others appeared
Surprisingly, I’ve noticed the color change some over time. Here are the same flowers, but about a month later.
I tasted some and was surprised. The taste is floral, kind of like rose, but sweeter. Though I’ve read that some could be bitter, so be sure to taste test yours before using them. My mouth felt a little funny afterward, kind of like it had a film of some kind of oil or soap in it. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, just odd. I am going to try again and see if it happens again, before adding any of the flower petals to a salad or use them as a garnish.
Calendula flowers have something of a reputation as a medicinal herb, either as a topical skin treatment or as tea. I haven’t tried any of these out myself, but am planning on experimenting some more. It would be definitely interesting to try to make some Calendula soap, leveraging the herbal medicinal benefits.
As a landscape plant, I think they are really pretty, as I think the pictures demonstrate. They are a good mid-size annual. The fragrance isn’t particularly wonderful, but that is made up for with the visual appeal.
I hope to have Calendula in my yard for many years.
You are probably wondering what in the world I am talking about. It is summer with berries and fruit waiting to be picked, why would I have any interest in thinking about winter?
For about 5 years now I have been growing a winter garden. The first year was mainly by accident when some of my garden was planted late and survived into the winter. I like to think that each year I get a little better at it. With a little knowledge, planning, and using resources available I feel I have made progress each year. One thing that I’ve come to realize is that most things are best planted in about July for winter gardens, which means I need to be planning what I want to grow and ordering seed now. In some years I have made the mistake of not thinking about my winter garden until about fall, when my summer garden is on the decline, which by then is too late to do much.
For winter gardening I love the Territorial Seed Company winter catalog, which when it comes in the mail is an obvious indicator to me that it is time to start planning. In it they have selected various salad greens and vegetables that can be planted for a winter garden. I like that they are based in Oregon, since that is a part of the Pacific Northwest, so I figure that the seeds are more acclimated to my maritime region than something coming from the Tropics, South, or Midwest. I also love the winter garden planting chart that they include in their catalog, which I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. It has been a tool I use every year, and has been very helpful letting me know if there is still hope of planting something else.
The selection of what can be planted in winter is much more limited than summer, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of options. One thing I should point out is that since growth pretty much stops during winter you do need to plant more of the things you want to use. The late summer and fall growth of those garden plants will be what will make up your garden through the cold months.
This year I plan on planting in my winter garden:
To many guys, flowers represent all that is feminine. For a guy to admit flowers as being anything more than a tool of courtship or romance is to invite the “ewww” factor, driven by fears of being labeled gay by themselves or by others. There are even derogatory statements that invoke this engendering of flowers being effeminate, such as “He is such a pansy.” To get almost any guy to openly admit that he likes flowers, without any squeamishness, would be quite a feat.
Don’t get me wrong, I live in the very liberal city of Seattle, which means I work and associate with guys who are openly or privately gay. I consider them to be good friends and co-workers. I respect them and do not pass judgment on them for their orientation. At the same time, I am most definitely not gay. It is something I have never questioned about myself.
I am an edible landscaper, and as such I’ve come to accept that a good landscape design includes flowers. Without being gay and feeling able to break gender stereotypes, how did I get over the “eww” factor and grow flowers for me, rather than for a wife or girlfriend? It is really quite simple, first off I am secure in my gender and orientation, and secondly, I make it all about food. I make the topic of flowers safe to discuss, including the beauty, the wonderful fragrances, and the joy they impart, since I also include the more masculine utilitarian concepts, such as edibility, taste, medicinal herbal use, and adventures in the kitchen.
In other words, to me edible landscaping becomes a melding of both the feminine and masculine components of gardening, becoming gender neutral. It is safe for me to have a flower garden, since it is much more than flowers, it is an extension of my herb garden and vegetable garden, all intermingled.
If you struggle with your husband or boyfriend never showing interest in your flower gardening, try including some of the utilitarian concepts in your sharing about them and see if that sparks something. You might be pleasantly surprised.
I used to think that figs, latin name ficus carica, were a tropical fruit tree, which would never grow somewhere like the Pacific Northwest, with our climate’s milder temperatures and often cloudy days. I was wrong. I now have two fig trees planted in my yard and I have seen a larger one growing in my area.
My experience with the fruit of figs had largely been limited to fig newtons (cookie bars with a sweet fruity filling in the middle), which I’ve always really liked. I’ve never seen figs offered in grocery stores here. The first time I actually ate a fig was about 5 years ago, when my former in-laws gave me a bag of figs from their neighbor’s tree. I got the sense that they didn’t know how to eat them. To be honest, I didn’t know either, but the adventurer in me was willing to try.
I tried biting one and found the skin to be kind of unpalatable, so I peeled it and tried eating just the interior fruit. I was kind of weirded out by how the interior of the fig looked, since it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I initially chose a fruit that was kind of firm, and found the inner fruit to be not that sweet, I wasn’t sure, but I figured it might be under ripe, so I put the bag in the fridge and left it there for a few days.
After maybe a week or so I remembered the figs in the fridge and checked on them. They seemed much squisher. So I tried again. By this time they were so squishy that it was difficult to peel them, and the inner fruit kind of oozed between my fingers, but when I tasted it I was amazed. The flavor I was familiar with in fig newtons was definitely there, but it seemed to be even more sweet. Squishy or not, I finished the bag of figs.
The next year, my former in-laws again bestowed their unwanted bag of figs that their neighbor had gifted them with. I tried to not show how excited I was to get them, since I feared they would stop handing them off to me. By this time I had gotten past the shock of the strange interior of how a fig fruit looked and was looking forward to the delicious sweetness. I didn’t wait for the fruit to get quite so squishy, and found the experience of eating them much better this time. My kids weren’t interested in even trying the figs, though I wasn’t going to push them to try them, since it meant more for me.
The following year, no figs were forthcoming. I resolved to get my own tree so I could get my own fruit, without relying on my former in-laws naivety on how wonderful figs are. I was living in a rental at the time with plans on buying my own home in the next year, so I got a huge pot and planted my new “Brown Turkey fig” in it, where it stayed for the next two years. Unfortunately it didn’t produce any figs over those two years.
When I bought my new home, I was really pleased to find that the former owners had left a potted fig tree of their own, and it even had figs on it. They were past their time, but I still tried to eat them. I had missed eating them.
I later planted both fig trees in my yard and have gotten my own figs, which have wetted my cravings for more. I was surprised how far roots had grown out through the bottom of the pot I had my fig tree in. The roots seem to really spread. Perhaps the containment of the roots is what caused my fig to not produce any fruit while potted. So, from my experience I wouldn't recommend keeping figs in a pot. Once I had them planted, I saw a lot of new growth and sudden fig production.
Last year, one of my sons actually dared to try a fig, and discovered that he liked them also. Fortunately, my other kids haven’t been so daring, so I will still be able to hoard most of the fruit for myself.
I find the fig trees to have a kind of nice tropical look to them, with their large leaves. I think they are pretty neat looking.
The fruit grows directly off of the trunk and main branches. The below close-up picture is of an unripe fruit, which will sag on its stem when it is ripe. In my experience, once the fruit sags, you need to pick them soon or it will drop to the ground.
My fig trees produce fruit in both the spring and fall. So far I have seen a lot more fruit produced in the fall versus the spring. I have no other fruit trees that produce fruit twice in a year, which I got to admit makes figs pretty neat.
Some general information on growing figs is that they are there are varieties that are hardy to about 10° F. Figs can be grown in colder climates if they are pruned as a bush and covered in the winter or grown in a pot and brought inside in winter. Lower temperatures can cause the trees to freeze to the ground, but new growth resprouts from the roots. USDA 7-11.
Fig trees can withstand shade, but for best fruit production, full sun is best. Both my fig trees are growing in partial shade and still producing fruit, even in the Pacific Northwest.
A few days ago I noticed that my first purple coneflowers, latin name Echinacea purpurea, are starting to appear.
Echinacea is one of my favorite edible flowers, largely due to its herbal uses and for its beauty and versatility as a flower.
The leaves, root, and flower are edible. I’ve never tried eating the flowers, but I have used the leaves as something like a spinach substitute in lasagna when my kids were younger. As my official taste test team, it didn’t get high marks by them, largely due to the leaves having a kind of fuzzy fur like texture to them.
The roots, after being at least a couple of years old, are used by some as an herbal remedy for building ones immune system. Whether this actually works or not is largely up to which study you refer to. Some studies say it works when done correctly, using the correct amounts and taking it over the correct time periods, and some studies claim it has no perceptible affect. So it really is up to you on what you believe on this.
Personally, I would be really sad to dig up my beautiful flowers in order to harvest their roots. I guess if there was ever a plague of some sort and I was desperate for herbal methods to use to protect my family, I’d be willing to do it. But for the time being I am satisfied with enjoying these great flowers.
In previous years I have had a lot of fun using my coneflowers in flower arrangements. They work really well for this, lasting for a long time. The stiffness of the stems and blossoms keeps them looking nice longer than many other kinds of flowers. I used to make arrangements with other long lasting evergreens, like sword ferns, and the arrangement would last for a week or so.