Sheri Ann Richerson's exotic gardening, elegant cooking, crafty creations, food preservation and animal husbandry... all on two and a half acres in Marion, Indiana!

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    Growing Fruit

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    Growing A  Garden_ Growing Vegetables-2
    With spring fast approaching, many of you are in the final stages of deciding what to grow in your vegetable garden this coming year. Most of us will agree that growing our own food not only produces better tasting produce, but also allows us to control the chemicals that come into contact with our food. With all of the preservatives and chemicals used today, it just makes better sense to grow as much of our own food as possible.

    Try Companion Planting This Spring

    Basic garden produce usually includes green beans, peas, corn and tomatoes. Companion planting has become quite popular in the past couple years. It is especially useful in small areas. For example, try planting tomatoes, geraniums and basil together. The geraniums will help the tomatoes to turn color faster and produce more, while basil has always been a good companion plant for tomatoes. It also makes it more convenient when picking for freezing. Just add a few leaves of basil to your tomatoes and freeze. This allows the basil oils to flavor the tomatoes without much additional work on your part.

    Don’t Forget About Fruit!

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    Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’ bloomed for the first time this year. I planted it outdoors in the spring of 2005.

    I moved here to the farm in August 2004. My goal – even back then – was to fill the land with useful plants. I brought a number of plants with me from my old place and promptly began planting new ones. Fruiting plants was an area I focused on fairly heavily – as were herbs and medicinal plants. Of course, I wanted fragrance – and finally I have it all. Everywhere you go in the yard this year you are greated with something that produces food or medicine and you inhale a delightful fragrance. Of course the smell changes depending on where you are in the yard and what time of year it is.

    Here are the fruit plants currently growing here. This list is more for me and not intended to make anyone jealous. You too can grow a wide variety of fruiting plants – indoors and out – if you have the space and set your mind to it.

     

    Apples

    Bananas

    Blackberry

    Blueberries

    Cherries

    Cranberries

    Elderberries

    Fig

    Gooseberry

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    Sam Benowitz – Raintree Nursery

    There are few pleasures in life that can compare to picking and eating fresh berries, apples and other fruit grown in your very own backyard orchard. While fruit trees and berry bushes may take longer to mature than fast-producing annuals, they will reward the patient gardener with loads of tasty fruit every season. Many trees and berry bushes bear so heavily, in fact, that you can’t eat all the fruit fresh—so canning and preserving is a great way to enjoy an orchard’s bounty all year long.

    The stories below feature quality fruit-bearing trees and bushes ranging from fig trees and cherry trees to historical heirloom apples and improved berry varieties. Any of these productive trees and bushes can be great additions to the garden. Adding a new fruiting tree or bush will add beauty and structure to the landscape—and can feed you and your family for years to come.

     

     

    Fig ‘Desert King’

    Nature Hills offers hundreds of fruiting plants

     

    Looking for a cold-hardy fig tree? Desert King Fig (Ficus carica ‘Desert King’) is a good choice for cooler climates because it’s hardy to USDA Zone 5 and produces large, sweet figs with strawberry-red flesh. How about an early-ripening cherry variety that’s perfect for pies? ‘Early Richmond’ Cherry (Prunus cerasus) ripens in late spring and the bright red fruits are excellent for cooking. Perhaps you’d rather grow raspberries. Raspberry ‘Brandywine’ (Rubus idaeus ‘Brandywine’) is cross of red and black raspberry plants, and it’s been called the best purple raspberry available.

    Fig ‘Desert King’

    All of these fruiting plants—and hundreds more—are available from Nature Hills Nursery. This online-only retailer offers more fruit trees, berry bushes and other edible-producing plants than any other website. Nature Hills Nursery proudly calls itself “America’s Online Garden Center” because it also offers a full line of shade trees, perennials, fertilizers, pest controls, tools and even gift items. Visit www.naturehills.com or call (888) 864-7663.

     

     

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    Tomato Super Sauce – the world’s largest sauce tomato.


     

    Every year, horticulture experts around the world cultivate new and exciting plant varieties to enhance the diversity and productivity of gardens everywhere. Not just for show, most new varieties of fruits and vegetables offer improved yields and hardiness, and they thrive right alongside the tried-and-true varieties.

    Gardeners always love to grow the newest varieties of their favorite plants, and the ones listed below are sure to be crowd-pleasers. Resulting from years of experience from established companies and garden enthusiasts, each of these unique varieties has something special to add to the garden. Increased disease resistance, more compact growth habits and unusual-colored fruits are all reasons to consider adding one of these new varieties to your garden.

     

    Burpee introduces “world’s largest sauce tomato” 

     

    Burpee is known for bringing new vegetable varieties to American gardens for 136 years—including the first white sweet corn, the legendary ‘Big Boy’ tomato, and ‘Sweet Seedless,’ the first ever seedless tomato. For 2013, Burpee has introduced SuperSauce Hybrid Tomato, “the world’s largest sauce tomato.”

    SuperSauce is the new superhero of tomatoes. The first ripe fruits tip the scale at up to 2 pounds, measuring a whopping 5.5 inches tall and 5 inches wide. SuperSauce produces gallons of luscious, seedless sauce from a single plant harvest—one tomato fills an entire sauce jar. The easy-to-grow, indeterminate, disease-free plants yield a summer-long supply of exquisitely flavored marinara, tomato gravy or meat sauce. But wait! It gets even better. With its large segments of meaty and delicious flesh, SuperSauce is the only paste tomato that doubles as a sandwich slicer. Try it on a hamburger or tomato sandwich and you won’t believe the taste bonus over a horizontal slice of beefsteak.

    Tomatoes are the nations favorite backyard garden fruit because they are easy to grow, are prolific producers and have unrivaled summer flavor. SuperSauce Hybrid Sauce Tomato is already one of Burpee’s best-selling tomato introductions ever. A packet of SuperSauce Tomato seeds sells for $6.50 or 3 garden-ready plants sell for $14.95, exclusively from Burpee, (800) 888-1447 or www.burpee.com.

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    Get kids growing in the garden by starting them off planting their own strawberries. You can let them plant and care for a whole patch, or just one or two plants, planted in a strawberry jar or garden container.  Be sure to engage your kids in the planting process and let them get their hands dirty. Then show them how to care for and water their home-grown tasty treats. You can make this more fun for children by buying them their very own watering can. Don’t forget to show kids how to pinch off plant runners to reap larger sized berries. And of course have them do the harvesting and enjoy the fruits of their labor!

    You’ll find most kids enjoy helping in the garden, they’re allowed to get dirty, they get some good exercise, actually learn and understand, first hand, where their food comes from and they’ll gain a good sense of nurture, nature and responsibility within the process.

    Children love watching strawberries grow, they’ll see flowers bloom, garden bees, and fruit develop and turn color. After developing a sense of ownership of their plants, they will especially love eating the sweet fruits they grew themselves.

    Here’s some tips to ensure strawberry success:

    *When planting strawberries, be sure the crown is above soil level and the upper most roots are 1/4 inch beneath soil level, buried crowns rot and exposed roots dry out. Have kids  measure and then dig holes for placing plants, depending on space and quantity. Strawberry plants should be placed approximately 14 to 18 inches apart from each other in neat rows that are separated by 2-3 feet each.  Let runners fill in until plants are 7-10 inches apart.

    *Use mulch to keep berries clean, conserve moisture and control weeds.

    *If you want to keep it simple, plant strawberries in a container.  Just remember that container plantings need much more water than in-ground plantings, usually once a day; and if it’s hot, twice. Strawberry pots are the obvious, best container choice for growing strawberries. You can fit several plants in one pot; just make sure whatever type of garden pot you use has good drainage. Strawberries have a relatively small root ball and can be grown in containers as small as 10-12 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep. However, the smaller the container, the more frequently you will need to water. Synthetic and light colored pots will keep the roots cooler than dark colors and natural materials that conduct heat.

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    A grove of banana trees.

    Banana trees are really cool plants – not just because of their huge, exotic leaves or the tasty fruit they produce – but because of the many different colors or sizes of the fruit and the leaves. We are not talking about the same old yellow bananas you find on grocery store shelves either. No ma’am – bananas comes in pink, red and even purple! As for the leaves, there are banana trees with red leaves, ones that are red and green variegated as well as white and green variegated. In fact, the AE AE Banana, as the white and green variegated one is known, is highly sought after by banana plant collectors world-wide.

    Of course, not all bananas are suitable for eating because of the massive amounts of seed the fruit contains, although some prefer to simply remove the seeds and eat the bananas anyway – and this is fine.

    If you’ve not grown a banana tree in the past, they are easy to grow – and in the event you do not live in a tropical climate, you can find varieties that are a mere 3 to 4 feet tall at maturity. These are ideal for growing in containers and they do produce fruit within two to three years as long as they are well cared for. While you are not likely to end up with a banana tree grove – such as the one in the picture above, unless you have lots of containers filled with banana trees – you can still enjoy growing them year-round in your home or office. Here is what you need to know to get started growing your own banana trees.

    The botanical name of the banana tree is Musa and there are many varieties that are easy to obtain.  Florists, grocery stores and discount stores often carry banana plants in addition to many mail order and Internet vendors.

    Bananas require lots of water and light to thrive. Brown leaves usually indicate that the plant is in low humidity or not receiving enough water. It is a good idea if you are growing this plant indoors is to provide frequent misting.  If this is difficult for you to do, keep a humidifier close to the plant.  A natural method for humidity is to cluster plants together although this can lead to other problems, such as powdery mildew, if you are not careful.

    Growing Bananas inside presents a special challenge to the grower because supplemental light must be provided. Bananas require two years of being in the exact same spot, grown under the exact same conditions before they begin to flower.

    Once you decide to try your hand at any of the Musa family purchase a very large pot.  Bananas grow quickly.  I have found that using a large pot to start with eliminates the constant need for repotting.  The longer the time between moves the better chance you have of getting fruit. Set the plant in a warm spot with plenty of room overhead so it can reach its mature height unhindered.

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    There is a wide variety of berries that will thrive in clay soil as long as you take the time to amend it. From your typical berries such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries and raspberries to berries that are less common such as honeyberry or service berry, there is sure to be a variety that is ideal for every garden. Understanding the correct way to prepare and amend the soil before planting your berries is the key to success.

    Step 1: Select a site in full sun that has good air circulation. Prepare the soil by digging a hole by hand that is twice as deep as the head of the shovel and approximately 4 feet in diameter. This technique is known as double-digging. Break up any clumps. Remove roots, rocks or other foreign material from the soil.

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    We are finally getting some much needed rain. The garden is beginning to look like a garden again. I have posted a bunch of new pictures in the photo gallery athttp://www.exoticgardening.com/modules.php?name=coppermine&file=profile&uid=2 .

    We have had a busy week. Jerry laid a new flagstone walkway, moved one of my greenhouses and did more work on the vegetable garden so we can plant our summer crops.

    We have added a ton of new plants to our gardens this year. To name a few, we have recently added a Semi-Dwarf Santa Rosa Plum, a Red Bartlett Pear, a Methley Plum, a Dwarf Black Tartarian Cherry, Salix integra ‘Hakura Nishiki,’ Dogwood ‘Cream Cracker,’ a Golden Curls Willow, Rosa ‘Golden Celebration,’ a Pink Dogwood, Rhododendron ‘Purpureum Elegans,’ Rhododendrum ‘Roseum Pink,’ Rose ‘Pat Austin,’ Rose ‘Baby Love,’ Phlox ‘Blue Magic,’ Magnolia grandiflora ‘Edith Bogue,’ Akebia quinata and Rose ‘Abraham Darby.’

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    Today was another busy day. The kittens are crawling around on their own now so I put them in the attached garage.

    Jerry dug up a lot of Rose of Sharon bushes from his mom’s house yesterday. He brought them home and we are planting them along our back fence row to create privacy.

    I weeded some of the vegetable garden today, planted the eggplant and a few tomato plants.

    Jerry’s mom bought us another Peach tree tonight. That brings our fruit tree count to 2 apple trees, 12 blueberry bushes, 4 peach trees, 2 cherry trees, 3 cherry bushes, 2 plum trees, 3 pear trees, 1 hardy orange tree, 2 cranberry bushes, 11 raspberry bushes, 3 blackberry bushes, 2 grape vines and so many strawberries that I can’t count them all.

    My peppercorn bush is coming back from the winter so it is indeed hardy here. I can’t wait to harvest fresh peppercorns.

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    According to legend, the Passion Flower (Passiflora spp.) was named by early Roman Catholic missionaries in South America because the flowers bore a fancied representation of the Passion of Christ. Roman Catholic priests of the late 1500’s believed that several parts of the plant symbolized features of the Passion, the suffering and death of Jesus. The ten apostles who remained faithful to Jesus throughout the Passion are represented by the five petals and the five petal-like sepals, while the hairlike rays above the petals were thought to represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. The five stamens were thought to represent the wounds of Christ, while the pistils represented the nails.These large, woody rapid growing vines cling to their supports with long tendrils and bear one-half inch to six inch wide flowers in a variety of colors, most commonly in shades of purples and reds, though some bear white, yellow, or blue flowers. The majority of these plants are native to tropical, subtropical, and warmer temperate regions of North and South America.Passiflora prefer a dormancy period in late fall or winter, although they will continue to grow and many will produce their famous one-day blooms year round. They like to receive four hours or more of sunlight a day – although this may be provided by grow lights. The trick to indoor blooming is to get the light close enough to the plant and bright enough to make it think it’s natural light without burning the leaves.

    During their flowering and growing periods they prefer moist soil, however allowing them to dry slightly between waterings will not harm the plant. Ideal air conditions would be moist and humid. Passiflora should also be repotted infrequently.

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