Apple Tree Branch Cutting Is Alive!

Several weeks ago, I was trimming apple tree branches that crisscrossed other branches and branches that seemed not in keeping with the tree’s overall form set forth by the larger, older branches. I saved 2 of these cuttings with the thought that they were long and sturdy enough to serve as stakes for a surrounding tomato plant whose vines needed some support. I simply placed these 2 apple tree cuttings into the nearby large soil-filled container and watered that container (which is already occupied by a raspberry plant – many players here!) as usual each week. As it turns out, one of these branches has now sprouted new green leaves – it’s alive! I hadn’t planned on the cuttings serving as anything else but a support for a tomato plant – and a good way to repurpose a tree cutting. Without any extraordinary effort at all (just soil and water), I may have (we’ll see how it goes in the future) inadvertently propagated at least 1-2 apple tree saplings that may one day fruit. Wow! It’s from my 3-in-1 apple tree, so I am not sure which apple(s) might come from these 2 cuttings, but I’d simply be happy if they fruited at all. But now I’ve got to think about how and where to accommodate this and possibly the other branch should both successfully develop into apple tree saplings in their own right. I have a bit of time to come up with a plan. A lot of exciting activity is going on in my food garden right now!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:


Caged: Thornless Blackberry Plants

I was fortunate to have a few hours tonight after work to tidy up my large containers of thornless blackberry plants. Using some of the remaining chicken wire (stucco netting), I caged them up. No fancy stuff here, just cut the chicken wire to fit around the inside of each container and securing them by bending the cut ends into makeshift hooks. I then carefully lowered them into the containers.

The task was challenging because 4 out of the 5 containers were root bound so I could not move those containers. So, it was a matter of detangling the multiple canes to know which canes belonged to which container. Aside from the weeds, surrounding the containers are a few canes that came through the containers’ drainage holes, enjoying the uncaged life – freedom! Several blackberry flowers have emerged so I’m likely to enjoy these fruits this season. The next challenge, of course, will be the trick of removing cages as needed come harvest time – steady hands!


Thornless Blackberry Propagation

An all-too-familiar experience, I stumbled upon a solution to problem I didn’t know I even had! Months ago, I purchased 5 Thornless Triple Crown Blackberry plants. In their first season at my home, they produced a few fruits, which I was quite grateful for, but wasn’t expecting anything more than their simply acclimating to their new home in large containers in my back yard.

We’d had an unusually wet winter in our area and gardening would have been a muddy affair, so I let nature and my plants alone for most of that time. The sunny days of spring here have revealed to me that some of these 5 plants decided to propagate themselves during that time. The canes of the plants grew quite long and the tips of some of the plants had reached and dipped into the soil of a few of the adjoining containers, while others dipped into the outside the containers directly into the surrounding raw soil of my garden. This propagation technique, whether done on purpose by the gardener or by nature is called tip layering (more information on several kinds of layering techniques:

Check out the roots forming at the tip of a cane that wandered into another container. I severed it from the parent plant so both can continue growing in their containers and will (hopefully) be thriving and fruitful. The second photo is the wandering canes that found their new homes in  the raw garden soil, which will also (hopefully) find great happiness in their new homes.

I am so grateful for these unexpected learning opportunities since now, it seems, I will likely have all of the blackberry plants and blackberries I can possibly handle in the near and distant future. It’s such an awesome and humbling thing when good fortune, such as this, just shows up. I’m exquisitely pleased!


Apple Tree, Caged!

Nearly a year ago, I noted how the sparrows in my area had descended upon my helpless (but prolific) 3-in-1 apple tree. I recall losing up to 50% of this tree’s fruit to them, which is quite an astounding feat (well played, birds). The tree is still relatively young, so the loss was significant. Following through on my thoughts from last year, I decided that today was the day to cage the tree, using stucco netting (also known as chicken wire), wire cutters, and a few pieces of twine. One apple was already knocked down (but not victim to the birds, happily – it was sweet and delicious). Several apples are nearing ripeness and I didn’t want to lose the chance and then more fruit this time around.IMG_1480

The handiwork is a bit basic, but I wanted it to be a simple project, which it was. I wrapped the tree with netting with a circumference just out of the reach of bird beaks – I know how funny that sounds! I wrapped another round atop the first one since the tree is taller than the height of the netting. I also put a layer of netting on the top. I secured the layers in a few places with twine, with a few tied in “bows” or “rabbit ears” so that I can open up the cage in strategic places to get to the fruit. The design is easy to remove and expand as the tree gets bigger, and I could do it myself, in about an hour. I’m already so happy looking outside and thinking about all of the fruits that I will get to enjoy this year!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

Simple Arrangement of Short-Stemmed Roses

Some of my roses are blooming, but none of them are long-stemmed. But that does not preclude the creation of simple flower arrangements! These short-stemmed beauties required that I use a long and shallow container, which I happened to have: the almighty cover of a butter dish that I turned upside down, filled with a little granulated sugar, white vinegar, and water. The yellow ones are the Sunblest rose; the pink ones on the ends are Mary Rose; the peachy one in the center is the Grace rose; and the dIMG_3346ark red-pink one toward the right is the (hard-to-keep-down) Dr. Huey rose. This very simple flower arrangement has already made quite a difference in my bathroom (house!) and I am looking forward to days and nights of admiring their loveliness!

English Rose: Mary Rose as a Cut Flower

Not all cut flowers require a long stem for them to be appreciated in a jar or vase! I grow several English rose plants outdoors, in their containers. One of my pink Mary Rose plants has been flowering a bit and I noticed that one flower is now near the point when the flower petals are close to falling. It’s at that point that I cut such flowers and preserve as much of their short stem that I can and set them in very small jars, filled with a 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar, and warm water, to be enjoyed indoors for as long as they can still last. Usually, I enjoy my roses growing and staying on the plant through their life cycle, but this fragrant rose – in my  mind, it’s a shame to have it literally fall apart without as much as a word of a proper good-bye. I have several such rose plants whose flowers grow on short stems and I often give them this elegant treatment.

So, in tribute to all of the beautiful energy that this flower brings to my garden, I bring it indoors, so that it may still receive great appreciation until the end. This will grace my bathroom for at least a week and will class up the overall feeling of my home for at least that long. Having just one cut flower can make such a tremendous difference!IMG_3333IMG_3336

The Great Barrier Relief

My battles with weeds and gophers have prompted multiple solutions, but I’m happy to report that a 2-part solution that has had the most staying power for these problems involves barriers, namely chicken wire and landscape fabric. In September 2013, I wanted to re-start a container garden of English roses (since in-ground roses had been destroyed by gophers over several years). After removing weeds in a narrow rectangular garden space, I covered the area with chicken wire (also known as stucco netting, which is made of the same material but is much cheaper and you get more product) – held in place with garden staples – and on top of that, I laid down landscape fabric, also held in place with garden staples.IMG_3297
Now, 1-1/2 years later, I have received great relief from weeds and gophers using this strategy. With regard to weeds, as shown in the photo, the landscape fabric will not block out 100% of weeds – weeds fight hard to poke through anything. But instead of a carpet of weeds to have to mow and then whack with a string trimmer, all I have to do is pull up a few weeds by hand. The fabric will block out nearly all weeds. The savings in time for garden maintenance is significant.

With regard to gophers, in this very area, as I was pulling the weeds, I felt a few mounds underfoot. Indeed, there were attempts by gophers to break through, but they were unsuccessful. The chicken wire – when held down by garden staples – proved effective in blocking them out.

The cost for materials (landscape fabric, chicken wire, and garden staples) has been modest for this garden space. The project is also straightforward and can be done by one person, as I can attest. I’m always happy to report on things that work well!

Rose Plant: Is It Dead or Alive?

It can happen in any rose garden: A rose plant appears to be dead, with only brown canes. But is it really dead, or is it alive? It’s not always apparent, but it may serve you well (and save you money) if you hold off on digging up and tossing your rose plant that may still be alive. At the minimum, keep this dead-looking plant watered on its usual schedule, just like any other rose plant, and wait for at least a few months. The roses may simply be resting (or recovering), depending on the time of year or its health. At some gardening centers, if you’re lucky, they sometimes sell at great discount rose plants that not only are no longer flowering but are completely brown. These brown plants may not look like much now, but they may be a great opportunity for you to build a garden at a much-reduced cost.IMG_3275

Check out one of my rose plants, growing in a container. All of the canes are brown but if you look at the base of the plant, just above the blue label (right of center), you’ll see a new sprout of leaves. I’ve been monitoring this plant for a few months so I know these sprout of leaves are not the “last gasp” of growth before the plant dies. It’s new growth. If there are no signs of life still, get pruning shears and cut off a small tip of one of the canes. If you see that the perimeter of the cut cane is green, it’s still alive. Especially if the particular variety of rose is hard to find, patience and a snip of the pruning shears can make a big difference!

Tree Squirrel Abatement and Management

This has not been a problem with my garden (my nemesis is the gopher) – and I’ve seen only one tree squirrel so far running along the telephone wire above my back yard, but it has been a significant problem with my friends’ backyards, whose crops have been reduced or completely destroyed by them. With any pest that threatens to destroy your crops, you may have to draw upon more than one method of abatement or management.

Here are some useful sites that describe multiple methods of tree squirrel abatement and management for various parts of the United States. Note that some states have regulations on the killing of tree squirrels. Contact your state officials at their respective department of game (or game and fish, etc.) on the specifics on what is permissible:







South Carolina:


Killing Weeds With Vinegar, Boiling Water, Lopper, and String Trimmer

A good and winning formula, so far, and comparatively friendly to my pocket-book. For years, I had used Roundup and Roundup Super Concentrate to rid my amply sized back yard of weeds. Citing health concerns about the product and also following the budgetary constraints from the Great Recession, I decided to use a different approach to kill and manage weeds. This is an ongoing maintenance task that has, for me, always required multiple strategies.IMG_3239

How To: First, I sprayed or doused the weed vegetation with a weed-killing liquid, followed a few weeks later with a brief run through with a string trimmer, and a lopper to remove anything still attached to the soil after the first two treatments. I’d read that ordinary vinegar (5% acidity) can kill weeds. For my back yard, it required 5 gallons of the stuff. At $2.64 per gallon, it was a reasonable price. Although the yard smelled of vinegar for just a few days, it was worth it since most weeds browned out and died. I am not striving for perfection regarding weed maintenance – only to get it within reasonable control. Check out the results after the results after the vinegar, string trimmer, and lopper.

The lopper – I usually use it to cut thin tree branches but for stubborn weed vegetation that simply will not go away quietly. Simply slide the blades underneath the weed, as close to the base of the weed as possible and cut – as simple as that, the despised plant is gone in one motion.IMG_3240 For spot treatment of small weeds in the cracks in my sidewalk, I just pour boiling water onto them and they’re killed off quickly.

Taken together, for a larger area of back yard affected by weeds, this multi-strategy approach has been useful and cost-effective.

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