Long-time readers may remember that last year, after about fifteen years of successful blueberry harvests (meaning that the birds got no more than about twenty percent of the berries), I harvested absolutely none. Those I consulted who are in the know said that catbird populations were way up, and certainly they are fond of blueberries.
With the thought that all those well-fed birds likely had lots of babies, and would be back, I decided to take on the challenge of protecting a row of blueberry bushes that are part of my front yard landscaping, surrounded by other plants. I drove some rebar into the ground at intervals of several feet, put pieces of PVC pipe on top of them, and capped those with some pipe caps we had sitting around from a previous fencing project. Then when the flowering was done and the berries forming, I covered the whole thing with a big piece of Micromesh. (Link is to Gardener’s Edge, which is one place you can find this product. I have also bought it from Territorial Seed, but they don’t currently seem to have the 16’x16′ size I needed. I don’t mean to promote any particular product or company over others, so if anyone knows other sources, or other similar products, please leave a link in the comments.)
Micromesh has advantages over bird netting and floating row cover. It doesn’t tangle like bird netting, and it is tougher than row cover, unlikely to tear with reasonable use. Also, plants under it don’t heat up as they can even under lightweight floating row cover. The only disadvantage is that it makes an awkward and kinda ugly intrusion in the landscape:
But who really cares as long as you get blueberries, right? I’ll be able to take it off when the fruit is done, and maybe next year I can make it look a bit better. Here’s a closeup:
I’ve fastened the Micromesh to the pipes with the snap clamps you can buy for the purpose. And I have indeed been harvesting plenty of blueberries:
Two birds (both cardinals, a male and a female) found their way under the covering, and I had to let them out, but as far as I know those are all the incursions.
By the way, I also lost all my black raspberries last year (again for the first time), and meant to get the newly-organized planting netted this year, but didn’t get around to it. So I tied up a bunch of that shiny red-and-silver tape that is supposed to keep birds away because they think something’s on fire. Ha, no way. Birds are smarter than that. A friend says she is having good luck with one of those fake owls, so I may try that next. And come October I will look for some of the motion-activated Halloween decorations to bring out again in June. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.
Q: I have two beautiful, mature Leyland cypresses in my yard. I noticed that their tips are turning brown in spots. I see the same phenomenon on my neighbor’s evergreens that border my yard. Is this a disease? Do the trees need to be treated?
A: The brown tips on Leyland cypresses at this time of year are a symptom of Seiridium canker, a fungal disease. When these trees are stressed due to drought, poor planting techniques, and/or poor drainage, they can be susceptible to disease and insect issues. If the trees are planted too close together, there is a lot of root competition for moisture and nutrients, and the trees will also suffer from a lack of sunlight and poor air circulation.
There is no treatment for Seiridium canker. The brown tips will drop off naturally. Prune any dead branches during dry weather. The best recommendation is to keep the trees well-watered during dry periods. Keep mulch no thicker than several inches deep and away from the base of the trunk. Avoid over-fertilization. Leyland cypresses grow best in full sun with plenty of air circulation and appreciate moisture during dry periods.
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I’ve grown a lot of different vegetables at this point, but there’s always something new for me to try. Last fall I planted some Claytonia perfoliata, or miner’s lettuce, alongside spinach in my vegetable garden. Both of them have wintered over nicely and are being harvested now.
Claytonia is a odd-looking small edible green plant.
That specific epithet “perfoliata” refers to the way the leaf is pierced by the flower structure. Each of those leaves is about the size of a quarter, so you need a lot of them to make a meal, but you wouldn’t want to overdo it anyway because they contain oxalic acid which is toxic in large quantities. (More than you would want to consume; don’t worry.) You can use claytonia in a salad, or briefly braise or wilt it in a cooked dish. It has a nice lettuce-like, slightly sour flavor.
The plant is native to the western U.S., and gets its common name from the California Gold Rush miners who ate it for vitamin C, to avoid getting scurvy.
I’ve seen claytonia seed for sale in a number of seed catalogs. Try planting it this fall for a spring treat next year. Definitely a cool-weather plant, it will bolt in the slightest heat, so overwintering seems the best way to go. I didn’t give it any protection at all, but if you live in a particularly cold climate you could try it in a cold frame.
One project we’re embarking on this year in the Derwood Demo Garden is growing lettuce year-round (or as close as we can get). Lettuce is a perfect crop for spring or fall: quick-growing, tolerant of cool weather, useful. But it often flags, turns bitter and bolts in hot weather, and heavy frosts will kill it.
The solutions to this are: