Lessons Learned So Far from the Jubilee Garden (+ Pictures!)

So far, the Jubilee garden has been going well! 

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned this growing season:

  1. I really miss the joy of planting and seeing things sprout and grow.  So much so, that I found myself at our local nursery this week buying herbs and marigolds to fill the pots on our deck. Just the deck. Yep! At least that’s how I’m justifying it to myself.
  2. I should have gone hardcore on the regenerative pruning. The bushes out front could have been cut WAY closer to the ground to promote new growth. Now I have weird sticks with spiky new growth on them. Check out the pictures below to see what I mean. I was so nervous about the possibility of killing the shrubs that I chickened out. I might try to correct this later in the season as the new growth fills in.
  3. I was pleasantly surprised by our beet harvest this year! Nice, big beets (golden and maybe detroit dark red or bulls blood – can’t remember which ones I planted). I love roasted beets – they’re sweet like candy. Will definitely be planting more of these in the future.
  4. I planted WAY too many brassicas last fall. The flowers were beautiful when they bolted this spring, but we just don’t eat enough broccoli, cauliflower, or brussels sprouts to justify how much I planted. We got exactly zero cabbages out of the many I planted. 
  5. Fennel is a magnet for swallowtail caterpillars – keep this around if you like pollinators.
  6. Radish seed pods are edible and add a nice crunch to salads.
  7. Why did I plant rutabaga? Who even eats rutabaga? Did I think I would suddenly have an affinity for them if I grew them?
  8. Fava beans are where it’s at. You get a huge bang for your buck when you plant these – huge beans with plentiful pods if you keep picking them. Definitely be sure to stake them/support them, though, or you’ll end up with a floppy mess like mine.
  9. Accept the generosity of fellow gardeners. I’ve already received amazing garden goodies from thoughtful friends and neighbors who knew I was taking a break this season. Thank you Alyson & Natalie!
  10. Volunteer plants are still coming up! I’ve found surprise potatoes, strawberry spinach, sunflowers, and swiss chard. Can’t wait to see what else pops up!
  11. Some of my garden experiments look like they’re paying off – some of the fig and lavender cuttings are viable!

Overall, I’m still thankful that I’m taking a break from my typical garden schedule this year. I get to see my little pole beans (the girls) growing and I love that so much is continuing on its own without my intervention. 

Here are some of the latest garden photos – enjoy!

 

RutabagaRadish seed pods - they're edible!Beets about to flowerUFO - haven't identified this moth yetBeet harvestGolden beetSliced beets ready for roastingOur local greenhouseEmpress Wu hostas (giant!) and a surprise sunflowerMore pruning resultsPruning resultsHerb haul + marigolds

 

Coming up:

Sunday: Knit Together – Psalm 139

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Update and Pictures from Our Jubilee Garden

Well, we’re heading into prime gardening season. Here in NC, we’re just two weeks away from the average last frost date (Zone 7B is April 15th). Normally, I’d be prepping my planting beds and getting amped to make a trip or two to some of my favorite local nurseries, but this year, I’m preparing for a baby, instead.

It’s hard to not plant things! 

I went out into the garden today to get a feel for how things are going. With only minimal intervention (weeding, pruning, and one or two experiments) from me, there’s already so much that the garden is producing on its own and so much to be thankful for!

I hope you enjoy this early Spring tour of the Jubilee Garden! Scroll over pictures for the captions.

 

 

Coming up: 

 

Sunday: Happy Easter!

Next Wednesday: Top 5 Herbs You Should Be Growing This Year

 

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Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

Pruning is both science and art. Last week we looked at the why, when, and what of pruning. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty – how to prune. Here are some thoughts that can help guide your cutting.

 

Immediately Remove:

  • Anything diseased or damaged.
  • Adventitious growth. Look like suckers but are coming from an area that was improperly cut or damaged in a previous pruning session or storm.
  • Limbs that are criss-crossing or growing towards the center of the plant. The goal is for limbs to go OUT and AWAY from the center so the foliage can get more light for photosynthesis.
  • Suckers. These are shoots that come up from the base of the plant, trying to be new leaders (primary limbs). 

Suckers at the base of a shrub There's a sucker born every minute (PT Barnum)
All of these tiny shoots coming up near the base of the plant are suckers. PT Barnum would welcome them, but he’s no gardener.

 

Determine Desired Height

How tall do you want this to be once you’re done pruning? Choose a height to guide your cuts (ex. I aim for waist- or chest-high for shrubs since that’s easy to approximate). 

 

Shaping 

Look for little buds (AKA lateral meristem/axillary bud) on the limb in question. They might be clearly visible on a naked branch or they might be hidden right where a leaf attaches to the limb. The way these nodes are pointing indicates which way the plant could grow if you chopped right above that point. (Obviously if you chop below, the bud would be gone and couldn’t direct the growth).

Fun with Biology:

A meristem is a plant’s version of stem cells. Stem cells can differentiate into any type of cell that’s needed (sort of like our bone marrow and umbilical cord blood). An apical meristem is just plant stem cell tissue found at the apex, or top, of the plant. 

Lateral meristems are stem cells found near a bud or side shoot

Plant hormones from the apical meristem called auxins send chemical signals to the lateral meristems that inhibit lateral growth. Cytokinins (another plant hormone) allow for some lateral growth. For more on this, check out this cool article

Here’s the REALLY cool part: if you chop off the apical meristem (AKA  pruning), auxins can’t be delivered and whatever lateral meristem is closest to the top becomes the new apical meristem through cell differentiation. It’s crazy-amazing! Check it out:

Apical meristem is at the top of the limb, lateral meristems/buds are on the sides of the limb. Each bud shows the direction a new limb could grow if the top of the limb were pruned.Cutting above a lateral meristem/bud will turn that bud into the new apical meristem and the limb will grow in the direction of that bud.Here's what the new limb would look like if pruned (new growth going in the direction of the new bud with foliage at each lateral meristem/axillary bud.

 

Science and pruning are so cool!

 

Here’s an example of my pruning before & after, using the tips above. Subtle, but effective!

Shrub after pruning

 

Tree Limbs: 3-Cut Method

Growing a Greener World, one of my favorite gardening shows, has a great episode on pruning. I recommend watching the entire episode. If you just need to know how to best remove a tree limb, check this out:

 

A Note About Tree-Topping/Crape Murder

Ugh. I hate this so much. I hate that I have to tell people this AND I hate that tree service companies actually suggest this to their customers. Trees SHOULD NOT have their canopies removed. It’s atrociously ugly and it is usually fatal to the tree. At the very minimum it’s extremely damaging (to the tree’s health and to your property when the tree eventually fails and falls on something). Crape Myrtles are frequent victims of this treatment, hence the term “Crape Murder”. If a tree is overgrown, here are your best options:

  • Remove an entire limb from where it joins up with the trunk or a large branch using the 3-cut method
  • Cut down the entire tree – it will look better than topping AND prevent you from having a huge insurance claim after it falls down on your or your neighbor’s property
    • Bonus: this frees up space to plant something better (more appropriate size or native species)

A tree that's had it's canopy removed improperly using a topping method.

An improperly pruned tree. Tree topping is murder!

Results of tree topping - scraggly limbs, knots, and decay

For the love of Pete, don’t do this!!!! See how sickly the new growth is? The knots? The decay? It’s awful!

 

Additional Resources

Here are a few other resources if you have more questions about how to prune:

Now you know the why, what, when, and how of pruning! It’s not that hard once you understand the biology going on behind the scenes. 

I’d love to hear your stories about pruning (horror or otherwise)! Did you inadvertently kill a plant by pruning at the wrong time (guilty here!)? Have a bumper crop of flowers or fruits after a hard prune? What did you do with the harvest? Let me know in the comments!

Coming up:

Sunday: Good Soil

Next Wednesday: Square Foot Gardening Techniques

 

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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming for Pruning – It’s Not That Hard!

I know you’re probably excited to get your transplants in the ground, but I’m going to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. Before we do anything else, we need to get outside and do some pruning before spring kicks into high gear!

What types of plants should you prune? 

For the most part, pruning is for perennial plants, shrubs, and trees since annuals typically don’t make it through the winter.


Plants Need Pruning If They Are:

  • Overgrown or unruly
  • Patchy (insufficient light to center or lower parts of the plant)
  • Touching a structure
  • Crowding out other plants
  • Unproductive or you want to increase productivity (more blooms/fruits)

Why Now? 

Late winter/early spring is when plants are dormant and not actively growing. I like to aim for Valentine’s Day (this year, I was a little behind). The plant has time to recover from the wounds of pruning during dormancy,  plus pruning actually stimulates new growth which is perfect for this time of year – it kick-starts spring growth.


Exceptions to Pruning in Early Spring

There is one notable exception to early spring pruning, and that’s pruning flowering shrubs.

As a general rule, you should prune AFTER a plant flowers. It’s safe to prune any plant during early spring (dormancy) – your plant will still survive, BUT if you prune something that flowers before June (a sign that your plant flowers on the previous year’s growth), you’ll miss any blooms/fruits for that season/year. If something flowers after June, it usually means it flowers on new/this year’s growth, so it’s best to prune now.

NEVER PRUNE IN LATE SUMMER/FALL! It encourages new growth, which is susceptible to frost damage and can kill your plant.


What Tools Do You Need?

All you need is something to cut with. I find the following three items to be all that’s necessary. (Note: these are Amazon Affiliate links, so if you choose to buy anything, I’ll get a small commission. These are what I use to do my own pruning):

  • Hand Pruners (for twigs with diameter of about a finger or less). Be sure they’re bypass pruners, NOT anvil pruners.

  • Loppers (for anything from the diameter of your finger to diameter of your wrist). Again, be sure they’re bypass loppers and not anvil-style (which crushes instead of giving a clean cut)

  • Hand Saw (for anything bigger than that – typically trees or very big/old limbs on a shrub)


A Note About Safety

Don’t be overly daring when it comes to pruning. Especially with trees, if a limb is too big or too high to reach, leave it alone. If it bothers you that much, have a friend help you or hire a certified arborist (yes, make sure it’s not just a tree service!). If you’re using a ladder, have someone there to spot you/help hold it, or you’ll need to have 9-1-1 on speed-dial.

The Simpsons - A caller at this hour? You dial 9-1, then when I say so, dial 1 again

Now that we have the basis of why, when, and what to prune, come back next Wednesday for the nitty gritty on how to prune – the science behind pruning, deciding where to cut, and how to cut the right way. 

Have you started (or completed) your pruning for this year? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments!

Coming up:

Sunday: Spring Forth

Next Wednesday: Nitty Gritty – How to Prune

 

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Pruning Time!

John 15 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. The imagery is SO good:

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Before I got into gardening, I’d look at this passage and say, “Hold up a minute! Why are BOTH the unproductive AND productive parts of this plant [or me] getting cut off?!” 

But now that I’ve been in the garden and made those tough cuts on productive plants, I get it.

It’s super easy to remove a dead twig. You can usually just snap it off without using pruners. Dead wood breaks easily – it’s brittle. But cutting live, green growth seems counter-intuitive. However, if pruned correctly, the plant becomes even more productive. I’ve witnessed this myself, year after year. You should see our fig tree the summer after a hard prune… it’s so full of figs that we can’t give them away fast enough!


Pruning does a lot of great things for a plant:

  • It redirects growth, so limbs can be trained the way they should go
  • It rejuvenates the plant, triggering new growth
  • It strengthens the plant – poor structure can lead to cracks and limb or total plant loss when snow, ice, or wind do their thing
  • It produces more flowers and fruit – by cutting off branches, more energy is available for reproduction (AKA flowers and fruit!)

The pruned plant is one that is living its best life. 


Back to the spiritual side of things, how are you being pruned right now? 

Maybe you’ve been upset about the ways you’ve been “cut off” – changes in areas of your life that were once thriving and now just aren’t. 

Stop and consider the following:

  • How might this redirect my growth? Might the changes I’m experiencing draw me closer to Christ? Or at least point me towards Him?
  • Before this change happened, were things becoming kind of stale? Did I need a fresh start or rejuvenation?
  • Can I learn something from this experience that will make my faith stronger?
  • What unexpected fruits might come from this change?

The last part of the John 15 passage shows us how we can consistently and reliably produce this fruit:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (v.4)

Remain in Jesus! Even after the pruning is done (maybe especially after the pruning is done). 

I’m praying for you this week, that you would identify areas of pruning in your life and see them for the blessing they will become!

John 15:1-2: I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Use as your phone wallpaper or lock screen this week as a reminder that pruning leads to fruit!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for Pruning – It’s Not that Hard!

Next Sunday: Spring Forth

 

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