Update: Blackberries April 2021 Part 2

By Melinda Hatfield

They have begun to flower. I know it is a process but I do enjoy waiting for these beasties to produce. I am excited to see them come into bloom and see what kind of taste they have.

I have no idea what kind of thornless blackberries these are. They were unlabeled excess that I purchased last year in bulk. It was a decent deal for the amount that I purchased.

By Melinda Hatfield

This is the first year they have been able to properly fruit and I am excited to see the outcome. I did not trellis my blackberries. Most of them stand upright on their own other hover over the ground.

I wanted to see what they would do naturally. So far the results aren’t awful and it seems they are producing flowers with little to no maintenance.

By Melinda Hatfield

I didn’t realize how many shoots come off the floracane. Not that it matters but in the picture below you’ll see the prima canes starting at the base of the plant. Last year I clipped half back mid summer and it seemed to have caused more side shoots.

I did notice that I have less growth when I don’t cut the tips but they are better at standing upright without the additional pressure and weight of the new shoots.

By Melinda Hatfield

So I bought these black berries in bulk because they were out of growing season and they didn’t have tags. Nameless babies but I am sure they will be delicious.

Some of the bushes have white flowers and some have pink ones. I must say that this makes me curious if they taste different. All I know is that they make it fun and diverse.

By Melinda Hatfield

I cannot wait to see what our first true harvest will look like.

I hope that our blackberries spread (like people have said they will) so that I can uproot and plant more berry patches. I really enjoy blackberries as a fruit. It’s too bad they do not have the shelf life to be sold in most box stores.

By Melinda Hatfield

Above is our only thorny blackberry bush that made it. We have some white blackberries but their roots were not established enough and they were very young plants and were taken out by the winter storm.

Lesson learned. Until next time…

Plant Names and Classifications

Are you like me and didn’t know that common plant names are not the best way of identifying plants because a lot of the common names get confused or could overlap with others? I mean there are trees that are called oak trees that are not in the same group. It’s just a bunch of craziness and I just want to make it clear: up until this point I was entirely ignorant. I’m cool with it.

Now there is a science to plant classification and in that science there are two categories that we should be aware of and that is the plant taxonomy and plant systematic systems. We used to go by common names but it often became confusing  for a lot of people. Today we classify all plants based on their genetic and evolutionary characteristics, this means that the plants are grouped based on who their common ancestors are.

In horticulture they are primarily concerned with the last three levels of classification: Species, Genus and Family.

The species is the most basic level of classification and below this there can be many subspecies. These plants are usually the most closely related to one another and they can interbreed freely.

The Genus is a group of related species.

The Family is the general group of Genus who are all related by a common ancestor.

There are two important flowering plant families that my professor made sure that we covered. Frankly, I’ve already learned more than what I knew before and I am pleased, but we’re only part of the way through so I’ll continue to let you know what I know or I am learning.

First is the dicot family, which is a flowering family with two cotelydons (embrodic leaves). Just to let you know those cotelydons are inside and this is the largest of the two families. There are over 200,000 types and they are everywhere. They are roses, myrtle trees and so many more.

The second flowering family is the Monocot. They are grass like flowering plants that only have one cotelydon per seed. In agriculture the majority of biomass is created through monocots. You might find a monocot as wheat, rice, bamboo, sugar cane, forage grasses and many others. This family includes many bulb flowers like daffodils, lilies, and iris. They are not simply flowers and grasses but also tumeric, garlic, and asparagus.

Both are angiosperms and very popular. I really enjoy these classes and can’t wait to learn more. How many more things am I going to learn? Who knows but I can’t wait.

Although this information may not be useful right away I am certain being able to identify plant families will be useful in the future. These pictures are by a wonderful lady named Vivian Morris.

Plant names are identified not my their family but by the genus and species. Common names change by region and can be confusing because a rose is a rose and can be any different species of rose if you are looking for a specific type. Although common names can be misleading botanical names are not. The Botanic name is a Latin name accepted world wide.

For example: Magnolia alba or Ligustrum album.

Until next time…

Horticulture: What I didn’t know

My salad barnett

Why didn’t I learn this stuff when I was in school? I’m amazed. Regardless, horticulture is a field of agriculture that deals with every aspect of plants from business to science and even the art of growing ornamental plants. Horticulture covers everything from ornamental plants and office plants to fruits and vegetables. Horticulture is different than other fields of agriculture for a lot of reasons, but mainly (from what I’ve learned) because we deal in landscape and artistic design.

The fields of the landscape industry according to my professor are installation, maintenance, irrigation, and design. This is not every part of horticulture and is only one of three different primary industries within horticulture. Inside each field of the landscaping industry there are many different jobs and needs that we most likely work with regularly on our homesteads or farms. The landscape industry as a whole deals in the design, installation and maintenance of home and commercial landscapes.

My tree

In the cities landscape is the most recognizable industry and is one of the largest industries in the entire State of Texas, allegedly with over nine billion in total added revenue to the state’s economy. This may not take in to account the kids who are looking for summer work, but it is clear that it is one of the easiest fields to get into.

When we talk about installation we are discussing the full destruction of a previous landscape and creating a completely new design or modifying an existing plants. Sure, it seems like fun but demolition of existing systems can take a lot of work and effort. It includes: bed preparation, adding organic matter to beds and tilling the soil before new transplants are added. This also includes adding things like rock walls, paths and structures that benefit the landscape or area of attention. It’s not hard to see why this area is one of the highest in profitability but is seasonal work because grass doesn’t grow in the winter.

My tree

Maintenance is also just more than maintaining existing landscapes. This can also be turf maintenance, which if you didn’t know is what we use on golf courses and sports fields. This could be anything from mowing the yard to making sure that edging and trimming is properly done around the fencing and other fixed structures. This work is usually low pay but can be continuous throughout the entire year with only a small decline during the winter months.

Irrigation is something that I have just started learning about outside of class- I set up my own crappy five hundred dollar system. Now irrigation system managers may assist in the initial installation of a landscape system or they may work in maintaining existing sprinkler and irrigation systems. They usually work on larger commercial projects or they have many smaller projects in a larger city and people who go into this field can specialize in irrigation design which I didn’t not know was a real life thing. This does require a license in Texas with TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality).

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Finally, there is design, which seems to be incorporated in each and every single industry so far. They are usually in charge of designing new or existing landscapes. They usually design large commercial projects or for residential customers. If you are working in a large city you may be required to get plans from a landscape architect (who knew this existed) and those people are specifically certified by the ASLA (American Society for Landscape Architecture). Sometimes these people also specialize in irrigation in design, which I thought was kind of neat.

A big thing to look at with landscaping is that they do a lot of work with turf grass, which if I’m reading properly it should be an industry of it’s own. Especially because turf grass is widely used by sports fields and golf courses. This falls under the care and maintenance and is covered under the landscaping industry, rightly so, but is a huge part.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

All in all I had no idea there were so many different types of landscaping and we haven’t even gotten through the rest of horticulture. Allegedly this is the most important because it is the most money making. Landscaping, it’s the most commercialized and has the highest profit margins. So if you’re looking for money to be made it’s from people looking for these services and for some reason I was a dummy and thought it might have something to do with food, but I was wrong.

Now onward to the other fields that are equally important regardless of how valuable it is to commercial America. After landscaping we have interiorscape. Just to let you know I don’t think that’s a real word, I know that it’s all over the internet and they say that it is a word and so we’re running with it. Spell check says no too though, so they should get together and work on that.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

This specific industry deals specifically on the inside. That works with the installation and maintenance of landscapes inside buildings or structures. This doesn’t seem like a very common or wide range field. Yes, there are plants in the majority of buildings but the majority of buildings do not require someone to set them up. This is specifically to help businesses to establish a natural environment inside their building. For example a fancy fountain with fish at the bottom and the whole ecosystem that goes along with that. You might find these in fancy malls, hospitals, banks, offices or other environments where there are people who want an enjoyable and relaxing environment. Sometimes they might design an enclosure in a zoo. This is where they must design an environment that is suitable and specifically designed for the animal; that’s temperature, plants they are comfortable with and everything else that goes into recreating a temperature controlled environment. Although, this is usually done for primates.

After Interiorscape and Landscaping we have Floriculture. This one doesn’t pass the spell check either. I didn’t know they had a name specifically for flower people, but here we are. These people specifically deal in the production, sell and use of flowers. It’s got a lot of layers to it but floriculture serves a purpose in landscaping, but is a lot more than growing flowers in yards and it also is used in specialized greenhouse production. Floriculturists provide insight on color (especially seasonal color) and pretty much all plants that are used in interiorscapes. They are known for their ornamental plants and their pretty flowers and deal in anything from pothos ivy to flowers that we see in flower shops.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

They are the growers of flowers you cut to make bouquets with as well as flowers that go into pots or in garden beds. This industry is the primary job in greenhouse production. That’s because floriculture deals in bedding plants, which is where plants are grown in tiny little pots to get ready for transplanting in a garden or a landscape. They also work with foliage, which are plants that are grown specifically for their pretty leaves instead of their flowers. They are the primary flower producers and in order to protect those flowers from being eaten by bugs before they hit the floral shops they grow them in greenhouses. Finally they work with potted plants and flowers, but this is mainly used in interiorscaping and not to be confused with plants that are grown for transplant.

The nursery is what you hear most about, or at least I do. I hear more about this because the people I am around go to nurseries a lot and so do I. They work in the production and sale of perennials, trees, shrubs and ground covers. Nurseries can be owned locally or by large box stores like Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart. Really, I advise everyone to shop locally, but I cannot deny sometimes they have things that I want and need.

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Finally, my two favorite fields in the whole world and that is because they are the ones that I am most particularly interested in. Fruit and nut production is the first one, because as we all know I’ve been working hard towards growing my fruit trees and berry bushes. From fruit and nut production we have the two largest fields for fruit and nut production in Texas: pomology and viticulture. Pomology is concerned with fruit trees; in Texas it’s primarily peaches, pecans and plums but it can also include apples and citrus. Viticulture deals with grapes and grape production, this is particularly useful in wineries and vineyards. Although, you would think that this would be a big deal in Texas most of our production is done by people like me: hobbyists.

The last one would be Olericulture and if you hadn’t guessed by now this would be the field of horticulture that deals with the production and sale of vegetables. I am not going to lie when I tell you that I expected that this would actually be more in the higher profit margins because I see vegetables everywhere when I got to the supermarket. I am wrong, this is not the most profitable. Actually, if you want the honest truth it’s not even driven by vegetable sales it’s driven by hobby farmers like me and possibly you.

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Learning about horticulture has really helped me see that there is more than just one field to go into and I am excited about it. I am still learning and have a lot to learn but as I learn so will you or not. I mean, tell me if I’m wrong and I’ll look into it. Regardless, have a great day.

Year Zero: Serious Moment

I have a five year plan. It is not a good plan and it changes from day to day but it is a plan. Right now, I have just left year zero. January 2021 is starting a new year for me.

You may ask:

What is Year Zero? Year Zero has been my year of planning. I also went around the area and looked at local nurseries. I wanted to see what everyone had to offer. It opened my eyes. I also planned to go back to college and learn about plant things.

Why is Year Zero so important? Year Zero is my planning year. We moved in October 2019 and that only started our adventure. During this year I have walked the property over five hundred times. I have learned the land-ish. There is a lot more to starting a permaculture food forest then I anticipated.

This is where I outlined my goals. I learned my property and I planted starter plants- which I will get into later. We have a lot to cover so I will continue.

Some of the trees ready for new homes

What does having a poorly planned year zero do for someone who is just starting out? This is a tough one because I had to reset my Year Zero last year. It was insanity. I killed every plant I got my hands on because I just jumped in. I thought I could just wish my garden into growth. It was poor planning and I wasted a lot of money on plants that died. So, don’t waste money use your year zero wisely. Learn to work with your property and not against it.

Year Zero is the most important year of planning and development. This is my year of research and getting to know my property. Here I started and failed then restarted after some research. Even still I am not 100% sure that everything will work out. My year one began with medicinal plants and evolved into the dreams of a food forest. Somewhere it evolved and I wanted to have real food security.

I learned a lot about the native plants that already live here and it inspired me to start a Monarch Butterfly Santuary. I started by going online and joining many types of groups. They kind of inspired me and so I continued with my year zero goals. I did way better than I anticipated.

The reason Year Zero is important is because it lays the foundation for success but remember: you can always switch it up later if your plans don’t work out. I know it sounds crazy but a lot of people (myself including) thought they could just jump in (like I did) and fail. I’ve learned it’s only a true failure if I stop trying and so I will continue.

It took me the better half of the first year to figure out I was doing things wrong and I might need to talk to experts. That’s why I enrolled in classes but I’ll share all of that information as I get it with you.

Squash flower (I think?)

Sure, I was in the best Facebook groups. Unfortunately I hadn’t been utilizing them. So I went online and I just dove into research on permaculture, companion planting, ph levels, soil samples and I was blown away by how much was out there. I will never know everything but I had started down a rabbit hole that brought me here to this blog.

Spoiler alert: my plants stopped dying. I got better at planting the more I learned and there is this feeling of happiness when you are using your own vegetables and fruits.

All throughout year zero I sat outside my plants hoping they might grow. It does not make plants grow faster.

Now I know I need a plan and in year zero it’s the perfect time to decide what you want and where you see that going in five years. Make it fun and exciting but remember: your plan must flow with the tide. So make sure you are ready for those changes and adaptations as you go. For example: I thought I could just put seeds in the dirt and it would just grow. It doesn’t work that way and now I know thanks to countless people.

Goals for my property and my life for the next five years. This is important because it gives me a general outline to work with. Remember, I am making plans but they are like the wind- every changing and straightforward.

In five years, I want to have every individual breed of plant I want on my property. Even if I do not have every part of my land covered (Which I most likely will seeing my progress already- it is a possibility). I am not talking about a neat little orchard- I want trees and shrubs. I want to be overwhelmed with sight, smell and feel like nature surrounds me.

Keep that in mind- it is the foundation for our success. My goals are not primarily food security, even though it is a reoccurring theme, but instead a food based garden of eden, a place for me to retire my body and my spirit. So, not all of my plants will be solely food based. I am going to continue on that note, but keep your goals in your mind.

Another goal I realized: I want the species here to be closer to disease resistant and ready to produce in five years. This means that in the first few years I have to plant my trees that need to be producing as well as create a water source.

In Year Zero, I am going through plant lists to find edible plants, flowering plants, herbs, and pollinators. I am collecting seeds and planting what I like to call guaranteed success plants such as blackberries. During Year Zero I did a lot of planning but then I began planting samples.

For example: I don’t know of I even like certain fruits- this is a great time to plant one or two and try them. If I don’t like them I won’t plant more of that particular tree. It’s good to know before I make a mass planting decision.

The ones that do well and we like: we plant more of them. The ones that don’t we just move on from and don’t plant more. At least we are keeping those three blueberries (if any of them survive), but I am hesitant of planting more until we know they will survive. That is one of many examples. We keep what we like but we don’t want continue any difficult plants. If something happens we want to make sure we can take care of it. (Eventually I hope it will take care of itself, in my old age I don’t want to be chasing around a 7 acre mess)

I want to cover my entire property in plants that are useful primarily with a little playroom for beautiful things. I want to retire in my own hand made forest and I want to leave it for my kids to enjoy. I cannot wait until I make my dream come true, but Year Zero opened my eyes to the many possibilities.

Frankly, Year Zero did not go as planned and there is a good chance your Year Zero will not be magnificentbut don’t give up. I killed a lot of plants that I want to blame on bizarre seeds from China that I never received. Really it all came down to poor planning.

Year one starts now in January and during that year I have a lot of things I would like to accomplish. But first let’s talk about what i have already got started:

  • 75 thornless blackberries, three different kinds.
  • 33 grape plants, twenty four muscadine, six concord, two seedless randoms from Wal-Mart, and one Spanish grape.
  • 8 apple trees, 4 persimmons, 4 pomegranates, 5 peaches, 3 plums, 4 cherries, 2 pears, 2 limes, 2 lemons, and 2 avadaco trees.
  • Planted many perennials and failed two gardens.

Year One I have new goals.

  • I would like to plant 100 additional thornless blackberry plants. This year so far we have planted 75. We know that blackberries will do great here and we want at least 200. We want to primarily plant thornless varieties which is also why we are not dying into raspberries.
  • Set up the irrigation system that will support the amount of plants that I want to bring in. We already bought two irrigation systems. One is set up for bushes and one is set up for the trees.
  • I want to plant a minimum of 25 different kinds of apple trees, but that may not be possible.
  • I want to focus on the 41 disease resistant breeds that grow in my zone. Zone 8a.
  • Focus on filling in the spaces between my trees with shrubs and berry bushes.
  • Expanding my seed collection
  • Creating a creek system that runs through our property
  • Planting as much as I can as fast as I can and keeping it all alive with magic

So, don’t give up. Year Zero seems hard on everyone. We’ve got this now onward to YEAR ONE.

A much more detailed goal list for Year One is coming but you’ll have to be patient. I am busy looking through seed catalogs while listening to permaculture information.

Beneficial Grants: Texas Monarch Butterfly Grant

I live in Texas. Howdy.

I was looking into things that could boost my permaculture food forest without costing me any money. As I was looking through the many grants. It all started with the Monarch Butterfly Grant.

This is a very small personal grant that cannot exceed past 400 per person/group. This grant can only be used to purchase plants (which is all I want- free plant money). So there are some rules to this particular grant that go further than that: they have to be native to Texas. I want Butterflies

As I wait for winter to be over I plan. My close friend LD always has a beautiful yard and I want to shine too. This has inspired me to look for money to supply my hobbies.

Challenge accepted.

I want all four hundred of those dollars so that I can expand my already amazing dream permaculture food forest. So I looked into it.

Agarita is one of the native plants. I hadn’t thought about this plant before -primarily because I was so narrow minded on the idea of a permaculture food forest- but I love that we have so many milkweed plants in my pasture because it attracts the butterflies.

That’s also how I happened upon this grant because I decided I wanted to start a butterfly garden to attract even more. The agarita has the nectar that the butterflies crave. If I have this lovely blossoming flower it will give the mom butterflies plenty of food – these plants also are great for other pollinators like bees. Keep that in mind.

It is a shrub that is pointy. I like pointy shrubs because they make good barriers to keep animals away from my property. Sold. They are an evergreen, drought tolerant and they also produce tasty berries (and makes delicious jelly). Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

These are my end game goals guys. I want to be on this list.

Flame acanthus also known as the hummingbird bush. This is absolutely beautiful and another shrub. This is considered a ‘profuse’ bloomer. It allegedly is a huge bloomer and that is exciting because it attracts not just monarch butterflies but also hummingbirds and bees. (It’s also a deer resistant and drought tolerant)

Kidneywood is so beautiful. I had no idea, they are allegedly really fragrant and attract bees and butterflies. They have many branches and they can get up to be 12 feet tall. That is amazing because it is also drought tolerant and can survive cold and heat. (Clay soil is acceptable here). I am digging it. Sounds like it will be a great place for butterflies to settle in and eat some nectar.

Cone Flower is something we already have but would love to have it planted everywhere. Who knew that it was a native Texas plant? Now I know and you do too. This is a perennial and has beneficial properties which I will probably go over at a later time. They bloom from April until September so this will give my early pollinators a snack before the rest bloom in May or June.

The application is online and the application and process seems very easy.

They say purple cone flower can be aggressive- I sure hope so. So keep that in mind.

Cenizo is just a cool name to have. If I get another pet (fingers crossed I don’t but if I do) I am going to name it Cenizo. Regardless, it is made for our zone. It flowers and can take the heat but it does need to be watered. They can get to be up to 8 feet tall. Sounds live privacy fence material to me.

Cenizo goes by another name Texas Sage. Amazingly enough I already have a couple growing. I had no idea. Also this plant does not appreciate heavy pruning- I’ll have to keep that in mind.

The fragrant or pink mimosa is another thorny shrub great for deer resistance and a nice barrier around my property (I hear it smells good too). Another early bloomer but it ends earlier too (March to July). The flowers are lovely and I would love to add them to my butterfly garden (or barrier I haven’t decided). Here is even more Information.

They will check up on us and I can’t wait. This adventure will be really exciting. I can’t wait to start.

Texas Lantana is something I already have growing and they are amazing. I kind of want more of them because they make a beautiful groundcover. All parts of this plant are poisonous and it is considered deer resistant.

Lantanas are perennial shrubs that can grow 2 to 4 foot tall. Wow, they just don’t seem to be scrubbing out for me. They’re just creeping across the ground. That is strange maybe next year they will perk up, regardless I would love to have more. One more link: Texas Lantana. Just in case you’re considering it. It is really beautiful.

Last but not least is Salvia texana and I want this one. If I got that grant I would definitely get this plant. This is a perennial herb and it grows to be up to 2 feet tall. It is drought tolerant and does well in clay or rocky soil (bonus i won’t need to modify the soil I have). Salvias are a perennial flower and have more than 75 species including autumn sage. That is something we already have in honor of my eldest child: Autumn Sage. This is a rabbit hole I’ll have to go down another time, but every new flower or sage that I have gets me more excited.

I have murdered lavender every single year I’ve tried it but look at her growing it like it’s nothing. I am so jealous of her naturally green thumb.

I will, of course, get more milkweed but that will place where where I want them primarily and have a large area in the middle of the garden. That sounds absolutely beautiful.

Can’t wait and I hope I get it, but I already have some of these plants. The milkweed does grow naturally and I want to entice Monarch butterflies. I want them to pollinate all of my fruit trees and attract all of the bees. I understand the importance of planting native plants and I can’t wait to get started.

I will share more grants as I come across more information.

New Addition: Pineapple

Oh yes, I did not realize how sharp these leafs are. Someone should have warned me, now I have these cuts and we were only trying to give it a home.

Since this one is so fighty we placed it near some nonproducing plants. I did not even look it up. It was sitting there lonely and we were looking for plants to commemorate an occasion. I know these beasties do well near Galveston, but who knows here.

There are conflicting stories, but we have been excited since we got them. It is an amazing day when you can being home something like a pineapple.

We do not think we will be planting anymore as their leafs are straight savage. I did not realize the universe made ninja plants, but here we are.

I do enjoy our pineapples. I hope that they do well just so that we can say that we have them. As I look at where I planted them I really see everything coming together. It makes my heart swell.

Even if you don’t reach for a pineapple, I encourage everyone to buy a plant today. Give a plant a home.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started