Bare-root berries

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

My box from Stark Bros. arrived Friday afternoon with three cherry trees, six raspberry bushes, three blueberry bushes and 75 teeny tiny strawberry plants — all bare root.

It may be an economical (and plant-friendly) way to ship perennials, but for a busy gardener, a box of bare root plants is a little stressful. As soon as you plants are boxed up and shipped out, the clock is ticking. My birthday, tickets to the Guthrie, an engagement party, Mother’s Day — Bare root plants have no interest in my weekend plans. They need water, soil and sunlight ASAP.

This was my first specialty plant order and didn’t know what to expect when I opened the box. Yellow buds? Little leaves? A shriveled albino berry? Instead, I found plastic bags filled with brown, twisted tentacles.



An organized gardener would’ve done her research and prepared her site ahead of time, but this gardener was still digging holes in her back yard at 8 p.m. Sunday night. (If you’re looking for tips for planting bare root plants, This site is super helpful:

It’s hard to believe that these bare canes will soon sprout leaves and bear fruit. For now, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and keep you posted on their progress.

Sly Stone makes me buy blueberries

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Why, Sly, why did you cancel your show? Did you see the extended forecast and decide against our frosty northern climes? Are you and your blonde mohawk afraid of a little sleet and snow? No thinsulate in your bedazzled polyester jumpsuit? Your fans in Zone 4 neeeeeed the funk to cope with our funky weather.


This greengirl’s refundable $65 ticket just bought her a whole lot of blueberry bushes, raspberry canes, strawberry plants and three dwarf cherry trees — All bought in a retail therapy rush from Stark Bros.

Friday night, I’m trading my pair of hot pants for a pair of gardening gloves. By summer’s end I’ll be listening to “There’s a Riot Goin’ On” and drowning my disappointment in a big bowl of antioxidants.

I also bought two Neil Diamond tickets. Seriously, if he cancels, the BF will have to hide my credit card. I might just buy an apple orchard.

A side of thorns with your berries?

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Speaking of thorny bushes, raspberry season is right around the corner. No, I’m not jumping the gun… For those of us without fruit bearing bushes, raspberry planting season is at hand. We northern gardeners have many, many — almost too many — options and the pursuit of summer’s sweetest treat includes just as many questions.

Karen writes:
Has any one out there planted thornless raspberries? Are they as hardy as the everbearing Or I SHOULD SAY THORN ONES? Are the thornless blackberries really hardy and large or are they usually small and a few?

What kinds of berries do you enjoy? For someone just starting a raspberry patch like me, what varieties would you recommend? Anyone try the yellow or pink raspberry?

And what’s all this thornless business about anyway?

Strawberry season

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

I picked a handful of strawberries last night before the deer, rabbits and birds got any more of them. It would be wrong to say I’m actively growing strawberries. I sort of planted them and ignored them.

But the fall nursery catalogs are here, and I’m thinking of putting in a large permanent raised bed and planting about 100 plants, so I can freeze the strawberries whole. That way I can toss a few in smoothies. Or just grab a handful of summer, even in winter.


For strawberry lovers (and future strawberry growers), the Kingfield Farmers’ Market has partnered with Natura Farms (which is out very near me in Scandia) to bring you the best in just-picked berries. This Sunday, June 24, you can sample several local varieties — All raised without pesticides on land managed by the same farmer for over 25 years.

According to the Kingfield neighborhood newsletter, it doesn’t get any sweeter than this:

Earliglo – Earliest, small, very intense flavor

Itasca – also early, a new U of M variety

Mesabi – A U of M variety, tends to be smaller than many unless really babied, but a number of wine makers swear by it.

Jewel – Patented Cornell University, it winters marginally and for that reason sometimes not grown, but the flavor is superb.

Also possibly available:

Cabot – A Nova Scotia variety, one planted primarily for size bragging rights, though the flavor is not bad when fully ripe.

Winona – Another U of M variety, is one of our latest, with reasonably good size and flavor.

Have you grown any of these varieties? Which do you think tastes best? More importantly, what is your favorite way to eat these sweet treats? (Note: For those of you into strawberry shortcake, check out last week’s Counter Intelligence podcast.)

Like Christmas, only green

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Recently, I got home from work and found four packages of plants waiting for me on my doorstep. Since I still maintain a childlike delight in getting mail, having four packages to unwrap (and knowing none of them was pajamas from Great Aunt Shirley) in one day was utter joy.

But even better was that every box held surprises. I purchased the contents of the boxes back in January, when ordering plants is a defiant act of faith that spring would, indeed, arrive. Now months later, I’d completely forgotten what I’d ordered.

I ripped open the cardboard containers and discovered….packing peanuts? That didn’t seem very green. At least it didn’t until I read that these were 30% recycled and I could send them back in the box they were shipped in, and get a credit from the nursery on my next order. I carefully shook the peanuts from each plant and tried to make sense of what had been sent to me.

There was the guacamole hosta and the plum pudding heuchere(coral bells) for the shade. There was sedum and several kinds of asters, which I sort of remembered ordering so the bees would have more late-season nectar sources. Then there was sweet woodruff, of which I had no memory of ordering at all (am I the only one who does this? Or am I just the only one who orders plants and then forgets about them until they arrive?)

Also included in the packages were cranberries (the real ones, not the viburnum kind called highbush cranberry) and a pecan that is supposed to be hardy in zone 4.

Now comes the digging/planting/fencing part. I don’t mind doing that, certainly, but it’s a little more like putting together all the toys you got and finding batteries after the big day.