Early Spring Gardening – Berries, Composting, Blossoms!

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The kids are on spring break this week, which means lots of time at home that I can put them to work! (Just kidding… sort of.) My wonderful husband set up the compost tumbler I picked up at Costco last week (thankfully, he wasn’t upset by the project) and so I was excited to get going on our first batch of compost.

DSCN5412 (600x800)I ended up putting it in the verrryyy back of my garden, along the side of the greenhouse up against the fence. I feel so bad that I’m just now getting around to composting, after several years of gardening! (Better late than never, right?) I do imagine I’ll write some posts about composting in the future, but need some experience under my belt before I can do so.

DSCN5413 (600x800)This is a new addition to my garden – Tall Mountain Huckleberry! I’m growing this plant for two reasons: 1) it’s a native plant and the more I learn, the more I understand the value of adding native plants into our landscapes, 2) it’s a shade lover, often growing in the understories of forests. OK, there’s a third reason, I hear they are darn tasty and want to make some homemade huckleberry syrup!

DSCN5366 (800x600)Incidentally, check out this plant I found growing in a nearby trail. After asking a couple folks and consulting a couple plant books, I’m pretty sure it’s a huckleberry! (I’ll be observing it closely this summer to see if I’m correct.) Doesn’t the foliage look similar to the plant I’m growing in my garden? (More on this nature walk and my growing interest in foraging wild foods in another post. Stay tuned.)

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This is another new addition – Poorman Gooseberry. Looks like I’ll need a good pair of gloves to deal with this plant!

DSCN5443 (800x600)Another gooseberry – this one is Invicta. Now maybe this is foolhardy, but I decided to plant it right in the middle of a bunch of chamomile. My thinking is the chamomile would act as a natural mulch, but I’m wondering if it will end up just competing for nutrients instead. Anyone have thoughts on this experiment?

By the way, the huckleberries and gooseberries were purchased at Raintree Nursery! I love this place – they have a wide selection of all kinds of fruit plants suitable for our maritime Northwest climate! Check them out!

DSCN5416 (800x695)Speaking of berries, here is one of my two blueberry bushes that I planted last year! It’s starting to blossom and has definitely grown in size. I think everyone should have a few berry bushes in their yard. You can easily “sneak” them into a landscape and they are a lot less fussy than a vegetable garden. Plant them once, and they’ll provide you fruit for many years to come. Both of my blueberries were planted in large containers, so it’s possible to raise them this way, too.

DSCN5430 (800x600)Here’s another berry I’ve successfully grown for several years in a container now (well, raised bed anyhow) – raspberries! I love growing these in a container because they can spread and I want to keep them contained. Each year, I prune down the spent canes and wait for the new canes to emerge in early spring (like pictured above). In mid spring, when they are a bit larger, I’ll trellis them simply with bamboo and twine. Very simple.

DSCN5446 (600x800)My hardy kiwi is starting to leaf again, too! I planted these last year (also from Raintree Nursery) to grow up over the arbor my husband built.

DSCN5449 (600x800)By the end of summer, the vines had already reached the top of the arbor! These are very fast growing. If you are growing them for fruit as I am, you will need a male and female for pollination. We didn’t get fruit last year, but that’s to be expected. I’m hoping we’ll see some fruit this year, but I’ve read it can take up to several years for fruit! At any rate, I expect that the vines should fully cover the tops of the arbor this year.

DSCN5438 (495x800)Our puppy’s getting bigger! He is really a happy little guy, but he often photographs like Grumpy Dog.

He loves “helping” me out in the garden, which basically consists of following me wherever I go and nibbling on bits of pine cones, carrots, kale leaves, and occasionally pausing to make a poop. Obviously, this is another advantage of having raised bed gardens!

DSCN5419 (600x800)I suppose he looks a little less Grumpy in this photo? Perhaps it’s because you can actually see his eyes.

DSCN5421 (800x600)I’m still working towards becoming a sustainable, year-round gardener and am definitely not there yet… but I have made some progress. This is an example of a green I’ve been able to grow in the colder months. It’s called Mache (aka Lamb’s Lettuce aka Corn Salad). It’s a milder, cut-and-come-again lettuce similar to spinach. It’s great in a salad or green smoothie.

DSCN5424 (800x600)My parsley patch has lasted for months now…. MONTHS! I put it in everything, just because I can. I can tell that it’ll start bolting here, so I’ve already planned another patch to go in for this year.

DSCN5425 (800x600)Rutabagas. These seemed like such a fun idea to plant in the fall and then they actually grew and then it actually came time to eat them. Only the bummer is, they don’t seem super tasty to me. I’ve been eating them anyways, but I don’t think I’ll be planting them again anytime soon. Sorry, rutabagas.

DSCN5417 (600x800)My garlic plants are really starting to shoot up now! This is my first time growing from the previous year’s harvest, so this is especially exciting to me.

springflowersMy bulbs and spring flowers are all starting to come up in the front planter too! This is the cool thing about shoving a bunch of bulbs in a planter – they come back! I planted both spring and summer bulbs here, so while some are in bloom, others are just starting to emerge. The bleeding heart I planted last year is also starting to bloom too (bottom right in the photo collage above).

I have one good space left in this planter and I’m super tempted to shove in an edible, such as a dwarf blueberry. Hmmmm.

Have you been doing any gardening lately? If so, I’d love to know about it! What are your plans and goals for your garden in 2014? Trying anything new? Gardening for the first time?

Make sure to check out my Gardening Page for more gardening posts including ideas for frugal gardening, posts for newbies, and past reports. Also, make sure to follow my Project ~ Gardening board on Pinterest, too.


  1. Sara says

    Today is such a gorgeous day how can we all not be out gardening (except for that pesky thing like a job)!! My twinadoes and I have been outside planting flowers and another batch of seeds for our little indoor greenhouse (aka the bonus room).

    Have you ever looked into Mason bees? I’ve done them the past two years and I truly think it has increased the amount of fruit I get off my trees and bushes.

    • Angela Russell says

      Funny you asked – I have looked into it, it’s just one of those things I’ve never gotten around to!

      What I did do last year is focus on making sure I had all kinds of flowers interspersed through my garden – agastache, sunflowers, wildflower mixes, plus I let some herbs and veggies bolt. I will say I never seemed to have an issue – my plants are always loaded!

      In particular, they adore adore my raspberries! I am still curious to look into it more though – I am pretty aware of the plight of our bees and think whatever we can do to help, we should.

  2. Melissa says

    I am going outside right now! OK, maybe after I put on some gardening clothes. Going to plant some more seeds in the greenhouse and try to plant my summer bulbs and my large rhubarb that I just picked up! Hoping to be making strawberry-rhubarb pies by next year : P

    • Angela Russell says

      Oh my goodness, that sounds amazing! Rhubarb is one of those plants I keep wanting to grow, but lack the current spot for. I’ll have to live vicariously through you!

      (Or wait until I drive around and see someone’s “free rhubarb” bucket out by the side of the road!) 😉

  3. Amy says

    How do you keep the birds out of your blueberries? I would love to get a bush but have heard horror stories of birds getting caught in netting. Any suggestions you have would be helpful. BTW your dog is adorable, what bread is he?

    • Angela Russell says

      Hi Amy! Well so far, I don’t know why – but I don’t seem to have an issue with birds. Perhaps it’s because I keep a birdfeeder on the outskirts of the garden? I should also add that this is only my second year doing blueberries. I have however done raspberries several years without incident.

      My dog is a Shih Tzu!

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