Staking Fall-Bearing Blackberries

“I purchased some fall bearing blackberries.  How do we stake these up?  There are about three blackberries on the plant, but I feel we are going to have frost before they ripen. But, my question is how do we stake or tie these up?

Mary Weiner”


Hi Mary,

Thank you for the email regarding your blackberries.  I’m glad to hear that they are doing well.

Fall Blackberries

Various trellis or support systems can be used with blackberries, but staking is simpler. Also known as the hill system, staking blackberries requires first planting bare root berries about four feet apart in a row.

1.  Drive in a metal T-post about 6 inches from each plant so that posts also stand 4 feet apart in the row.

2.  Run one strand of wire tightly between all posts in the row–attaching to each post–at a height of about 4 1/2 feet above the ground.

3.  Spread fruiting branches out along the wire. Twine these branches around the wire and attach them loosely with plastic plant ties.

4.  Tie later new canes, as they emerge, to the post, establishing the center of the berry hill. Continue to prune and train canes to the wire support and post as plants get established.

5.  Cut back and remove all floricanes–fruit-producing or second-year canes–after harvest, when they die back.

6.  Thin the remaining canes early in the following spring, leaving just 5 to 7 of the sturdiest canes per hill. Cut side branches of the canes back to 12 buds and then tie canes to the post or wire.

7.  Pinch off the growing tips of new canes when they reach the wire, to encourage side branches, or laterals, that will bear fruit the following year.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Time to Plant Your Garlic!

“Dear Mertie Mae,

What do I need to know about growing garlic?   Just the basics.

Thank you,



Hi George,

Thank you for your question regarding growing garlic.  Here are a few basic points to keep in mind:

1.  Where to buy
The first thing you need to figure out is if you want to buy organic or conventional grown and heirloom or non-heirloom types.  Some places sell great garlic and others not so much.  I personally recommend Seed Saver Exchange (get your order in when you buy your garden seeds!!! They sell out insanely fast!), and Territorial. Additionally, Botanical Interests (they have garlic assortments that give you a bulb of a few different varieties), Burpees, Dominion Seed House, Harris Seed, Jung Seed (order early or you will have a slightly mushy bulb based on my experiences), and Cook’s Gardens all receive high ratings on websites like the National Garden Bureau and such, but I’ve found that their quality and selection aren’t as good as SSE and Territorial.  There are many other places that offer garlic too, but as I haven’t tried them, I can’t say for sure if they are worth spending your time with.  If you are in the north, plant hard neck varieties (require winter chilling). If you are in the south, grow soft neck varieties.

2.  When to plant
Most experts say that in areas that get a hard frost before winter, it is recommended that you plant your garlic 6-8 weeks before that frost. While this may work in places other than Wisconsin, I have found that planting my garlic that early makes it not so hardy come winter.  I usually plant mine here in West Central Wisconsin (and in Central or Southern WI when I lived there back when) between October 1-14.  This allows the cloves to get established, but not spend a ton of energy growing.  They need that energy to get through winter!  And it works — even the old timers around use the rule of thumb to plant on Columbus Day (October 12).  If you are in a southern area with no winter, February or March is a better time to plant.

Garlic prefers well-drained soil in a sunny spot with lots of organic matter. It’s a rather narrow plant, so I like to plant it in double rows that are about 6-8 inches apart and then alternate (zig-zag) the plants down the rows to give them a little more space.  Plant the cloves 6-8 inches apart (12 inches if growing Elephant Garlic).  Garlic should be planted 3 inches deep.  Fertilize as you would onions.

3.  To scape or not?

Garlic Scapes
Trimming the tops of hardneck garlic (garlic scapes) is often recommended… but I don’t do it.  I’ve found that it never fails that if you trim them, there will be a rainstorm or heavy dew and the tops will get weird or you will get disease.  Also, letting them mature gives you small bulb-like cloves that you can put into the ground at harvest time and grow for next year’s crop (which I suspect is why the seed companies say cut them off — less profit for them if you let them grow!)

As long as you are properly tending your garlic with water and fertilizer, the bulbs will grow just as big.  If you decide to cut them off, they are edible.

4.  When to harvest
Harvest time depends on when you plant, but the key is to look for the garlic leaves to turn brown. Unlike onions or shallots, they don’t just fall over.  In Northern climates, harvesting will probably be in July or August, depending on the variety. In Southern climates, it will depend on your planting date. Either way, stop watering so the outside skin can dry out a bit and harvest within one week of matuity.  Waiting too long will allow the outer skins to disintegrate.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

20-30 Gardening

This is an excerpt from The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff (St. Lynn’s Press, 2014) by Dee Nash.  Dee is a follower of the Horticulture Talk Blog and requested we post it.

Urban farming is a movement sweeping the country: growing food closer to where we live, whether it’s on a condo deck, in a backyard or in a community garden. Statistics show that many of these urban gardeners are in their 20’s or 30’s and are looking for ideas and how-to’s for their own spaces. The 20/30-Something Garden Guide gives that busy, mostly urban, cohort a fun, non-intimidating introduction to the basics of gardening.

Garden expert Dee Nash divides her book into four types and sizes of gardens, starting with “Farming Your Patio, Balcony or Deck,” and giving incremental goals for the first year, and the second and the third. With this guide as a basic roadmap, new gardeners can be as creative and out-of-the-box as they want–it’s theirs to enjoy.

About Her Busy Schedule
Caring for the garden can be worked around tight schedules, including the 40-plus-hour work week and the topsy-turvy lifestyle of new parents—both of which provide little time for the great outdoors. I understand the constraints of a busy schedule. I had three of our four children in six years and also worked full-time outside the home. As a result of my own hectic life, I had to learn to work in 30-minute increments. Was it worth it? Absolutely. There was nothing like pulling into my driveway at the end of the day and seeing containers full of flowers by the front door, welcoming me home.

Why am I writing a book for 20-30 Somethings? Because those were some of the busiest years in my own life, and because two of my children are now 20-30 Somethings themselves. I understand only too well the challenges of trying to “do it all” and still keep some balance, beauty and connection in our days.

Community Gardening
Do you literally have no room to garden? No patio, no balcony, no rooftop? Lucky for you that nearly every city, town and village across the country, community gardens bloom with vibrant good health. Not only can you socialize as you grow, you also benefit by learning about your climate and growing conditions from gardeners nearby who care and want to share.

Why would you want to grow plants with a group of people you hardly know, in someplace other than your home? I can think of at least five reasons:

  1. You want to make friends and gain knowledge
  2. You want to grow more than your own space allows
  3. Your neighborhood association covenants or municipal ordinances don’t allow for front yard garden expression
  4. Your yard is too shady for vegetable production
  5. You’re an extrovert
Community gardens are a way to recreate that neighborly life of yesteryear—a way to bring back the meaning of “neighbor” where one chats with you over the fence or who sweats with you as you sow more seeds.

These gardens are a wealth of information and fun. Most garden organizers see part of their role as catalysts to make the world a better place through education and great food. Gardeners in cities are leading the way by rehabbing vacant lots and remediating urban soils from chemical toxins. They also gather leftover vegetables from local stores and restaurants and make compost.  It’s one more way to keep refuse out of our overburdened landfills and return it to the soil. You can’t help but be inspired. This is community giving, and growing, at its best and most basic.

A Partial List of Dee’s Favorite Beautiful Edibles
Along with beautiful flowers, there’s been an explosion of gorgeous vegetables in recent years. Gone are plain-Jane green beans. They have been replaced with speckled (and even purple!) varieties in both runner and bush bean style. Below are my favorite beauty queen vegetables to delight both your taste buds as well as your eyes.

BEETS: ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet is an heirloom from 1840. I grow this one primarily for its deep burgundy foliage, but I also eat the beets when they’re small. Both the fruit and greens are excellent.
LETTUCE: ‘Redina’ French red-leaf lettuce is so attractive that you may not want to eat it, but leaf lettuces, no matter what the color, are great additions to your garden and taste better than anything you can buy from the store. Darker leaves also contain extra vitamins.
KALE: ‘Lacinato’ kale is still in the greens category, but its leaves are a dusky blue/green. It is tender when small and works well in winter and spring soups. It’s especially sweet after a cold snap.
SWEET PEPPERS: ‘Bullnose’ sweet peppers ripen to a deep red. Their fruit is short and stout with thick walls. A version of ‘Bullnose’ was grown by Thomas Jefferson and although cross-pollination changes heirlooms over time, the ones grown today are considerably larger.
CAYENNE PEPPERS: ‘Long Red Slim’ cayenne peppers stand out in the garden like a spotlight. Although I grow several ornamental peppers just for looks, I think chile peppers, especially cayenne types, are hot in both looks and taste.
SWISS CHARD: ‘Rhubarb’ red Swiss chard is the last on my list of beautiful edibles. I’ve grown all of the popular colors, including pink, yellow and white, but I love the ruby red ones best.

For more inspiration, Dee’s book is available from Amazon, Barnes & NobleSt. Lynn’s Press and other booksellers.

Take Time to Slow Down, Eat Well and Enjoy the Flowers

Reprinted with permission of the National Garden Bureau:
Take Time to Slow Down,
Eat Well and Enjoy the Flowers

As we enter the month of August, typically known as the dog days of summer, many gardeners are enjoying the fruit of their labors by relaxing in their lovingly tended garden or enjoying the produce that is ripening on a daily basis. This is the time of year when many of us take that last minute vacation before the new school year starts. It’s a time to slow down, relax and enjoy friends, family, good food and beautiful settings.

One such experience might be to attend one of the 2015 American Grown sponsored Farm to Vase Dinner Tours.

This tour is a series of private, intimate, must-attend gatherings that place seasonal, local and sustainable American Grown flowers at the center of the table where locally grown food, beer and wine is served by a farm-to-table chef. Each artisan-style dinner will be held at a unique venue — an American flower farm that encourages guests to experience the age-old art and science of flower farming.

American Grown Flowers is a brand that symbolizes a unified and diverse coalition of U.S. flower farms representing small and large entities across the country. Together, they give consumers confidence in the source of their flowers and assure them that the bouquets and bunches they purchase come from a domestic flower farm.

All-America Selections and National Garden Bureau are proud to partner with the Farm to Vase Dinner Tour by offering AAS Winner seed packets to dinner attendees. As a special offer for our e-newsletter readers, click here for a $25 discount code for any of the events listed below.

A Farm to Vase dinner is like none other. You will make a personal connection between flowers and agriculture as part of our country’s farm landscape. Along with lively conversation between dining companions new and old, guests will share platters of delicious, seasonal and local food. They’ll meet others who are passionate about preserving American grown flowers, farmland and our country’s floriculture roots. While enjoying this seasonal meal, the focus is drawn to the botanical beauty of petals, stems, foliage, vines, buds and berries–artistically arranged to bring sensory pleasure to the experience.

You have the chance to attend one of these remaining 2015 dinners:

August 20th in Brooklyn, NY
September 3rd in Washington, D.C.
September 12 in Seattle, WA
October 3rd in Portland, OR
October 10th in Fallbrook, CA
October 16th in Detroit, MI

Stay tuned to this e-newsletter for an August 2016 Farm-to-Vase event in Madison, Wisconsin as part of the 2016 AAS Summer Summit.

Summer Planting for a Fall Harvest

Shared with permission of the National Garden Bureau:

Summer Planting for a Fall Harvest

Hopefully you have begun your summer harvest, enjoying those delectable tastes you can only get from home-grown veggies. Crunchy snap peas, crisp and sweet carrots, fresh juicy tomatoes….ah, the tastes of summer. Are you practicing succession planting to ensure you have a steady supply of veggies throughout the season? Good for you! What about planning for a fall harvest? Either transplanting seedlings or direct sowing the shorter crop time veggies is another perfect way to continue the harvest through the fall months.

It’s really easy to do! The first step is to calculate the first frost date for your local region. This tool from Bonnie Plants will help with that task. Then select which crops you’d like to grow. We’ve put some days to maturity ranges by each crop below:

Arugula: 25 (for baby leafed) to 55 days
Asian Greens: 45 to 65 days
Beets: 45 to 55 days
Broccoli: 60 to 80 days
Carrots: 45 to 75 days
Collards: 50 to 65 days
Green Onions: 50 to 60 days
Herbs: varies
Kale: 30 to 60 days
Kohlrabi: 40 to 80 days
Lettuce: 25 to 60 days
Radishes: 10 to 50 days
Spinach: 25 to 50 days
Swiss Chard: 25 to 60 days
Turnips: 30 to 75 days

Not that you can harvest these, but here are a few easy ornamentals you can start now for fall planting and decorating:
Ornamental Kale and Cabbage

Based on your first frost date, count backwards to find out when to plant your selected vegetables.

For example, your first frost date might be October 31. If you want green onions, which are great candidates for direct sowing, you can sow now and again every two weeks up until August 31 for several more harvests before winter sets in.

This article from NGB member Home Garden Seed Association offers more detailed tips about growing for a fall harvest.

And you thought vegetables were only for planting in the spring!

While you’re planting and planning, don’t forget to order fall-planted bulbs for spring blooms and perennials for lasting garden beauty.

Bee Counted! Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

Reprinted with permission of the National Garden Bureau.

Bee a Part of the
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

June 15-21 is National Pollinator Week

National Pollinator Garden Network Launches Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

In an unprecedented collaboration, dozens of conservation and gardening organizations, including National Garden Bureau, joined together to form the National Pollinator Garden Network and launch a new nationwide campaign – the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Designed to accelerate growing efforts across America, the Network is launching the Challenge in support of President Barack Obama’s call to action to reverse the decline of pollinating insects, such as honey bees and native bees, as well as monarch butterflies. Representatives of the Network joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House garden, which includes a section dedicated to support pollinators, to formally launch the Challenge.

The Network is challenging the nation to reach the goal of one million additional pollinator gardens by the end of 2016.

Any individual can contribute by planting for pollinators!

To tackle these challenges, the Network is rallying hundreds of thousands of gardeners, horticultural professionals, schools, and volunteers to help reach a million pollinator gardens over the next two years.

Every habitat of every size counts!

From window boxes and garden plots to farm borders, golf courses, school gardens, corporate and university campuses. Everywhere we live, work, play and worship can, with small improvements, offer essential food and shelter for pollinators.

It’s easy to register your pollinator habitat!

“National Garden Bureau supports gardens of all types, done by any type of gardener for any reason and gardening for the health of pollinators is a priority for NGB and our members,” said Diane Blazek, executive director of the National Garden Bureau. “We are thrilled to be part of the National Pollinator Garden Network and look forward to the day we reach one million pollinator gardens registered in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.”

Click here to shop for pollinator-friendly plants from NGB Members.

It’s a simple two-step process:
1) Plant pollen or nectar rich plants
2) Register your pollinator habitat here

Additional steps you can take to make your area more pollinator-friendly:

  • Provide a water source
  • Situate your garden and/or plants in a sunny area with wind breaks
  • Establish continuous blooms throughout the growing season
  • Minimize the impact of pesticides
Full list of National Pollinator Garden Network partner organizations:

Learn more at and join the discussion on Social Media through the hashtag #PolliNation.

Your Garden, Your Sanctuary

 Reprinted with permission of the National Garden Bureau:



Your Garden, Your Sanctuary

This is an excerpt from The Herb Lover’s Spa Book: Create a Luxury Spa Experience at Home with Fragrant Herbs from Your Garden (St. Lynn’s Press, 2015) by Sue Goetz

As a garden designer, I often hear people say their garden is their therapy.
They will work outside in the dark with a flashlight after a long day at work, just to have precious moments to dig in the dirt. It is amazing how a few hours of tending the garden will melt away a whole day of stress. The influence of a garden is written in history and long studied, whether you go back to Eden with Adam and Eve or study the history of medicine derived from plants.

There is much that can be said about how a garden affects us. It all but forces us into a patient tempo and away from the instant gratification that drives so many aspects of modern life. When we’re in the garden, there is no device that dings in our brain when time is up or a computerized sound to remind us to go somewhere. We plant bulbs in dark, damp soil, knowing the fulfillment will be months away. We push tiny seeds into the ground with a memory of the taste of fresh tomatoes off the vine. In the fast-paced life of today, we need to find sanctuary and healing therapy. What is at the top of the list? Planting, nurturing and being in the garden. We can toss aside the statistics about the popularity of gardening, and say that it is long-revered as a place to go when one wants to slow down and linger. There is simply something about nature that forces us to not be in a hurry. She is also a powerful seductress that keeps us always longing to smell flowers and gather herbs for tea, and crave the first fresh-picked raspberry.

Happy Gardening, Happy Relaxing!

The Herb Lover’s Spa Book invites you to unplug, relax and make the world go away. Herb gardener and spa enthusiast Sue Goetz shows how easy it is to grow and prepare therapeutic herbs for a nurturing spa experience in the comfort of your own home. With lavish photography and simple step-by-steps, she presents 19 fragrant herbs (such as Aloe vera, basil, dandelion, eucalyptus, hops, lavender, parsley, rose, sage, scented geranium, thyme and witch hazel) for your garden and over 50 herbal recipes for maximum pampering: lotions, soaks, teas, masks, scrubs, aromatherapy and more.
HAND AND NAIL BUTTER (perfect for a gardener’s achy hands)

Tension can elicit pain in any part of the body, but sometimes a massage to one area can release tension in another. If arms and shoulders are tense, the simplicity of a hand massage begins to soothe and release. Hand massage techniques can be done anywhere to help ease stress, especially after working outside or on a computer all day. This recipe is rich in natural waxes and oils to saturate the skin in herbal goodness. This is great as a fingernail and cuticle treatment. For an intensive overnight treatment, use butter on hands and feet, and wear socks and gloves to help seal in moisture.

2 tablespoons cocoa butter
2 tablespoons beeswax
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
8 drops lavender essential oil
4 drops lemon essential oil
3 drops rose geranium essential oil

What to do:
In a small saucepan, slowly melt cocoa butter and beeswax. Stir until well blended together and liquefied. Add grapeseed oil, stir well and remove from heat. Continue stirring until almost cooled down.
Add the essential oils, stir well and pour into jar. The mixture will harden slightly to a smooth, buttery texture. Use this within 3 months for best freshness.

Give this hand massage to a partner or friend: Apply a small amount of hand and nail butter to your friend’s hand. Support one hand with your fingers and begin to stroke the ends of the fingers, working each finger gently along the joints and fingers. Work your way up to the wrist with gentle motions, spreading the herbal lotion as you go. Then sandwich their hand between your own hands and draw away very slowly and deliberately. Repeat several times before letting go completely. Repeat the motions on the other hand.