Thursday, November 2, 2017


Chess in the Third Dimension.  It's like chess but 3D!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Blackberries

Blackberries

For my first post I thought I'd start with the ever familiar blackberry. What? This isn't my first post? Well technically no, but rants aren't exactly posts. They have no technical information; think of them more like the editorial sections. I wanted to start with blackberries because they are the most familiar to a lot of people and probably the easiest to grow. And unless you live in the middle of a concrete jungle I like to call a city then you probably have a blackberry currently growing not more than 50 yards away.
For this post I'm going to stick with strictly the average blackberry. There are over a hundred different varieties. Did you know that Marionberries, loganberries, and boysenberries are all types of blackberries? You did? Well why don't you go start your own berry blog then? I will leave some of the more specific varieties for another post.
Blackberries belong in the genus Rubus in the Rosaceae family. That's the Rose family for all of you who don't speak Latinese. This same genus also includes raspberries, tayberries, and pretty much anything commonly referred to as brambles.

Physical description:

Blackberries can be divided up into two basic groups, upright and trailing. If you really need me to explain the difference between upright and trailing then I can but I also might just tell you to refer to the dictionary. What do I look like, an English teacher? No offense to any English teachers out there who by no fault of their own look just like everybody else. The leaves grow in clusters of three as seen here.
Leaves grow in clusters of three
To distinguish between poison oak which also grows in clusters of three leaves apply a liberal amount of the leaf to sensitive areas of your body. Wait several days. If a rash occurs then the plant you are looking at is most likely poison oak. Or if you'd like to take the sensible approach you can look for large thorns and flowers which grow on blackberries and not poison oak.
The flowers are arranged with five petals as seen here.
Blackberry flowers
This is actually a characteristic of the rose family.
Wild Rose

Apple Blossom

 

 

 

 

 

Apple trees are also in the rose family (random bit of trivia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing:


As the flowers bloom and start to grow berries you will notice something called the leader berry. See the above picture an you'll notice there are several leader berries per cluster. These will ripen first sometimes a week or two before the rest of the cluster does.
Primocane vs floracane
The canes of the plant start out the first year called primocanes. They will grow around four to five feet and then start to arch over. Or if you live here in the Pacific Northwest they tend to reach the size of a small giraffe. The primocanes usually do not have any berries depending on the variety. The second year these become the floracanes. The floracanes will produce offshoot canes that produce the berries. After the second year these canes go into retirement and die.

Here is a picture of an eager primocane attempting to take over the Universe.  Notice the lack of flowers.
Primocane reaching for the sky

Garden Rant

What's so wrong with blackberries? Huh? I'm not sure what the view on them is where you live but here in Oregon they are considered a weed. People actually despise them for some reason. Sure they take over all your space, sure they spread out with their long gangly limbs looking awkward in your yard, sure they don't like to be touched and will defend themselves with thorns, sure they take deep root and are impossible to kick out. But aren't most teenagers the same?
They are also at the same time so giving. I mean, we're talking free food here. People pay as much as $5/lb for blackberries in the store. I can go out in my backyard and pick a bowl full for breakfast every day during harvest season. For those of you who don't own a suit of metal plated armor you can actually buy thornless blackberries. That's right, you heard me. No thorns, just deliciousness. If you take the time to have a good setup for growing blackberries it can be an easy, rewarding, and yummy experience!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Teach your children rant

So I haven't had time to actually blog yet because of school, so I'll just rant a little and then probably do a real post when I have the time.

Teach your children to garden!
         I am amazed at the number of people who have children but who don't involve them in the gardening process.  Why?  Some say it's too hard, some say it take too much time, and others say they'll wait until the kids are older.  I actively engage my two year old in gardening and it has been both fun and rewarding.  At the beginning of the season, my son having just turned two, was busy tromping through the raised beds like Godzilla attacking Tokyo.  I admit it did take some time and repeated efforts, but it doesn't take as much time as one would think.  If I am outside working on the garden then my son Bugaboo wants to be right there with me.  I simply state what I am doing as I'm doing it and he not only learns about gardening but about how plants work.  It was hard at first because I would start to pull up weeds and he would try to help but ended up pulling up plants I wanted.
       I've heard people say that is why they'll just wait until their kids are older.  Well after a lot of "No, those are good plants!" he will ask me before pulling something, "Daddy... good plant or bad plant?"  Do you know how happy that makes me as a parent to hear my son say, "Daddy, help pull weeds?"  And not just because of the whole free labor part of the deal; I just don't know very many people who can say their kids not only LIKE but VOLUNTEER to pull weeds.
    I compare this to my son's friends who I assume have not had extensive experience with plants and who are all older than he is.  One of them started performing what appeared to be some form of riverdance on the sunchokes; which wasn't a big deal because you could drop an atomic bomb on sunchokes and they'd still come back.  Another one grabbed a rake one time and proceeded to level out some newly sprouted radishes.  While I generally accept charity work, if someone doesn't have the proper permits and fees paid for then they cannot rake my garden.  Some of his other friends are terrified of worms and act like they are the bubonic plague.  Perhaps this is just a personality thing, I certainly don't like to cuddle with spiders.  But the first thing out of my son's mouth when we go outside is, "Daddy find me a worm!" 
    Here's a conversation with a neighbor girl, who is almost 12, who came up to my son and I when we were
picking peas. 
    "Oh... what pretty flowers!  I didn't know peas had flowers!" confused girl said.
    "Um... that's where the peas come from." I replied a little confused at why she didn't know this.
    "What?" she asked with a dumbfounded look.
    "All fruit and vegetables come from flowers," I said slowly.  This is untrue of course as leaf and root
crops do not, but I was trying to be as simple as possible without blowing her mind with extra details.
    "All flowers make vegetables?" she said with a look as if I just talked to her about my theories on lambda
calculus.
    "No..." I tried to think quickly to explain something that in my opinion should have been taught years ago
by her parents. I had to teach my son early on because he thought flowers were pretty and wanted to pick them.  I had to teach him that flowers turned into food for us so he had to leave them alone.  Then I proceeded to show her different stages of the flower-to-pea transformation.  In the end she simply ended the conversation with a "Wow!" and walked off. 
    I'm not saying you need to teach your kids all about the reproductive ways of plants, but come on!  Do
vegetables and fruit magically appear at the store?  The good thing is it is never too late to teach your kids. 
And never too early. Also remember to tell them that fruit comes from trees not from fruit loops.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Garden Rant

So here is my first post.  This is going to be a work in progress as I am extremely busy.  This will be a blog primarily about growing berries, but I will throw in random stuff about gardening here and there.  Until I get the time to make this site look nice you'll have to settle for whatever the default is for now.  I like to argue and I like to complain so I'm sure every other post will contain some kind of rant or another. 
So here is today's rant:

Please, please, please people do you know what HARDENING OFF is?  Let me explain... how many of you go from your nice warm house and step outside at 4 in the morning and say, "Burrrr this is cold!"  Of course you do, unless you live in Hawaii but I'm not talking about you guys.  For ever one else you probably put on a jacket instead of standing there dumbfound wondering why it's so cold.  Give your plants the same respect.  Putting a transplant outside without hardening off is like putting your toddler on the front porch and telling him to go get a job.  If he's like my toddler he would simply wander over to the neighbor's house to see if his "friends" are home. 

Here are things that are bad for your transplants: sun, wind, rain, cool temperatures.  Do plants like sun?  Sure, but putting a seedling that has been grown indoors to direct sunlight for a long period of time is like going to the beach on the first day of spring without wearing sunscreen.  If your skin is pasty white from being a hermit all winter like we are here in Portland and you get more than an hour of sun on that first day you will get burned.  Or perhaps some of you should do this just so you can have some empathy for your plants and you won't be wondering why "My plant is all wilty and the leaves are curling."  Likewise for the other ones; plants can withstand wind, rain, and extreme temperatures but only when they've been properly conditioned.  Conditioned is another term for hardening off. 

For example I wouldn't be able to go into a gym and start bench pressing 400 lbs.  For starters I don't belong to any gym and would be thrown out if I tried to just walk in.  Oh and I'm not conditioned.  But if I worked really hard and lifted weights every day, drink massively deadly amounts of protein, and I suppose a small amount of illegal steroids might help; I maybe, just maybe could lift that 140 lbs.  What?!  You actually expected me to say 400?  It would take a lot more steroids than that... and probably different genetics. 

So to end the rant just go out and harden off your plants.  Let's not just throw our toddlers into corporate America just yet.... they still need the conditioning of high school.  How do I harden off my plants you ask?  Go read an actual informative blog!  I'm just kidding, but I don't have time to go into it now.  That will have to be another post.