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Last year, my mother gave me a blackberry plant.


She had planned on using it herself, but then gave it to me instead.


To be honest, I hadn’t really thought seriously about growing berries in my garden.  But, as a child, we had quite a few blackberry bushes in our backyard and I remember eating blackberries over vanilla ice cream.  


So, I planted my single blackberry bush in my edible side garden where one of my vegetable gardens is located along with my fruit tree.


This spring, I was delighted to find the beginnings of little blackberry flowers…



Soon, I had tiny, green berries covering my blackberry bush…


I could hardly wait until they ripened.


Every few days, my son, Kai, would run outside to check on how they were ripening.  He would always come in with a few ripe ones.


I froze the berries in batches since they did not all ripen at the same time. 

Then I stored them away in the freezer until a special occasion in which to serve them.

BUT, you know what happened?  
I forgot about them until the other day when I was rummaging about in my freezer.


So I brought them out and prepared to make a blackberry topping for my homemade angel food cake.


I added sugar to the berries, which helps them to release their delicious juices.  

A couple of hours later, I mashed them and served them over cake…


They were so sweet and delicious.

It was fun to surprise my family with this truly homemade dessert.

**Last winter, I planted 6 additional blackberry bushes.  I can’t wait to harvest berries next year!

What is your favorite type of berry to eat?  
Do you grow any berries?  
What kinds?

It may be awfully hot outside, but my garden is awash in brightly colored flowers from my single bougainvillea, Arizona yellow bells and ‘Rio Bravo’ sage, which shrug off the summer heat.

Last year, we decided to create an edible garden along the side of our house. 

This was a large underused area that we look out at from our kitchen, family room and bedrooms.

To get it ready for planting, we had our ghost gum eucalyptus tree removed.  It was a beautiful tree, but was quickly outgrowing this area with its overhanging limbs.

The next step involved pulling out some of the flowering shrubs along the back wall and along the side of the house.  We kept the flowering shrubs along the side wall, because they add beauty and help to break up the bare expanse of the wall.

This is what the side garden looks like today…

The centerpiece of the edible garden is the vegetable garden.  Right now, it is filled with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflowers.

In front, is my colorful container filled with a variety of herbs including basil, parsley, sage and thyme.  I bought an inexpensive plastic container and spray painted it a bright blue.  The container is connected to the drip system of the vegetable garden.


In the foreground (not pictured) is our new Arizona sweet orange tree.  We planted it last year and are excited to have three oranges growing on it.  

You may be thinking that three oranges is not much to be excited about, but the first couple of years after a citrus tree is planted – you are lucky to get any fruit at all.

Newly planted citrus trees shouldn’t be fertilized during the first year, because you want them to focus on root growth, not upper growth when there is not a substantial root system for them to rely on.  Since it has been a year since we have planted it, we will fertilize this year.


In front of the vegetable garden are a pair of new peach trees.  

I love peaches and have enjoyed the fruit from my mother’s peach trees for years.  I finally decided that I wanted to grow my own.  

We got 18 peaches this year, which is a lot considering that we planted them in January.

Notice the green plant at the base of the peach tree?  It is a gourd plant that will quickly grow and cover the ground.  This will serve as a ‘living mulch’ and help to prevent weeds and shade the roots of my peach trees.


Inside the vegetable garden, sunflower seeds are beginning to form.  It is so fun to see the birds hanging upside down trying to get to the seeds.  

You can allow the birds to eat the seeds or if you want to save them for yourself, simply tie a paper bag around the flower to keep the birds away.

I’ll probably save some flowers for ourselves and let the birds enjoy the seeds of a couple of unprotected sunflowers.


A large zucchini plant is growing in the background and as anyone who has grown zucchini will tell you, it is prolific.

The slightly wilting plant in the foreground is a pumpkin plant.  If you want a pumpkin for fall, then June is when you want to plant them.

It is normal for the leaves to wilt slightly during the heat of the day.  They will return to normal later in the day.


Zucchini can hide underneath the large leaves of the zucchini plant.  I’m going to use this one to make my chocolate chip zucchini bread.  It’s delicious and your kids will never know there is zucchini in it 😉

I found the recipe on Pinterest and have already made it once.  My family keeps bugging me to make more.  Here is the link to the recipe, if you are interested – Chocolate Zucchini Bread


My tomatoes are flourishing in the natural shade provided by my sunflowers.


One of my cherry tomato plants has even decided to expand a bit outside of the garden.


Behind the vegetable garden are my two apple trees, planted this January.  One is a Anna apple tree and the other is a Dorsett Golden.  These apple trees do well in the desert and although they will produce apples if planted alone – they will produce more apples because they will cross pollinate each other.

It will take a few years for any apples to appear, but the blossoms in spring are just lovely.


Behind the apple trees are six blackberry bushes.  This year, we enjoyed the berries so much and are hoping for even more next year as they grow larger.

Blackberries won’t produce the first year after planting because the berries appear on 1-year odd canes.

Did you know that there are now thornless varieties of blackberries available?  I have one….I only wish that the other five were thornless 😉

Well, that is what I have growing in my side edible garden.

Tomorrow, I’ll share what is growing in my original vegetable garden.

What do you have growing in your garden right now?

I love visiting other people’s gardens, particularly if they have fruit and vegetables growing in them. So, I was thrilled to be able to go on a tour of local ‘edible’ gardens earlier this month.

 
 
This is the second year of the Arcadia Edible Garden Tour, which is made up of a collection of residential gardens in the ‘Arcadia’ area in east Phoenix.  I used to live in this area and it is one of my favorite regions of the Phoenix metro area.
 
Because my mother loves gardening almost as much as I do, I decided to buy her a ticket too and take her with me as a Mother’s Day gift.
 
Our first stop was to see Jill’s Sweet Life Garden.  I made sure to visit there first because I had been following her blog and couldn’t wait to see her gardens in person.
 
 
As we entered the garden, We headed straight for the raised vegetable beds.
 
 
My mother and I love to grow leaf lettuce, so we had to see what varieties were being grown.
 
 
One of the reasons that I was excited to go on this garden tour, was to get ideas to use in my own garden.  
 
Like, using regular wire mesh over the garden.  This would be great to use as a support for shade cloth in summer or frost cloth in the winter.  It is much more attractive then PVC supports.
 
The trellis is made of rebar and wire mesh and provides an attractive support for vining vegetables.
 
 
As many of you know, I love to grow nasturtiums alongside my vegetables.  They aren’t only pretty, they help to keep bad bugs away from my veggies.
 
This bed had a variety of nasturtium that I was anxious to try ‘Cherry Rose Jewel’ (I found seeds at Botanical Interests).  I will definitely be planting these next year.
 
 
As I was busy admiring the raised beds, my attention was drawn upward by a massive trumpet vine that was growing up a Phoenix date palm.
 
 
Talk about an unexpected support for a vine – I loved it.
 
I have been growing a special variety of corn in a half wine barrel.  
 
 
Sweet Life Garden had cucumbers growing in a barrel with a beautiful trellis.  
 
Baker’s Nursery had these wine barrel trellises available, but I’m not sure if they still do.  You could certainly make your own.
 
 
In addition to cucumbers, sunflowers were also growing in a barrel.  I may have to try this.
 
 
I love growing herbs in pots, but I think Jill’s look better then mine because of the half barrels.  I think I need to get more for my garden.
 
 
Tomatoes were growing like crazy with some beautiful heirloom varieties ripening.
 
 
Wouldn’t this look beautiful on a sandwich or on a salad?
 
 
I think it is important to have seating areas scattered throughout the garden, which invites you to sit and enjoy your surroundings.
 
 
Here is another example of the wire mesh being used as a trellis.
 
 
For those of you who mourn the fact that they cannot grow leafy greens for their salad in summer – let me introduce you to Malabar spinach.  
 
Okay, it’s not exactly a spinach but tastes great in salads and tastes like spinach when cooked.
 
It loves hot temperatures and needs a trellis for support.  I have seeds, but will probably wait until next year to plant mine.
 
The seeds can be a little hard to find at your local nursery, but you can buy some through Amazon.com for under a $1 – just type in Malabar spinach in the search.
 
 
Why limit yourself to growing just vegetables?  
 
Fruit on shrubs and trees is also fun to grow as you can see from the large peach tree, above and the espaliered apple tree, below.
 
I especially enjoyed seeing the peach orchard.
My peaches are almost ready for picking 🙂
 
 
I have been busy picking the blackberries off of my vines and have been thinking of adding more next winter.  
 
 
After seeing the berries at Sweet Life Garden, I will definitely add more to my own garden.
 
Did you know that there is a thornless variety?  I have one thorny blackberry bush and the rest are thornless.  Guess which kind I like best?
 
 
It was time to wrap up our visit because there were more gardens to visit.
 
 
Did I mention that they have chickens too?  
 
On our way out, we enjoyed seeing a variety of products offered by Sweet Life Garden and local vendors.
 
 
 
I had already eaten breakfast, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a few samples.
 
 
 
The three-cheese black pepper bread came home with me.
 
We had a great time visiting Jill, at Sweet Life Garden.  
 
But, our adventure didn’t end there.  There were more gardens to visit.  I will give you the highlights of the other gardens in my next post.
 
**You can find information about the Arcadia Edible Garden Tour on Jill’s blog, Sweet Life Garden.  Be sure to order early next spring, when tickets are available.

About this time of the year, I am busy helping my vegetable gardens transition into summer.  


That means pulling any remaining leaf lettuce.  Yes, it hurts to know that I now have to buy lettuce until next fall when I can grow it again.


Even though not all of my lettuce had bolted, none of it was edible.  Once the temperatures get up to 90 degrees, the lettuce turns bitter.



For the past 4 months, I have been harvesting a few carrots every few nights to include in salads or soups.

Now that it is getting hotter and some of the carrots are beginning to flower, it was time to harvest the rest of the remaining carrots.

I didn’t use the carrots that had flowered, since they had become woody inside.

You know, one of the things that I like about gardening is how unpredictable it can be.  The two carrots, above, were growing just 1 ft. away from each other.  

The garlic was already harvested and I concentrated on pulling out cool-season annuals that were serving as companion plants.


I love my crocs!
These nasturtiums were still blooming, so I will leave them until they begin to fade.


A quick check of my warm-season vegetables showed that my zucchini plant has its first fruit (yes, zucchini is technically a ‘fruit’).

You really have to check carefully for zucchini because they can be hard to spot.

I will have to get my mother’s famous zucchini bread recipe.


Tomatoes are hanging from the vine and will soon be turning red.

In my side garden, I have two new peach trees growing.


This one has 18 peaches on it.

I planted this peach tree in January.  Now, normally, you would want to ‘thin’ fruit so that there is only one fruit every 6 inches – this creates larger fruit.  But, I was so happy to see so much fruit on my new tree, that I just left them.

Since I won’t have enough to make peach jam, this year, I will use them to make peach vinegar.

I don’t just have peaches growing in my side garden…


My blackberry bush has ripe blackberries!

Originally, I hadn’t planned on growing blackberries in my garden, but my mother had an extra blackberry plant that she gave me last year, so I planted one.

I decided to go ahead and add more this year and planted 5 more bushes.

I only have the original blackberry bush covered in fruit because blackberries form on 1-year old growth.


My family wants me to use some of our blackberries to serve over ice cream.  

I was thinking of using them for making blackberry vinegar, which I’ll use to make salad dressing.

What do you think?  Ice cream topping or fruit-flavored vinegar?