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Here you will find information about my new found hobby of gardening as well as any bush or tree planted in my yard.


My Tilton Apricot Tree

My Tilton Apricot Tree
When I ordered my Owari Satsuma Mandarin tree and my Asian pear tree, I had also ordered an Apricot tree. Sadly that tree did not make it through the winter and I had to order a replacement. As you can tell by the photo, which was taken in May of 2013, the tree was doing very well. At the time of this photo the tree had been in the ground about a month. It still is doing very well and getting ready to go to sleep. Both of my other two trees also did very well. However, I think my blueberry plants died again this year! It is possible one or two of them serviced, but I’m not holding my breath. I think next year in early spring I am going to buy mature blueberry bushes and hope they make it.

How to plant blueberry bushes

How to plant blueberry bushes
  They always say “third time is a charm” and honestly I think there might be some truth to that.  I have tried to plant blueberry bushes twice over the last two years and with very little success.   However, I must say that with every attempt I have learned something and it did lead me up to the amazing hedge row of bushes I have now.  My first attempt at growing back in 2010 ended in a disaster as I ended up killing all the blueberry bushes.  My main flaws were that I had the bushes spaced too far apart and did not have them elevated.  It took me killing two batches of bushes before I realized the basics of what I was doing wrong.  So this year, I approached it a different way.  I tilled the ground of the area where the bushes were to be planted and added both top soil and peat moss.  This created a raised area for me to plant the bushes in.  I spaced them out about 12-16 inches apart. From left to right I planted a Chippewa, Blue Crop and Duke.  That pattern was repeated twice.  I finished with mulch around the plants which protects the roots by holding in moisture.  Everything is about managing water levels.  Planting them elevated helps for water drainage and putting them close together assures the water gets used up.  Even with the recent weather my bushes have done very well with tons of new growth.  This past week, the first week of July, we have had heat over 100 degrees and on some days as hot as 112!

 

My poor Asian pear tree has been fried and has lost about 3/4 of her leaves.  My Gala apple tree looks tired but he is really starting to open up finally.    The Owari Satsuma Mandarin Tree is just loving the heat and has recovered very nicely from winter.   I took some new photos  of my trees today and included them in my gallery and on this page.

My Gala Apple Tree

My Gala Apple Tree
  This tree was planted in the spring of 2012 and ordered during fall of 2011.  I received him in November with my Owari Satsuma Mandarin tree and he was already going to sleep.  My experience with planting trees is limited and so far I’ve had pretty good luck.  A couple years ago I started with an Asian pear tree that is in its 2nd year of growth and doing very well.  She has weathered a Japaneses beetle attack and the cicada invasion of 2011.   I ordered her during the spring so I acclimated her inside before she was planted in the back yard this year.  My Gala I ordered during the fall and he stayed inside dormant.  I planted him this spring once the weather started to break and other plant life started to come alive.  We have had a very odd spring with rain, summer heat, and cold weather all within days of each other.  I’m not sure if this is the reason for the trees very slow awakening.    Until this past week, I was not sure if he was dying or just in shock.  Perhaps it is a combination of the weather and the fact it was planted dormant.  However, with each passing day, he comes more and more alive and my kids are excited.  I will more than likely update the photo on this page to a more green living photo when that time comes.  As you can see by the photo below the tree is starting to wake up.

My Owari Satsuma Mandarin Tree

My Owari Satsuma Mandarin Tree
It has been almost a year since I ordered and planted my Asian Pear tree and two years since my first attempt at growing anything. I have to admit, it has been a great learning experience filled with many trials and tribulations! Last year in November I decide to purchase more plants online and one of those happened to be the Owari Satsuma Mandarin tree. My kids LOVE Mandarins so we decided to check and see if there was any way to get one here in Illinois. I called John at Clifton Nursery and told him my situation. After talking with him a bit, I learned that it is possible to keep such a tree here in zone 5 but you just need to bring it in during the winter. He highly recommended the Asian Pear tree so I immediately ordered one from his company. The beauty about this specific Mandarin tree is the Owari is a well-known Satsuma cultivar which ripens during the late fall season, requires little water, and is cold resistant. My tree has been inside since November when we had the tree shipped to us and as you can see by the picture it still looks very healthy, even with it being so cold outside. I have been giving her water about once every 4-7 days and misting the leaves every other to every day. I think overall about 3 or 4 leaves have turned color and fallen off the tree but I’m guessing that is a bit normal. I could be speaking to soon, but honestly it seems pretty easy to care for an indoor tree. I do have to say that the customer service at Clifton Nursery has been outstanding even after the sale. I frequently have questions and they always take the time to help me figure something out. I have even been able to send them a photo of my plant and they provide the best solutions or advice.

I have taken what I’ve learned from Clifton Nursery and applied it to my other plants.  Last year over the winter my rosemary plant died before it could make it back outside and, as you can tell by the picture, even after being inside for 3-4 months my rosemary is doing very well.  I brought a couple other plants in for the winter and I plan to do a full post right before spring with a report on everything’s health.

I’ve been hooked ever since I started growing things back in 2010.  The American Garage is a tv show based in Texas and the pilot episode 1 is the start of a restoration project to bring a Bradley tractor back to working order.  As you can imagine,  this project caught my attention and I was brought on last year.  I owe this connection to my newly found gardening hobby and a product I sell called Castaloy.

 

Brand new do it yourself show featuring the American spirit of ingenuity

The American Garage is a collaboration between Stephen Devine and myself that is centered on the American spirit of ingenuity.  A do-it-yourself project that takes a look at tasks that can be done right in your own garage or back yard.  Last week on December 1, 2011 the show debuted with its first episode.  This pilot, S01E01, introduces the concept of the show and it’s first project, The David Bradley project.  We are negotiating with a few local networks to air the series on tv but currently the show is only airing on the internet.

Earlier this year I added a page to my blog with a list of free items being given out by myself or companies affiliated with me.  The American Garage is giving a chance for someone to win a free trip to Texas.  If you have not signed up to win this amazing prize I suggest doing so today!

Best place to order plants online

Best place to order plants online
Earlier this summer I had ordered an Asian pear Tree from Clifton Nursery.  I was so excited when I received my package that I did not take any photos of how nicely the tree was shipped.    This was the first tree we planted in the yard at our new house and I spent a great deal of time pondering on the absolute best tree to plant.  We were still up in the air as to how many fruit trees we were going to plant so in the event it was the only one it had to be epic.  An Asian Pear tree just seemed like a good fit for me and my family.  As you can see from my other gardening blogs I’m basically greener than the lawn.  I ordered my tree during the year of the Cicada which lead to a massive battle between my tree and the Cicada.  I also planted during the spring which means my tree had to endure the Japanese beetles which it turned out the tree did well against the Japanese beetles.  Compare this to my very first attempt at growing anything back in 2010 and honestly I think the quality of the plant has every bit to do with the owners ability to grow it.

When we decided to get more trees there really was no question where we would get them.  I contacted John at Clifton Nursery and ordered two more trees for the back yard.  I was late getting them ordered so we decided go ahead and have them delivered but I would plant them first thing next spring.  My kids were asking if it was possible to grow a citrus tree here which of course it is not but John suggested we grow one inside.  I ordered a Gala Apple Tree, Harcot Apricot and an Owari Satsuma Mandarin.  The kids really wanted to mess around with an orange tree this winter which was the main reason why I went ahead and ordered all three now.  I’ve had them about 4 days or so now and everything seems to be doing well.  The apple and apricot tree have completely gone dormant.  As you can see by the pictures, the apricot was fully dormant when the order arrived, but during transit the apple tree lost most of its leaves and has since gone fully dormant.   I plan to blog more about the mandarin trees over the next few weeks.  I’m still in the discovery stage but I felt comfortable with the investment because John said if I needed anything to just call.

Clifton Nursery
1254 W. Olive Ave.
Porterville Ca. 93257

John Dhanens   1.888.209.4356

In my humble opinion the best place to buy plants online!

Asian pear tree vs Japanese beetles

Asian pear tree vs Japanese beetles
 Back in April, 2011 I planted my first Asian pear tree, Pyrus pyrifolia, and until now I have had great luck weathering things,(no pun intended).  As my luck goes, the year I plant my tree is the year the Cicadas show up and attempt to destroy the newest addition to my yard.  With a little help, (some cheese cloth to protect it), my Asian pear tree won against the Cicadas!  No sooner had I won that battle when the next enemy was up and ready to fight!  The Japanese Beetle….. This small, ornate beetle has turned out to be a more dangerous foe than I had originally thought.  I went out every morning and dutifully picked off the beetles. I also used a little trick I learned last year while protecting my blueberry bushes from this evil foe.  You take a bowl of soapy water and hold it under the branch and shake the beetles to the water.  They are unable to get out and they drown.  If you leave their dead bodies around the plant, it helps to deter other beetles from coming near. This is a bit time consuming, but allows you to avoid using a pesticide. What makes these nasty bugs so bad is their multistage existence.  They start in the ground as a grub feeding on the roots of your grass where they burrow deep to survive the winter.  Around late June to July, and after they have killed your grass, they emerge to feed and breed.  They love the leaves of soft wood and fruit trees/bushes and the female will land first in order to eat.  Once there, she will send off a pheromone which attracts any male beetles within a 5 mile radius.  They will come to her location, eat ,and then breed with her.  Once the female is ready to lay eggs, she will drop to the ground and implant her larva, (future grubs), which start the cycle all over again.  After some time, I got a little lazy in pulling off the beetles each day. I was only seeing one or two beetles per day and there were no more than a few even if I skipped a day of removing them. I had a short 2 day trip and I was not overly concerned with the beetles at this point. After all, we had survived those nasty cicadas! However, to my dismay, when I returned home the tree was 100% stripped of all her leaves!  I was utterly devastated! I should have taken a picture right away but I was too crushed to even look at her. After so much hard work,  I felt that I had failed. My little Asian pear tree had survived the planting, cicadas, and the horrible heat but after all of this, the Japanese Beetle prevailed. Shortly after this incident, it was time for us to go on another trip. I decided to just deal with the tree when we got back  as I was sure I would be digging her up and starting over.

To my surprise, when I got back a few days ago from my trip, the tree was doing better than ever!  I have to credit this to the quality of the plant.  I have had other experiences with plants that have not gone as well. Last year, when I purchased plants from Walmart, (which was a bad idea),  I found that they were inexpensive, but I lost half of them.  One of the plants purchased at Walmart did not even make it to winter and the other died during winter.  I had to replace these plants, so they did not end up being so cheap after all….  I did a great deal of research before purchasing more plants.  In response to my bad experience with cheap plants, cost was not the biggest deciding factor.  I wanted a company that had quality trees and plants and a knowledgeable staff to assist me, ( I had many questions). The company that I settled on was a place called Clifton’s Nursery.  They had a nice website, reasonable prices, and when I called, they were happy to answer my questions. Also, this was the only place that had my Asian Pear tree in stock!  The company is in California so I was a bit worried about shipping but it was still affordable even with the shipping included and I have had absolutely no regrets.

When my little Asian pear tree arrived, I wish I would have taken photos but I was so happy to have gotten my tree I did not even think about it.  It came so nicely wrapped and even had instructions on its care. I will say, going forward, I plan to purchase everything from Clifton’s.  I still need to replace my blueberry plants that died and my kids really want an Apple tree. I will keep you posted when we plant some more this fall!!

Asian pear tree: 1 – Cicadas: 0

Asian pear tree: 1  –  Cicadas:  0
Cicadas are nasty little critters. I guess it would not be so bad if they were not everywhere! I had already not been looking forward to protecting my newly planted Asian pear tree from the Japanese beetles which should be here around July or August. Now I have found that I have to deal with the Cicadas this year as well. To me, Japanese beetles are horrific, but now I’m starting to wonder if the Cicadas aren’t even worse.  The Japanese beetles will strip the tree of all green foliage which is pretty bad but Cicadas will actually cause damage to both the roots of your tree as well as the smaller branches.   Cicadas spend about 13 years underground where they will eat the roots of your trees much like the larva of the Japanese beetles eat the roots of your grass, so it is understandable why they are so aggressive when they finally climb out of the ground. They have just a few weeks to find a mate and if female, to lay their eggs. The eggs are planted inside the bark of tree trunks and their branches.  This can cause newly planted trees to require pruning or even worse, could cause the tree to die.  The larva wiggle out of the tree after causing damage to the branches and then drop to the ground where they burrow and stay for 13 years feasting on the tree roots.  Yuck!  A few days ago I went outside and noticed I had cicadas all over my tree! I was mortified! The thought of losing my tree after all the work I have put into it did not sit well with me. I decided to purchase some cheese cloth so that I could cover up the tree and  protect her. I have even found Cicadas on my rosemary bush! Despite the Cicadas, my Asian pear tree is doing pretty well.

  My first attempt at growing an herb container garden last year did well and it was a great learning experience.  Most of the established plants were started from seedlings inside the house.  I wanted to see if I could grow them from seed inside before spring and then move them outside.  I lost a few plants but most of them made it outside.  I planted a few herbs, like the dill and basil, late because we don’t have much use for them. However, we decided to go ahead and try some for the fun of it.  I have to say that it was a lot more work than I had anticipated and I think going forward, I will just repurchase what does not survive the winter instead of trying to grow them from seed.  I have found that it does not really save any money and the amount of work involved actually makes growing them from seed counterproductive. My chives were the one plant that actually did come back this year on its own, which was surprising because the pot had been left out all winter.  The marigold plant was from Connor’s 1st grade class so I’m excited the plant is doing so well.  Here is a link to my Plant photo album which contains some new pictures.

 

 

My Asian Pear Tree

My Asian Pear Tree
As many of you may already know, last year I tried my hand at growing for the first time.  This year I thought I would try my luck with a fruit tree.  I purchased an Asian pear tree, Pyrus Pyrifolia sp, from California and had it shipped to me about two weeks ago.  When she arrived I was worried about her complexion.  As you can see by the picture, her leaves and new growth were discolored and looked, in general, unhealthy.    It makes sense that she would seem a bit down, having  been in a box for 3 or 4 days.  I was concerned that my choice to place her outside in this state might not be a good idea.  I was also concerned that to leave her in the container indoors, may harm her as well.  It was time to research…  After some investigating, I found advice that I was safe to go in either direction. I decided to take the middle road and to acclimate her to the outdoors gradually so as not to shock her into the new climate. Looking at the progress she has made over the last two weeks, I feel comfortable with my choice.  At first, I’d take her outside for just about 30-60 minutes. At that time, it is mostly cloudy so I felt confident that the sun would not scorch her delicate leaves.  I slowly increased that time until she was spending a good part of the day outdoors. Eventually, she would spend most of the day outside and eventually, as the weather has warmed, in direct sun.  Over the last couple of days we have had some cold weather and she seemed to tolerate it well.  A few days ago I noticed she had a fracture in one of her branches.  Honestly, there is no way of knowing if this happened from shipping, the wind, or me carrying her in and out of the house.  I was devastated! More research….  I read an article that suggested that I stop all new growth from forming on the broken branch because the tree will grow a replacement.    I could leave the branch on the tree if there is foliage to help her produce energy and remove it later.   I took a picture to show that she did, in fact, start to grow a new limb. I clipped off all new buds from the fractured branch and I plan to prune it later in the winter.  After almost two weeks of this I removed her from the container and planted her in her new permanent home.  With all of the time I have invested, cost to purchase and ship I’m a little apprehensive about putting her outside all night.  The picture above is of her freshly planted before I put stakes in the ground.  Now that I have the tree secured the only thing left to do is wait….

Gallery of plant pictures grown by Derrick Bradshaw

First attempt at growing 2010

First attempt at growing 2010

Last year I tried my hand at growing a few things and I feel I had some decent success for a newbie….   I planted a variety of herbs, some pepper plants, and 4 blueberry bushes in the spring of 2010.  My herbs turned out well despite the fact that I was cultivating them all wrong.  Instead of harvesting in such a way that would promote plant thickness, I ended up pruning off the very sections of the plant that were needed to produce new growth.  This mistake was inconsequential in the beginning so I did not realize my error immediately. However, it became quite clear later on when the plant had nothing left to grow on. Here is what I learned… The plant grows leaves off of the main stem. This is your harvest. However, by chopping off the top of the plant, each point where a leaf was protruding along the stem will be stimulated to grow a new branch. (I was just taking the new leaves along the main stem) When you chop off the top of the plant, the plant goes into survival mode and begins to produce new branches to the side, making it fuller with more leaves to harvest. You want to be sure to always keep at least 3 leaf nodes along the stem and you do not want to cut below this point. This gives you a total of 6 node sites or potential new branches. I had been pruning these secondary branches far to close to the root stem thus causing the herb to grow tall with little to no surface area to grow more leaves.  Even with my learning curve I still was able to generate enough yield to supply us with herbs for cooking and I even  had a little left over to last us through the winter.

My pepper plants, jalapenos, and sweet peppers were started from seed; mainly because I wanted to see  how that worked.  What I learned was that starting from seeds takes much longer than I would have thought and there seems to never be enough time.  Once the plants got going and I thought that all of my work was going to pay off,  the end of the season was already here.  You add that to my biggest mistake, allowing too many plants to grow in the same pot all together and what you end up with is a tiny, overcrowded crop.  So needless to say, this year I made a few adjustments. The first thing that I did differently was to start the seeds a little sooner and  inside. It seems to be working.  I should have enough baby plants ready to plant outside once we are past the threat of a frost.  I am so tempted to put them out now, but I have been warned to not put them out until after Mother’s day, just to be safe. I have set them outside for a bit each day but even the wind has seemed to beat them down some. Another adjustment that I have made is to limit the number of plants per pot. I plan to weed out any weak plants and, in the end, have only one strong plant per pot. This should allow me to give more care to fewer plants, thus producing quality over quantity.  I still managed to get enough peppers last year to use in cooking and chop up for salsa but I am hopeful with the tweaks that I have made to have so many more this year!

I also purchased and planted 3 Chippewa and 1 Blueray blueberry plants last year. I placed them at the rear of the back yard as the tags say they could become as large as 6ft tall!  I wanted to make sure that they had adequate room to grow to their full size. For the most part, they seemed to handle the transplant okay with one doing exceptionally well and one not so well.  One corner of my yard tends to be dry, while the other corner slopes down and tends to pool water around the plant.  Because of this both of these plants ended up looking pretty bad by the time fall arrived.  I decided to replace the plant that got too little water with a Duke blueberry plant and to keep the other one, in the pool of water, to see if it could make it through the winter.  The pictures below show the plants as of today, April 5, 2011.  The first picture shows the bush that looks the best, located where the ground holds water, (who would have guessed?).  The next picture, the bush to it’s left, is the Blueray which does not show any signs of life yet.  I’m hoping this bush made it through the winter.  I drove all the way to Champaign to get this one.  I read that Blueberry bushes cross pollinate so my hope is that the conglomeration of varieties that I have placed in the yard will result in the most luscious blueberries in all the land!    So far, 3 of them have started to wake up. I am patiently holding my breathe for the 4th!  I will post the results with pictures as soon as I know the outcome.

Gallery of plant pictures grown by Derrick Bradshaw

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