Edible Landscaping

December Q & A

Question: I garden in the San Francisco Bay area. Blueberries grow well in a semi-shaded area along my fence. What other fruits can I grow along this fence?

Answer: If there's enough light to grow blueberries by your fence, you should be able to grow some other fruits, too. Any of the brambles (raspberries and blackberries) can grow in part shade and still fruit. Brambles tend to grow tall and fit in narrow areas, so planting them beside fences works well. Also, you can tie any errant canes to the fence. Be sure the soil pH is appropriate for brambles; they like a sweeter soil than blueberries.

Hardy kiwi vines are another choice. They can vine along the fence and eventually will produce small, green, smooth-skinned kiwi fruits. Be attentive though: kiwis vines can be aggressive and may need to be pruned back so they don't threaten the young blueberry plants.

Question: I live in Kentucky, heat my home with wood in winter, and have an abundance of wood ashes. Can I spread the ashes on my gardens? How much should I use?

Answer: Yes, wood ashes are a good soil conditioner and can add valuable nutrients to the soil. Wood ashes are high in potassium and other minerals and can raise the soil pH, so spread them prudently. Test your soil to find out how much potassium and other nutrients it needs. Do not use ash from coal, painted or stained wood, or cardboard. These contain contaminants that can harm your soil.

This winter collect and store the wood ashes in buckets in a dry location. If your soil test indicates a potassium deficiency, sprinkle 20 pounds of wood ashes per 1,000 square feet of garden in early spring and work them in well. This is the equivalent of applying six pounds of limestone over the same area. Pick a calm day and take steps to avoid inhaling any ashes while spreading and working them into the soil.

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