Here on the urban homestead we’ve had our fair share of success and failures in the growing department.

Fellow gardeners, you know that certain plant that you just can’t get to grow worth beans? I mean you tried and tried, gave it lots of TLC and it just doesn’t seem to want to grow.

Well, that plant (one of many) was blueberries for us. A couple years back we purchased a bunch of low chill blueberries from a local nursery and planted them, in which we thought, an ideal location in the front garden.

Guess what? We bonked!

They ended up dying and we, of course, lost our investment. Not giving up, we tried again and again and finally we found a place in the garden which they thrive and even produce blueberries! Our tiny lot has so many micro climates which can drive a sane gardener mad – well, just more stubborn. For us, it just was trial and error till we find the one that made for ideal blueberry growing conditions.

Care to commiserate and share your growing pains? Or do you have a black thumb turned green thumb success story? Is there one, two, three plants that you finally got to grow due to your stubborn, never say die growing efforts.


On the subject of reader comments left over this last week (great to see so many readership participation!) I believe and tried to responded to everyone’s comments.

Many of you requested more on food security and shortages that we have begun to experience. Stay tuned for that and more this week. Oh, last but not least, a few requests for ‘A Day in the Life Of’ which we hope to work on to give you an overall view of goings on here on the urban homestead. Am I missing anything? After seven years of posting one can get a bit senile when it comes to what was written about already or even catch a cause of blogger block.

:: Field Hand Appreciation :: HM $50 Your tax deductible donation is greatly appreciated. The ongoing readership support is growing towards a new and improve PTF site, Freedom Gardens and an upcoming launch of an urban homestead social network/magazine site. With your support we are able to expand our outreach. Thank you.


  1. Evelyn says:

    Thnk you. You give me hopes.

  2. Kimbrah says:

    I was just curious about zoning laws. I live in Kern County, CA and in the city I live in, officials are very strict about what animals are allowed in R1 zoned lots (no poultry, definitely no goats) and since new home building revenue has gone down in the city, they are now fining all violations of code and zoning, even if a previous owner built the violating addition, plus requiring the violation to be fixed to code.

    Does your area allow all sorts of animals or are you guys bending the rules? I am just curious because we would really like to raise ducks and goats ourselves due to our family’s food allergies, but I do not want to get hefty fines and lose our investment in the animals if forced to get rid of them.

    Thanks so much for your consideration. I am really enjoying this blog and find it very inspiring. 🙂

  3. JunkMale says:

    Out of all the marigold seeds I sowed this year, not ONE single one germinated. However, we apparently had many dormant seeds inadvertently spread throughout the yard, and all those are doing great. Every single one of the many transplants has done well so far. It seems as though marigolds do not like to be told where to grow.

    As for failures, we cannot seem to get spinach to grow. Watermelon also appears to be a colossal failure, which is unfortunate, because I had such high hopes this year for homegrown watermelons. But this is our first year trying them (haven’t been gardening too long), so maybe we’ll have better luck next year.

  4. Sue says:

    I live in Missouri and have never had much luck with watermelon (I’m trying again this year). BUT the year we lived in Alabama a watermelon plant grew out of seeds we spit into the compost heap and produced lovely large watermelons!

    The plants I’ve struggled with are spinach. Some years I get a bumper crop some years I can hardly get even a few plants. I’m still trying to figure out what the difference is. I can blame the weather, right?

  5. Ginny says:

    I have never had a watermelon ripen for me. That is a big disappointment. I LOVE watermelon.

    I would love to try blueberries and strawberries. Maybe someday…

    In Christ,


  6. JoyceAnn says:

    Oh , Your blueberries looks so yummy ! I haven’t had much luck with blueberries either. The first bush died , the second one is living but after 3 years , it’s just not growing very well. My uncle brought me two more plants yesterday , I ‘m hoping to find a better place to plant the bushes and move the stunted one this Fall.
    I’m not giving up …….. I dream of fresh blueberries picked from my own bushes.

    ~ Green Blessings ~ JoyceAnn

  7. Lori says:

    Can you tell us your secrets to growing blueberries? I live in Southern CA and would LOVE to know what conditions they like best….

  8. Brandi says:

    For me, poppies of any sort are a complete mystery. Can’t get them to grow AT ALL. Breadseed, oriental, California, etc… not a single sprout. I’ve been craving poppyseed bread for 3 years! lol I got some new tips from a gardening friend, though, so I’ll try again next year…

    Congratulations on finally coaxing those blueberries into happiness!

  9. Anais says:

    To all- thanks for sharing your growing stories. Guess what? We, too haven’t never had any luck with watermelon either!

    Kimbrah – Your question about animals: Yes, we are fortunate that our city does allow certain livestock and poultry within a certain distance of property lines.

    JoyceAnn – Way to grow girl. Keep on trying

    Lori – No secret. We just found that they love growing on the northwest side of the house. An area that is shady and heavily mulched.

  10. Tara says:

    I just want to say how inspired I am by your site. My husband and I are not huge gardeners but, as we trimmed our ugly hedges this weekend, we decided it was beyond silly to keep putting energy into these plants we don’t care for when we could plant something useful instead. We’re making plans to start a worm compost this summer and will be ripping out various parts of our existing landscape to replace them with plants that will give us an edible return for our investment.
    Thanks for the inspiration. I’ll be poring over your backposts for tips in the upcoming weeks, I imagine.

  11. Ken Kunst says:

    Your blueberries look terrific. I planted one blueberry plant as an experiment, for I’ve heard they struggle here in Napa, and I thought I put it in a good place, I gave it acidic conditioners, and it just sat there for over a year looking anemic. So I pulled it out and have tried it in another spot, and it’s looking only slightly better. We’ll see. I’ve found that talking to other locals and the better nurseries about what works and what doesn’t in your area is the best way to go. I wasn’t doing very well with onions until a gardening friend gave me the little scallions to plant instead of the sets. I just harvested a 2 pound onion! It was the varietal of onion and how and when I planted it. Also mulch, mulch and more mulch has really helped with everthing. Thanks for listening.


  12. Anais says:

    Hello Ken

    Congrats on our 2 pounder!

    We too are heavy mulchers – really helps with our semi arid conditions.

    As for the blueberries, they are very picky. But once you find the right growing spot – they require very little care. Some great, cheap acidic conditioners are oak leaves and coffee grounds!

    Happy growing!

  13. Jennifer says:

    I tried blueberries too, low chill, partial shade, lots of acid conditioners, water, etc. (I’ve been growing vegetables and fruits organically for decades in L.A.) But nothing doing. I’m going to stick to fruit that wants to grow here, instead of trying to fight Mother Nature. Love your website!

  14. Arwen says:

    I can’t grow a sunflower to save my life. This weekend we decided to convert our front yard into a fruit yard. We are going to put blackberry and raspberry on the embankment as well as keep some of the honeysuckle that is all over it now. We also want to have a hedge of blueberries, line all the walkways with strawberries and rhubarb, have a trellis of kiwi and then have 3 trees: an apple, a plum and a service berry (amalanchier). We want to create a beautiful garden that is completely edible. We are hoping to have it done in 3 years. I live in Asheville, NC which is growing zone 7-, 6+ so if anyone else has any ideas to add, we would love to hear about them. We decided to convert the front yard, in part, from all the inspiration your family provides.

  15. Anais says:

    Hello Arewn

    Congrats on your yard liberation efforts. You can find fellow gardens on PTF’s new FreedomGardens.org This site is a growing social network where you can hook up with local freedom gardeners in your area – post questions, upload photos and more.

    Check it out at http://www.FreedomGardens.org

    Happy Growing!

  16. Jan says:

    Your blueberries look so very yummy!

    Potatoes are my down fall. They grow fine but not many taters under the soil. I am making a raised bed for next year for them I am hoping that will help.

    Cantalope also never grow great in the garden so 2 years ago we make a raised bed for the strawberries which all died. SO I put cantalopes in that bed and last year we had Great yummy fruits!!

    By the way thanks for the email!! It answered my question perfectly!

  17. Janice K says:

    I’m sorry I didn’t read all the comments on the last post. You had already mentioned all the alternative grains, Anais!

    I’ve been having no luck with my low-chill blueberries as well, they are barely hanging on, so last night I filled a large plastic bucket full of Peat Moss, Compost and Sand then transplanted the Blues to it. Before it was in the sun for half of the day, then the rest of the day after noon, the wall would give it shade. I’d like to hear your tips!

  18. Laurie says:

    Yes, blueberries are soooo tricky…. I put in 5 last year and lost 2 of them overwinter. I’m trying again with 3 more. This time I’ve already got berries showing! Now I need to keep the birds away.

    For vegetables, believe it or not, I can’t do well with tomato starts (but my eggplants and peppers do fantastic!) If I make it past the time when the tomato babies tend to damping off, they’ll do only just ok. But the very best tomatoes come in the compost. I usually try to transplant the best volunteers to areas I want them and oftentimes they set well. But it’s a guess as to what kind of tomato they will become – hee! Hooray for non-hybrids!

  19. RedStateGreen says:

    Cucumbers never grow for me. I planted some this year, we’ll see how they do…

  20. connie in nm says:

    Live on a city lot, yet have figured out that our front circular bed is a little micro-climate. It gets warm south sun in the winter which helps herbs survive and is protected from the north and west winds.

    I grow mostly herbs and medicinal plants. But this year, I had to move out two new plants that were simply getting too much sun and were not happy.

    I move plants around as needed. I planted two blackberry plants/vines on side of house by fig. One survived so I may get a few blackberries this year. I have never even tried blueberries here in the high desert, but can buy Texas blueberries at the grocery.

  21. cynthia says:

    Rhubarb! I cannot seem to grow it in this yard. I’ve grown it before and could pretty much just ignore it;)
    This is my second try, still struggling somewhat…
    I’m also trying blueberries for the first time… we’ll see!

  22. David says:

    Wow! Your blueberries turned out picture perfect, yum :p! What varieties of low chill you all growing & which ones seem to be doing the best( no rush as might make good follow up or already in archives reference as I know your busy & I’m learning to be patient on gardening journey).

    As for growing challenges, rhubarb is my testy fruit/vege. Tried Victoria, Strawberry, then Crimson. Got Strawberry up 3 ft & harvested one stalk but flea beetles got. Looking for seeds to try, try, try again as annuals if need be Always loved grandmas/mums rhubarb pies sans strawberrys.

    Always interesting reading of all your experiments/ adventures in southern Californian gardening.

    David San Gabriel Valley, southern Calif, USDA Zn10

  23. Andrea says:

    What an incredible website! When I tell people I want to be as self-sufficient as possible, they look at me like I’ve grown a second head. Presently my garden is 30X50, with beds around the house and shed of rhubarb, herbs, berries and a assorted fruit trees. My next endeavors are grapes, medicinal herbs, asparagus, and strawberries. I’ve given serious thought to chickens, but I just can’t quite commit yet. Maybe when the kids are just a touch older. Anywho, I’ll be checking in often to learn what I can and follow in your footsteps. Thanks!

  24. Sasha says:

    We had to do lots of trial and error with blueberries as well. Pine bark mulch helps.

    For some reason I can’t grow eggplant worth a darn. I’m lucky to get a decent amount of harvest each year but I really have to work for it.

    Even now (it’s early in our season here in Indiana) I’ve already lost a couple of plants. I’ll keep trying, though.

  25. Ginny says:


    The eggplant: is it because of bugs. I have a real problem with flea beetles on my eggplants. I have resorted to Neem Oil. It is organic and seems to control, although not totally get rid of, flea beetles and other pests. Also, you might want to try mulching the plants. I use grass clippings, fresh and green. Mulching with grass clippings makes everything around here healthier and greener. Hope that helps. 😀

    In Christ,


  26. Laurie says:

    I did an experiment with eggplant last season: I used the same variety of seedlings, started at the same time, planted out at the same time, etc. Only difference: one bunch went into 5 gallon containers up against the south side of the house; second set went into the regular veg bed. Containers won hands down! I don’t put eggplants in anywhere else now – they do so much better for me this way! Fewer bugs, more warmth and protection, and they get a steady supply of fertilized water (plants in the beds get compost too, but aren’t fertilized as frequently.) Maybe this will work for you? And, like Ginny, I mulch very heavily with grass clippings (~ 6 inches deep.)

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