Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Berry Area

As mentioned a bit in my last post I setup an area to grow blueberries and strawberries. I picked up the 5 blueberry plants from the Raintree Nursery. I ordered a Misty, Bluecrop, Bluegold, Jersey, and Toro. Each plant produces fruit at a different time of the summer. This will allow me to have fruit for a longer period each year. For the strawberries, I picked up a Mt Hood (which is awesome), Alpine and some others that I do not recall.

As part of the guild clover was added to area fix nitrogen in the soil. A guild is a grouping of plants that work together to benefit each other. Clover helps provide nitrogen to the berry plants. The clover has simply taken over and now I have to cut it back.

The blueberries were planted near a couple of fur trees because the soil is more acidic there. Blueberries love acidic soil, well they love the nutrients in it. From what I read, the jury is out on whether or not the soil needs to be truly acidic for good production. Opinion was higher that this was true; therefore, wintergreen was added the area to hopefully acidify the soil. As a plus wintergreen provides a nice herb for light pain remedies and is good in tea.

I did cheat and added some aluminum sulfate for a quick acidic effect while I mixed the soil. While this was a grit my teeth moment, because its a chemical, I wanted the quick fix to the soil.

Pine bark was then laid down after planting, which sucked. The type of pine bark is very fine and the bark seems to prevent the water from soaking in. After watering, the water stays on the surface and if the bark is moved everything is dry underneath. Lesson learned, so pulled back some bark around the bushes and used wood bark I had left over from another project. I will only buy bigger chipped bark now.

For even more of an acidic effect, I will continue to add things like coffee grounds and pine needles as I add new compost in.

The hugelkultur technique, burying wood under the berry field, was not used. I wanted to, but laziness made the plants arrive before I was ready. I did turn up the grass and buried it six inches deep. Then I mixed compost in with the existing soil.

A swale was cut behind the berry field because it is at the end of a hill. A swale is a level ditch whose purpose is to detain water and allow it to soak into the ground. Washington receives a ton of rain in the winter, so instead of letting it run off the hill, it will soak into the ground for the plants. Swales are perfect in dry climates as well because the ground gets the most out of every rainfall or snow melt.

So far the plants have produced a few berries, but the real growth will come in year two.

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