dear Grange Gardener!!
Well, these days I’ve been gardening instead of writing about it. Actually, I was hibernating from Christmas to Candlemas (around Groundhog’s Day) getting over the Holiday Rush. Theoretically, around Thanksgiving my garden should look as it does now– however, my business is huge in the early winter, just when I had ought to ‘ve been doing what I’m doing now: preparing the beds for a long sleep. NONETHELESS! while dashing back and forth from my market booth in town I was surreptitiously gathering up quantities of LEAVES from along Eugene streets. Can’t BELIEVE folks giving this stuff away, it’s pure instant topsoil!!! My heavy clay soils gobble everything I can put on top. The humus kind of thins out the mineral content so as the plants can get to it. (Ever try drinking concentrated orange juice?? That’s what life tastes like for a little plant trying to survive on clay.)
I did acknowledge Wintertime by renting Werner Herzog’s movie, Antarctica. That filmmaker asks some nutsoid and irrelevant questions, but thankfully his voice does not dent the deep white frozen silence of that continent! which he captures so well… What was of parenthetical interest was the little cabin used by the antarctic explorer Shackleton . The camera panned across a cabinet of canned goods– beef stew, various vegetables, minced collops— MINCED COLLOPS???? This woman raced for the dictionary: “collops: small lumps of meat’. Aha!! A perfect name for those odd formations we develop around our hips &c. upon reaching menopause, dontcha think?? Collops. Part of my ever-increasing elliptical vocabulary now.
Have you seen a robin yet? One showed up here about 10 days ago… his song in the evening put me in hurry-up mode: spring is due! I hear there’s a website www.whatbird.com where birds can be identified by their songs.
So. Back to the garden… here’s a recipe for the health and improvement of blueberry bushes. Organically. Something that should reach a broad audience– fwd it to other friendly gardeners, it needs broad public issue! And you could pin a paper copy to the garden shed door. We ALL should be indulged by blueberrys the size of a nickel, dontcha think?
THE WORD ON BLUEBERRIES
after a phone conversation with
Master Gardener John Parrott
late spring 2004
All additives will be taken up by the plantâ€™s root system
and are therefore sprinkled around the plant out to the dripline â€“
where water would drip off the outermost leavesâ€”
which is also as far as the roots extend outward.
No matter how much a blueberry bush is fertilized, it cannot use any nutrients unless the soil is ACID.
Soil could be jumpstarted towards acidity in the fall with an application of sulfur, like a light dusting of snowâ€¦ when you begin to see yellow on the ground, stop dusting it.
Sulfur, however, is not well regarded by most soil organisms and should be considered a radical, one-time event.
What works the very best is GRAPE POMACEâ€”leftovers from the winemaking process. If you have a vintner friend, arrive for their next pressing in a pickup truck. If not, buy it processed by the large sack.
The root system of blueberry bushes is very shallow. They spread out just beneath the surface of the soil. For this reason, keep all weeds or other plantings from under the bushes. They will steal nutrients from your crop! Fewer berries!!
Also for the same reason, do not scratch around in the soil under your bushes, not even with the highest of motivations (like thinking to mix in the nutrients following). Blueberry bushes have DIED after such ministrations!
Beneath each bush sprinkle a pint each of:
Soft rock phosphate
Kelp, and if you can afford,
Now sprinkle on a lot of grape pomace, enough to turn the soil purple.
Top these with a couple inches of nicely rotted compost.
The final layer is another couple inches of sawdust and/or wood shavings. Just be sure that cedar is NOT among the woods providing this mulch! Blueberries HATE CEDAR !!!
If your bushes are planted beneath cedar trees,
stop everything and transplant them almost anywhere else.
Blueberries require frequent waterings in hot dry weather. If the soil beneath them is dried out, that means their roots are likely to be, also– which means the blueberries will become small and wrinkled.
As the seasons pass, hearty applications of compost and sawdust could build up well above the crown of the bush. Not healthy. Moderate, please, to avoid rot and smothering.
So there’s for the berry bushes….
Sunshine?!! Back outside to finish pruning. This is a DIFFICULT PROCESS for me– trees are so much slower than I am!! I’m muttering to each branch while contemplating where exactly to shorten it. Then we send up prayers for NO COLD RAIN while the blossoms are out– in this cold little hollow, it’s a rare year when the fruit crop survives spring showers!
I’m hoping the weather’ll be soaking wet for the next month or 2. Otherwise we’ll all be reading up on dry farming, and gardening in desert conditions!!
â€œTen years ago, California blueberry production barely registered on the radar screen. Today, the state is the fifth-largest highbush blueberry producer in the United States behind only Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Highbush blueberries are the type grown in California and 37 other states, and they are distinguished from the lowbush blueberry that is used for processing and is grown in places such as Maine and eastern Canada.â€
Homegrown Organic Farms