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blueberries and permaculture

                                


Joined: Apr 12, 2009
Posts: 1
I've tried growing blueberries in rows but bombed. I have light, sandy soil and when the summer turns to drought here in SE Michigan, it seems almost impossible to provide enough water.

After reading quite a few articles on this site, I've been wondering how to fit blueberries into a permaculture setting. I have a pond that is partially bordered by oak and maple trees. In early spring the water gets quite high, then retreats some. So I was thinking of planting the blueberries (and maybe cranberries) on the selvage edge that stays moist and only occasionally really wet.

In reading conventional sites about blueberry culture, the information is oriented to conventional growing in open gardens or fields. Does anyone know if my idea is likely to work? And would I be better off planting under the trees or out in the open?

Thanks.
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Do you know the pH of your soil?  Blueberries really do seem to require acidic soil (5.0 to 5..  If you could add peat moss to the soil in your planting holes, it will help to lower the pH and also to hold moisture.  Beware that when peat moss dries out, it's difficult to rewet.

Blueberries do best in sun.

Sue
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15469
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
(I gotta skip the cranberries thing, myself, cuz I've never tried cranberries)

Rather than adding peat moss, I would try to figure out a good spot without having to add anything.

Do you know what the pH of your soil is like? 

Do you have some conifer (pine, spruce, fir ...) trees growing there?


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Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
blueberries will NOT grow on soil that is not acidic so that is the main thing to worry about..and then of couse plenty of mulch should help the water problem.

i am planting blueberries this year..i have gathered lots of pine needles and oak leaves and bark for mulch for them to keep the acid levels up really high


Brenda

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Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
blueberries - I think you are on the right track looking for a spot where they will be happy. you could also look for places around your home that catches extra runnoff or amend the soil to retain more moisture with compost and peat moss.

I don't know a thing about cranberries.


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Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
cranberries require the same as the blueberries..another are wintergreen..but they can be a bit drier..similar to azaleas and rhodies..
                                  


Joined: Oct 22, 2007
Posts: 3
In addition to needing acidic soil, I believe you'll get more fruit if they are in full sun although they can get by in some shade.  I have a few blueberries, and the ones that get shaded by my apple tree don't produce as well as the ones in full sun.
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
Blueberries do need acid soil, but if you can provide that, the edge of your pond should be an excellent spot for them.  When I was still living in New Hampshire, when the blueberries (wild) were ripe, my ex and I and DD would take the canoe and go to a little nearby lake with a lot of tiny islands, and paddle around picking blueberries from the canoe.  Sometimes there were enough berries on the islands to justify getting out and picking on shore for a while, but mostly they were right at the edge of the water, leaning out over the water enough to make picking from the canoe very easy.  It was a fun way to spend a few hours!

Kathleen
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
i have been wondering about that as I do have a pond..but it needs so much work yet that I'm afraid anything I plant there will get dug up and ruined ..so it is a delimna..i also have wet areas in my woods..but as you say..shade..and don't really want to have to sit in a canoe to pick my blueberries..

I do have an area i could partly "flood" near the pond..but it tends to get a LOT of traffic (people/tractors/trucks) so i'm still thinking..fortunately they have not arrived yet..have a place planned but it is not a wet area..so i'm still THINKING..If i plant them in a wet space..i might end up losing them to PEOPLE
                            


Joined: Mar 25, 2009
Posts: 4
You could try building some hugel beds (dead log, sticks and brush mounds covered with dirt.  This replicates a nurse log and the Vaccinium tend to like that.  Using conifer brush like fir or hemlock is probably best. 
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
well i have piles of pine needles and oak leaves..so i've got some start..and I have some wet areas..it is just a matter of bringing it all together without too little sun..and MEN not trampling with big toys like tractors and trucks..
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 977
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
    
    1
For the blueberries, what about those floating islands like they used to make in Mexico (the name is escaping me, and since I'm inside on a quick break I'd better not take time to look them up)?  Could do the hugelkultur thing on top of those little islands.

And picking blueberries from a canoe is fun! 

Kathleen
Ryan Lenz


Joined: Apr 24, 2009
Posts: 24
My parents have blueberries growing near the inlet to their pond and the plants are thriving!  I'd say go for it--sounds like a logical match.  As others have mentioned--watch the pH.  Not hard to adjust, but important.
dave brenneman


Joined: Jan 14, 2011
Posts: 38
Location: london, england
    
    1
I just bought some blueberry plants for our garden; if they like acidic soil, would it be useful burying a couple weeks' worth of coffee grounds in the raised bed, before I put the plants in?


Zone 9, southern UK
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
funny to see this old thread pop up..as it was a couple years ago I planted my blueberries and they are growing along happily.

I also did put in two service berries behind them so they don't shade them..and they have a mulch of a mix of pine needles and bark as well as some organics thrown in from time to time..on top...i tend to sheet compost.

last year I attempted to grow some squash vines around them, but they didn't like the acidic soil and they didn't do well..oh well..I'll think of something else..I do have a creeping wintergreen in one spot and will probably find some other acid lovers to plant around them..likely cranberry or wintergreen once the berries are big enough to handle some influx of plants around them.

I have about a dozen plants ..nearly all are a different variety..my blossoms froze last year so I didn't get any berries but have some covers handy for them this year if i have blossoms threatened..

Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
we tried for a few years to find the best spot for blueberries here, we had quite a few failiures. from all that we have learned a lot, we now plant our blueberries under semi mature oak trees, they get heavy dappled shade but do amazing specially when its 100+ outside and do great, we got 2 lbs of berries off two very small plants last year and they doubled in size over the summer/fall.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Ran Prieur


Joined: Jun 01, 2010
Posts: 66
Location: Spokane and near Diamond Lake, WA
    
    1
if they like acidic soil, would it be useful burying a couple weeks' worth of coffee grounds in the raised bed


I've read that used coffee grounds don't have that much acid in them, because it comes out in the coffee. If this is true, you'd have to use raw coffee grounds. Pine needles are also excellent. Not sure about needles of other conifers.

Here's a thread on another forum about making acid soil for blueberries.
                              


Joined: Jul 12, 2010
Posts: 123
Ran Prieur wrote:
I've read that used coffee grounds don't have that much acid in them, because it comes out in the coffee. If this is true, you'd have to use raw coffee grounds. Pine needles are also excellent. Not sure about needles of other conifers.

Here's a thread on another forum about making acid soil for blueberries.


Ive heard the same about coffee grounds but my experiences seem to differ from what I've heard.  I have some potted gardenias that are usually suffering from a bit of iron deficiency because our water here is so alkaline.  If I give them my coffee grounds the chlorisis goes away... but it is usually just temporary.  Hmmm so maybe the have a bit of acidity left in them but not much.
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit


Joined: Aug 08, 2010
Posts: 201
Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
Your first idea, planting the blueberries near the water, will work, I think. I have my blueberries in a black plastic box without holes to empty it. My blueberries love to be in standing water over winter and spring!


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Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 849
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  15
Kathleen Sanderson wrote:
what about those floating islands like they used to make in Mexico (the name is escaping me, and since I'm inside on a quick break I'd better not take time to look them up)?  Could do the hugelkultur thing on top of those little islands.


chinampas .. that seems like a nice match for a dry summer climate.

I have winter flooded ground that gets a little too dry in summer, and I think I am heading the hugelkultur route for blueberries, likely having some roof runoff directed to the wood to catch and recharge the moisture with any light late rains in May.  Just at the collecting wood stage...

Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute
Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
                    


Joined: Dec 09, 2010
Posts: 25
(3 photos attached, I hope they are not too big. If they are, let me know and I'll take them down and resize ASAP)

Our attempts at growing blue berries have been met with disaster so far, only one of three plants survived this summer. I'm going to be moving the sole survivor into a mound I built with pine needles, acidic soil, and compost. I've built a second mound for a blueberry that struggled and struggled, but I'm not sure if it will survive this winter.

While digging our ponds and pruning our pine trees, I discovered that I could build a sinuous mound among our pine trees. My plan is to use cover crops while the brush breaks down a bit over this year, then plant creeping blueberries.

This summer in Finland, I had the chance to go blueberry picking with my girlfriend's family near the Russian border. Its rather hazy because smoke from the peat fires this summer had blown in. The terrain was very lumpy and absolutely covered with blueberries. Not too many per bush, but the fact that the forest floor was absolutely carpeted by them made up for that. I figure that the sinuous mound will sort of replicate that texture, even though we are in entirely different zones (NC Piedmont vs Finland).

Here are some photos:



The forest.



Me picking some berries.



The harvest in about an hour with six of us picking. As I said, not too much, but worth it.
Charlie Michaels


Joined: Jan 17, 2010
Posts: 124
does anyone know of any good companion plants/guilds for blueberries? I've read blueberries have fibrous shallow roots, so maybe a deeprooted plant next to it.
                          


Joined: Nov 06, 2011
Posts: 1
Sorry to pull up a old thread but i didnt want to make a seperate thread.

I am looking to build a hugelkulture bed for blueberries, my issue is with the shallow roots of blueberries and how much wood waste and soil to use, in other words how close do you want the roots of blueberries to the woodwaste in this system.

My thought is since blueberry roots go 12-18 inches deep i want that much top soil and then woodwaste for another couple feet under that, i have some worry about the wood waste retaining too much moisture and causing root health issues with the blueberries and have considered increasing the soil level to provide abit of safety but then again its a raised bed so maybe that worry is unwarrented.

Thanks in advance.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
i have blueberries growing under my oak trees, its the only place they will grow and fruit. everywhere else they burn up in summer. the oaks act as great companion plants imo.
Hanley Kale-Grinder


Joined: Sep 30, 2011
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
    
    1
I planted blueberries in fox farm (I think) potting soil and they were doing fine.  I then started adding lots of coffee grounds as a top dressing and it fried the plants.  After not adding more grounds and daily watering, the plants picked up again.  My point is used coffee grounds do seem to be acidic and you can use too much.

The problem could have been something else entirely though, I'm not sure.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
This July I planted seven blueberry bushes on the south side of two mature scots aka scotch pine trees located in the middle of an open lawn area which is now converted into a vegetable garden. The bushes were planted about 5-6 feet from the pine trunks, and most pine branches that were 6' high or lower were removed to let light in and so that I didn't get stabbed in the face.

Before  transplanting they were pot-bound, with brown-tipped leaves, looking horrible. They quickly bounced back after transplanting, with the browning disappearing, new growth appearing, and now they have deep green/red leaves and healthy looking buds.

The short version of how I prepped and planted them is that I added dry chicken shit mixed with hay, and pine mulch from a mature pine stand into the hole.

Here's the long version:

The holes were dug 1 shovel length deep, with the bottom of the holes chopped up, and the sides of the holes stabbed all around the diameter (picture the hole as the sun, and the stabs as sunrays)

I watered the hole thoroughly, and waited for it to drain.

Then I added a shovelful worth of 'dirty' chicken pen bedding that had sat for 8 months, and had stayed dry that whole time. (It came from our winter chicken coop which is located underneath an overhanging addition on our house)

The bush was placed on top of this, and then a second shovelful of chicken bedding was added, and the original soil from the hole was mixed in.

I also added two shovelfuls of 'duff' from our mature pine stand. Duff is the top few inches of naturally occurring mulch underneath the pines. The plants ended up sitting an inch or two above the surrounding soil level, and some of the duff and chicken crap mentioned was spread around the base of the bushes as a mulch.

It remains to be seen what the yields are like but I was really impressed with how well they responded to the transplant.

                           


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
SFether wrote:
My thought is since blueberry roots go 12-18 inches deep i want that much top soil and then woodwaste for another couple feet under that, i have some worry about the wood waste retaining too much moisture and causing root health issues with the blueberries and have considered increasing the soil level to provide abit of safety but then again its a raised bed so maybe that worry is unwarrented.

Thanks in advance.

I wouldn't worry about the wood being too close causing too much moisture for the blueberry roots.  From my experience they can handle a lot of moisture.  So long as they aren't literally sitting in a puddle...

I would suggest using well rotted conifer wood around the plant holes specifically.  I put mine on the edge (lowest point where the bed touches the ground level) of the hugel bed and amended with screened, rotted fir.  Some regular watering over the summer and they are growing well.


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Paul Cereghino
volunteer

Joined: Jan 11, 2010
Posts: 849
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
    
  15
Our native V. parvifolium and V. ovatum both grow well rooted directly on rotted tree stumps and down logs.  While this may not translate directly with V. corymbosum (sp?), it does describe the potential of the genus.  MY understanding is that the whole family (Ericaceae) is weak on feeder roots, and depends heavily on fungal interactions for moisture and nutrient foraging.  Many growers seem to talk about the importance of available nitrogen for growth and thus early heavy yield.  I don't know how to square those two pieces of information intellectually, the fungal woody with the high nitrogen.  Most of our commercial blueberry fields here are in standing water most of winter, and wet through summer.  I think hugelcultur in a location that received flow from a nutrient rich 'wateshed' would be ideal.
 
 
subject: blueberries and permaculture
 
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