Saturday, May 17, 2014

Let it Rain - Planting a Berry Garden


The garden has been so incredibly dry lately.  You can just tell by the way the plants are growing (or not growing).  It's as if they exist in a state of suspended animation, trying to conserve as much water as they can.  In my garden, I try to water as little as possible, preferring to allow nature to drive things along for better or worse.  This is part philosophy and part necessity.  My planting beds are scattered throughout the property and installing an irrigation system to cover all parts would be not only expensive but in many ways impractical.  It's funny how something like having to manually water your plants with a hose will shape your thought process and ideas.  It's time consuming and inefficient - sure signs that it should be done as a last resort. 

In any case, I've been doing a mental rain dance everyday during the past two weeks, obsessing over the weather forecast, and hoping that we would receive some much needed rain soon and in substantial quantities.  That finally happened late Friday night and into Saturday morning.  The showers were steady and strong - enough to penetrate past the top layer of garden soil.  You can just tell that the parched ground was taking it all up.  Now is when we gardeners give thanks and wait for the explosion of growth that usually follows.

I might have been among the few of my fellow New Englanders hoping for rain, but this hasn't stopped me from appreciating our time in the garden.  I'd recently received a large shipment of plant material from Nourse Farms.  And so, the clock begin to tick on getting everything planted, which can be difficult when you still haven't prepared areas in the garden for them.  In this shipment were 25 asparagus crowns ('Pacific Purple'), 5 blackberry canes ('Triple Crown'), 10 raspberry canes ('Jaclyn') and 100 strawberry crowns ('Jewel' and 'Mara des Bois').

Last weekend, I got started on a large rectangular berry bed in the West garden.  Removing the sod was as easy I thought it would be since grass does not grow well here.  I also dug up plenty of large rocks.  Then I added about 10 wheelbarrows worth of compost and leaf mold to enrich the soil and create a semi-raised bed.  Ultimately the dimensions of this bed will grow to wrap around the perimeter of this garden.  But for now, it will serve the purpose of housing most of my raspberries and blackberries. 

I planted as many canes as I could practically fit in this bed.  The rest will grow in pots until I can clear more space for them.  I will have to wait until next year in order to harvest any blackberries.  However, I'm hoping to still get a light fall crop from the raspberry canes I planted.  Jaclyn is an fall bearing variety that produces exceptionally flavored large dark red berries.   I planted a good number of Junebearing strawberries in this bed as well. 

Most of my strawberries are being grown in two of my newly built raised beds.   Still, I had plenty of crowns left over to dot around the garden.  I've tried and failed miserably to grow strawberries in my old garden, mainly because the squirrels, chipmunks and field mice tended to get to them first.  This time around, I trying to increase my chances by planting four times as many plants.  I'll put more effort into netting them as well.   So far, only 2 or 3 of my crowns have failed to leaf out from the hundred I planted.   Hopefully, that's a sign that they will do well here. 

7 comments:

  1. At my last house the chipmunks would eat all the strawberries before I got them. But there are no chipmunks here (too many cats I think), and it is much easier to protect the bed from just squirrels and ground hogs. So I've actually harvested berries. And that is a lot of berry plants. Wow. If you get the berries from them you will be drowning in strawberries. BTW if you want a Hinnonmaki Red gooseberry email me ASAP. I'm probably go to rip part of one out this week as I'm trying to turn it into a standard. As gooseberries go it is the best one for eating out of hand that Nourse Farm sells.

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    1. Hi Daphne, thanks for the offer! But I already have three Hinnomaki goosberries that I started from cuttings. I agree that they are the best tasting...at least of the ones I've tried. I plan on starting more currant plants from cuttings later this summer. If you would like one, let me know.

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    2. They are so good. I like the green ones for cooking though - the ones you pick before they are really 100% ripe. That really tart flavor is so good in a lot of things. Especially pies.

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  2. What type of wood do you use for your raised bed and what size boards do you use?

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    1. I use fir. I get them in 2" x 10" x 8'. I'm very happy with them so far.

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  3. If I could have had your grass around our raised beds, I wouldn't have had to get mulch, ha. Beautiful just beautiful. I might turn one of our raised beds into a strawberry bed. Need to figure out how to automatically water it but I could come up with something for some fresh strawberries, ha.

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  4. Thomas, I keep coming back to your blog to look at your picture above and you've inspried me to make one of our raised beds into a strawberry bed. Can I ask what size those are and how many crowns you put in them? Ours would be a 4x4 bed and I'm not sure the proper spacing....

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