Netting system for 1/2 high blueberries

northernmn(3/4)July 22, 2013

My half high blueberries are just starting to turn blue. I've found that 1/2 highs are as large of a plant that I can grow in my area in northern Minnesota. The only non 1/2 highs are 4 Bluecrop plants and they get about 40% die back each winter from desiccation. The plants under the netting are in two 72 ft rows.

The varieties are Chippewa (8), Polaris (8), St. Cloud (9), Friendship (1), Superior (1), North Blue (1), Bluecrop (4), Mystery blues are (1), (3), and (1).

One of the advantages of 1/2 highs is that they are easy to cover with netting.

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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Looking good!
Which one is the hardiest for you?
Is your soil good enough without adding acid?
I never wanted to grow any, [have alkaline soil] but the other day I bought a couple, North Blue and something else, ...might plant it in a half peat bale.

I was looking the other day for netting my honey berries,..this is what I found, think white is good, not camouflaged.. wondering, why would they make green nettings?

Here is a link that might be useful: Berry Bird Netting

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 8:00PM
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Bradybb WA-Zone8

Nice setup.
Is it normal for your berries to start to ripen about now?The Chippewa I have, has been ready for a few weeks.I always thought it got hotter there sooner. Brady

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 8:04PM
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Brady... It was a very late spring here this year. The ice wasn't off our lake, and the frost wasn't out of the ground until about May 15th. Everything in the fruit patch is about 10 to 15 days behind normal this year. Add to that, I have about 3" of pine needles on all of the soil around the plants to retain moisture. However, it is also a very good insulator. I could stick my finger through the pine needles into the soil in mid June and it was very cold still.

Conrad... Our soil is typically slightly acidic but it doesn't have enough organic matter to hold moisture well for blueberries. The area where my fruit patch is was forest at one time. I spent a couple of weeks removing stumps and tree roots. The topsoil was only fair and about 9" deep. Then it went to almost pure sand.

I dug trenches 36" wide the full length of the rows. I set aside and saved the top 9" of sandy loam and removed the next 9" of pure sand The property had some big piles of 20 year old coarse sawdust from when it was logged off. I mixed this 50% - 50% with peat moss to replace the 9" of removed sand. This was all mixed well with the 9" of topsoil. I added a small amount of garden sulfur at this time as well.

I know that this sounds like a lot of work, but I only water with rain water collected off of a 44 ft by 68 ft pole barn roof. I needed better water retention than the native soil could provide. They appear to be very happy plants..

It's still hard to say which varieties are better. The mystery plants and Northsky have small berries, but they are perfect for muffins and pancakes. These plants also crank out a LOT of these smaller, very tasty, berries as well. The other varieties all have bigger, but not necessarily better berries.

The only one that I'm disappointed with at this time is the Bluecrop. They are taller and our winters just beat them up too much. It will take more global warming to save them here. I'll try to do an updated review at the end of the picking season.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 9:59PM
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I am impressed with your setup. I think the effort that you put into soil prep has paid off. I have some thoughts about the loss of your Bluecrop cultivars over winter. We have high clay soil here in Madison, which is not ideal for blueberries, but it does retain moisture well. Usually we have some good soaking rainfall in October, November, and December, but if not, I water the shrubs by hand in the fall. I am seeing very little loss of blueberry stems over the winter, due to cold weather and wind. Some shrubs are buried in snow, and some are more exposed. It does not seem to make much difference. As long as there is adequate soil moisture, the shrubs get through winter OK, except for browsing damage from rabbits. But that is another subject entirely.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:25PM
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1) I can see that there are parallel support lines running the length of the rows. How many support posts are required for your 72' row?

2) What are you using to weight down the edges of the netting? (looks like it may be garden hose?)

3) How do you deal with the netting when harvesting? Do you remove the net entirely?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:41PM
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Isoh... There is a support "T" every 24 ft. 6 plants between each support, except a the end of the right row where I have some test plants bunched together. The wire that I use running the length is regular electric fence wire that I buy in the large rolls. I can adjust the wire tension with the eyebolts at both ends of the rows. I use a similar system, only 2 sets of wires for my raspberries.

Yes, garden hose goes around the bottom to hold the net down. In the spots where the wind pulls it up occasionally, I had to add metal fence posts or rebar laid on the net to keep it down.

I'm using the clip type clothes pins to hold the net when picking one side at a time. Put one hand on the net at the wire and lift the bottom of the net up to that hand. Clip both parts of the net and wire into the clothes pin so the net doesn't slide off to the other side. Repeat on the other side after the 1st side is back in position.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 11:02PM
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Nice setup Northernmn! How old is your planting? Those T supports don't look to be very tall. Wondering if your plants are as tall as they are going to get? Also how is your irrigation set up?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 7:01AM
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Eric, I'm going to make a better effort to give the Blues a good soaking just before the ground freezes this year. My problem has been that my rain water in my storage/collection tanks starts freezing before the ground does. I have had to empty the tanks to avoid ice damage. I'll try to save enough water in the barn to soak the Bluecrop and a couple of others that are chronic desiccation problem plants.

Konrad, I just looked at my North Blue again and I think it will be a very good choice for you. It had NO desiccation last winter, has a nice growth pattern, and has a very good crop of berries. Of my test plants, and other established plants, it seems to have the most promise.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 7:34AM
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I assume you pack the netting away for winter. How do you keep the rabbits and deer away? Northwoodswis

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 3:28PM
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Blueboy, This is their 4th year in the ground. The 1st year had good growth followed by a snowy winter. The 2nd year had very good growth also but was followed by a winter with very little snow protection and we got several nights in the 35 below zero range. I lost about 2/3 of all of the above ground growth. They have made a good comeback the last 2 summers. The "T" are set at 43" and can be raised to 48" Only 4 plants are pushing against the top of the netting now.

Most of the varieties will probably get to 48" if we don't continue to have winter problems. Blue Crop would go well past 48" but I'll keep it trimmed back if it stays. Two other varieties max out at a height of about 2 ft. Those still get 4ft wide.

The irrigation system is still a work in progress. It will be a gravity system from two 275 gallon water totes that are about 3 ft above the ground and also up hill from the Blues. Rain gutters on the barn fill the totes. Six 55 gallon drums hold extra back up water. This land is some recreational land that I have. It's 2 miles from the house and there is no well there. I use lots of mulch to stop evaporation and no weeds to pull moisture either.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 3:33PM
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    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 4:11PM
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Northwoodswis, The net just went on 5 days ago when I saw a catbird taking berries that were mostly white with only a hint of blue. The "T" s and wires stay up year round but I do back off the tension on the wires when the net isn't up. If I don't the end 2X4s will start to bend under the pressure.
The nets comes off as soon as the berries are done. They are rolled up on big tubes.

Deer and rabbits... There are alternating 7 ft and 9 ft fence posts around the garden. There is a 4 ft high chicken wire fence that is trenched in about 2" at the bottom. A rabbit could dig under in the summer, but they aren't around in the summer. In the winter, when they show up, the ground is frozen and the can't dig under.

Above the 4 ft fence there are 2 strands of white tape at the 5 ft and 6 ft levels. The reason that every other post is 9 ft is in case I get some determined deer. I can add another strand at the 9 ft level. So far this hasn't been an issue. However, I have had to repair the chicken wire 4 times because of deer trying to push their way through it or just running into it. Twice the fence was pushed so hard that you could see the impression of a deer's head in the bent chicken wire. I think they are finally realizing that doesn't work. This fall, I will be replacing the elastic tape with plastic bailing twine. Installed at 5 ft, 6 ft, 7 ft and maybe 8.5 ft.

I have no squirrels that come close to the garden. I have had to shoot 2 woodchucks that dug under the fence.

Her is a picture looking the other way. 52 ft of Boyne raspberries are on the left side of the picture. You can see the entry gate at the top right of the picture. That double gate is 6 ft high.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 9:47PM
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