Planting wild huckleberries from forest into yard

tristateMay 5, 2008

(I post alot but man do I love this forum!)

My 84 year old grandma has been picking wild huckleberries for longer than I can remember. She goes deep into tick infested woods for hours picking plastic containers full of berries. It's funny- she's got "her" bushes which she knows give good berries and which she won't show to anyone outside the family and which she won't visit if she thinks someone has followed her into the woods. Only 2 years ago when we met with a naturalist at Minnewaska did we learn they were hucklerries and not blueberries. She's getting older and has been diagnosed w/parkinsons. i want to make it easier for her by bringing the berries onto the property where she can get to them. she told me she tried once to transplant a small bush but it refused to grow. i would like to know if anyone knows anything about how to get these wild ones to grow. Are they like peonies which won't thrive if they're moved? Do I start with seedings? seeds? what's very important is that i don't want to buy a bush from hd or a nursery. i want the real wild version.


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jayco(5b NY)

Interesting question. I am no expert in huckleberry cultivation, but I do know that they like moist, acidic soil with a lot of organic matter and dead wood -- the exact type of conditions you find in an undisturbed forest area. I think you'd have a lot of trouble "transplanting" something used to those conditions into your typical back yard. Also, I imagine those bushes could be very old, and it would be impossible (and maybe illegal) to dig them up.

Huckleberries aren't very commonly sold for cultivation in our area, and I think they are rather hard to grow. So even if you were willing to buy a plant, it might be something of a project. Does HD even sell them?

Maybe your grandmother could show you where her special bushes are, and you could pick them for her. (Or, if you don't want to, I will!)

It's also worth considering that quite possibly a large part of her pleasure in the berries has to do precisely with going into the deep forest and picking them. I also love to pick wild berries, and I find it much more gratifying than going to a farm and picking off cultivated plants. Perhaps having her special spot in the forest and being out in nature is the true pleasure?

Anyway, I hope someone else more knowledgeable than I comes along with more optimistic advice.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 9:00AM
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i posted the question on the fruit forum also and am hoping someone has advice. as for the pleasure of picking the berries- i'm there whenever i can catch her! she's a sneaky little thing, wandering out of the house at 5 am even if we have a prearranged date and telling me "I didn't want to wake you" or "The Russians were coming so I had to beat them to the bushes" (the local bungalow colony is Russian:). and i know while she'd prefer going out by herself, she's told me she can't. in the end, she'd rather have the berries closer than none at all. I'll see what fruit forum says and may try talking to the naturalists/botanists at cornell or minnewaska to find out if they have advice. (and no fear of illegal action since the bushes are on our uncultivated land- we've left over an acre where there's barely a path).
thanks though. and if we do make a go of it, maybe i will post a berry picking invite. until then, the secret of the berry bushes is safe with grandma!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 11:48AM
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jayco(5b NY)

Your grandmother sounds like a great woman -- I wish you have good luck with growing her some berries!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 12:58PM
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The secret to transplanting them is getting a good chunk of dirt around the roots. It may be a bit late in the season this year - they'd do better if moved when dormant. Maybe if you dug around a couple of the smaller bushes but didn't dig them up, they'd form a more compact root system so they could be moved either this fall or in spring.
OTOH how about just planting a couple of blueberries which are available in pots at most nurseries. But be aware that they too like acid, moist soils. If you're in the Minnewaska area, the soils are naturally acid.
I have some setigera roses that came from a roadside there.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 8:18PM
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You might want to talk to the folks at that Native Nursery on Upper Cherrytown Road. Sounds like you are nearby...

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 1:56PM
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Lee Reich is from New Paltz and has written books on growing fruit. He's the local expert. I'm sure you can find him in the phone book, online, or through the Woodstock Times where he writes a gardening column. Good luck. Your grandma is lucky to have you.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2008 at 8:53PM
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forest_gardener(zone 9 CA)

I hope it is not too late to get back to you. I have read that cuttings are the most reliable way to propagate them. You can expect up to 100% from hardwood cuttings taken from November to April. I would be happy to try to root cuttings for you in my greenhouse under mist if you would like to send me some cutting wood.

I am so glad you aren't going to let the knowledge of your grandmother be lost!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 10:09PM
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Transplanting huckleberries from the wild to the garden can be difficult and damaging to the colony of bushes.Huckleberries have a horizontal root system which are very difficult to dig up with out killing,also what one might think is a baby bush maybe a plant coming from the root system of another.Digging it up may result in killing an old growth bush near by and all the small bushes attached to the root system,plus other roots that may be horizontally though the the area of the dig up. I recommend starting from seed of the wildberry so we can preserve them for our future generations and wildlife.I enjoy going to the woods and collecting red and purple huckleberries,i am also secretive when it comes to letting others know were the bushes are like your grandmother,she is a very wise woman and respects the plants as i do.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 1:12PM
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I would like to know if anybody is really successful at propagating Vaccinum Deliciosum. I have been working at this for the last several years and starting to feel comfortable about succeeding. However it looks like it will be at least 5 to 10 years before considering a harvest. They have proved to extremely delicate. Thanks

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 4:59PM
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