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blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Posted by dftkarin western MA zone 5 (My Page) on
Sat, Jan 14, 06 at 13:03

Hi!
I live in western Mass and have a 7 year old child who loves blue berries and rasberries and I would like to try to grow some in our tiny yard so he can enjoy snacking on them. I'm a complete beginner at growing berries and I was looking through a Gurney's catalog at their offerings. Are they a reliable place to buy things? I would like to get one or two bushes of the easiest and most reliable blueberrise and rasberries for my zone/area. Any suggestions, tips, warnings or leads would be so appreciated!! I realize that if I plant canes this spring I may not have berries until '07, right? Can I grow one bush each of two different types of rasberries? One with fruit in summer and one in fall? Or do I need two types of the same kind so they polinate each other? Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I have a couple of rows of blueberry and raspberry/black raspberry/blackberry bushes. Assuming you have enough room for a few plants that will fill out to be 4 or more feet across, you can definitely grow berries in your area. Raspberry canes can be held back with wire or fencing to take up less space (think long, narrow row), but the blueberries need to fill out to perform best.

Pretty much any variety you find in a catalog will do fine in your zone. Blueberries won't bloom for a couple of years, but you might get some raspberries later this season on a fall-bearing raspberry, although it is better to let the plants put their energy into growth, not fruit. Look for virus-free raspberries, or else your plants will eventually wilt and have crumbly fruit.

You can grow a summer-bearing raspberry and a fall-bearing plant together; pollination will not be a problem. Be advised that Japanese beetles like raspberry leaves.

I bought my plants from Miller Nurseries. I don't much care for the quality of plants from Gurney.

http://www.millernurseries.com/

But, if you are only going to buy three or four plants and you want personalized service, I suggest you go to a nursery in South Deerfield, called Nourse Farms. They specialize in berries and can ensure you get fresh, top quality plants that meet your exact needs, for example thornless blackberries, which are better for youngsters. Their link is below.

narcnh

p.s. You should also consider planting a few strawberry plants below the bushes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nourse Farms


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I second the recommendation for Nourse. And I must add a strong endorsement for blueberries! Highbush blues are gorgeous plants year-round. Their bark and structure in winter is fantastic, spring flowers, summer fruit, glorious autumn foliage. I love these plants.

Two cautionary notes: Winter moths devour these plants in spring, so if these pests reach western MA, beware. :( Other concern is birds. If you want any berries to eat, you will probably have to net your plants. But... a bird got caught in one of our nets last year. It lived, but it was frightening for all of us.

Good luck!


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

To mayalena's point, blueberry bushes are beautiful year-round. And the birds will absolutely do a number on the berries (not so much on the raspberries), so netting might be necessary, depending on how much you want to be able to harvest.

I planted a row of 24 or so raspberry varieties behind my perennial garden and behind that a row of 16 blueberry bushes of several varieties. Behind that is a pre-existing row of giant honeysuckle shrubs with a couple of ancient blueberry bushes on the end that were here, when I bought the place. Strawberries are planted in the rows between all the blueberry and raspberry plants. Last summer was the second year in the ground for most of the berry bushes. One blueberry bush and several of the raspberry bushes set some fruit. I expect this summer will be a big year for berries around here.

narcnh


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

This info may be out of date, it's what I learned before planting blueberries about 10 years ago. I believe that you should plant 2 varieties that bloom near the same time - ie 2 early varieties, 2 mid-season, and/or 2 late, depending on how much room you have, but don't try 1 of each season, that won't work. An early variety won't pollinate a late variety, nor the other way around.

I also read that you should remove the flowers for the first 2 years, to prevent fruit production and strengthen the bushes. I don't know if this advice is still standard.

And, there's a pretty wide variation in size of different cultivars. If you're really short on space you might consider low bush varieties - the "wild" blueberries. I like them as much as the highbush ones.

I second (third, actually) the advice to find a local source of plants, especially if they are knowlegeable and even more especially if they are selling locally produced stock. Some of mine came from my district's extension service plant sale, and although those are often very small plants, they catch up quickly.

So that's my last point - Bigger isn't better when buying blueberry stock.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

  • Posted by fbot Z5-Central MA (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 15, 06 at 12:04

Hi diggingthedirt,
Question regarding your advice on not buying one blueberry bush from each season. I had planned on also planting blueberries this year and am finding that all the catalogs sell their blueberry collections as one of each season. Anyone know why that is so if they will not cross-polinate well?


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Interesting, no one at the local nursery or from Miller ever mentioned the need to cross-pollinate. And, as fbot pointed out, most of the catalogs offer mixed collections, of one plant from each season, even Nourse, who are probably THE experts on berries. In searching on the Net some sites do make reference to some varieties producing more fruit, when cross-pollinated, but apparently it does not apply to all varieties. I have enough plants of enough varieties that I will probably not be a good data point for assessing this issue, although the two ancient plants that were already in the garden produce like gangbusters, and they appear to be identical and produce at the same time. But, who knows how many other bushes are nearby, since this is an agricultural area? Definitely something worth discussing with a nurseryman.

The link below is to the UNH Cooperative Extension website on blueberry cultivation.

Here is a link that might be useful: UNH CE - Blueberries


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

  • Posted by claire z6b MA Coastal (My Page) on
    Sun, Jan 15, 06 at 16:51

The Nourse Farms Planting and Culturing Guide says:

Special Considerations-Cross Pollination
It is best to plant at least 2 blueberry varieties for good cross-pollination. Cross pollination leads to bigger berries and more of them. Any combination of varieties will work.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nourse Farms Planting Guide


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

My main source of info when I was first looking into blueberries was the UMass Cooperative Extension's Small Fruit Culture handbook, and I just pulled it from the shelf, where it's been gathering dust for years.

It states that "many varieties of blueberry are nearly self-unfruitful under some conditions, so it is best to plant at least two varieties". Maybe the 3-variety collections work because they don't include the earliest or latest varieties; so the one that blooms in the middle overlaps with both earlier and later varieties.

After all the planning I did, my highbush blueberry patch has been turned into a shade garden by a neighbor's quick-growing maple, and the berries are pretty scarce. I still love these plants, though, and will eventually find another area for a patch.

I'd definitely recommend reading as much as you can on the planting and tending of berries, they're not difficult but they DO have certain needs that are different from other shrubs. Plenty of time before we'll be planting, I think.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

  • Posted by fbot Z5-Central MA (My Page) on
    Mon, Jan 16, 06 at 8:43

Just to clarify too -- do raspberies HAVE to be staked? Or can they do fine without support?


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I purchased several blueberry bushes from New England Wildflower Society in Framingham 2 or 3 years ago. They also have a location in western Massachusetts called Nasami Farm in Whately MA. Depending on the size you want and how sunny/shady your site is they offered varieties that would work for different site conditions. The plants were already in pots so you would get a jump on them. The plants are doing well and I was happy with the quality.

Here is a link that might be useful: NEWFS - Nasami Farm (Western Mass)


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

fbot,

raspberries do not have to be staked; the canes are pretty strong. They will, however bend over all the way to the ground. A mature plant will easily span six feet from tip to tip. You can sort of tuck them in with wire if you need to conserve space, but don't cramp them or you'll have all kinds of fungus issues.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I am new to growing berries. I have only had my house/yard for a year now. Sams Club is selling 4-packs of Blackberry (Ebony King), Blueberry (Jersey), Raspberry (Latham Red) and Grape (Niagara) plants for $14. I bought two of these 'kits' of plants. I have about 23 feet along sun-facing stockade fence that I have begun digging along about 2 to 2.5ft out into the yard. Not 2" deep from the sod I encounter numerous and sometimes enormous limestone rocks and saturated clay. I spent about 6 hours today moving sod, shoveling out rocks and heaps of clay that I relocated elsewhere. I dug down about a spade of a shovel's depth all along the fence and filled in the trench deficit with garden compost. Will this be sufficient for 8 plants?

I intend to put the grapes on the farthest side away from the house, the blueberries closest to the house and the raspberries and blackberries in the middle. Is this a good placement? Will polliniation be ok between the same berry plants? The grapes section in the back will get the least amount of sun due the back wall of fence. How far apart should I put all these plants? Should I even-space them out? I have a very small back yard and am at the lowest spot on the street. When it rains my backyard is very soupy sometimes pooling water for a day or 2. It does drain out and my back lawn gets very hard. The grass doesn't grow all that fast for half of the back yard where the water tends to sit. Water is held very well by the clay subsurface.

I am hopeful I have the right conditions for some great berry growing. Any advice would be appreciated.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

bencjedi,
Congratulations it sounds as though you have a plan in the works and if you ask me that is half the battle. However there are a few additional things you may want to consider, firstly New England is a vast region with planting zones ranging from 3-7 we are really hindered with our answers not knowing your zone (if you need help with that let us know). I am a little concerned (and not surprised) that your soil is still saturated but might suggest that you hold off on further digging until your soil begins to dry a little more. Your grapes, blue, and black berries are most happy with acidic well draining soil. I don't want to be the barer of further bad news but this is one you need to be well aware of blueberries are extremely slow growers at best a young plant the size of yours will take 10-15 years before it reaches 3 ft. The positive side of blueberries are the shrubs have beautiful fall color as well as nice winter structure. kt


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I had sort of just jumped into this forum and posted before realizing it was for New England areas. Although I am from there (Eastern Long Island), my home for the last 10 years is in central Kentucky where I bought my house last year. This area is very rich is shales and limestones, so the soil is far from acidic. I didn't mean to intrude on this forum.. a google search brought me here as the closest match to what I was looking for.

If you don't mind answering, will the grapes, raspberries and blackberries do ok in my basic soil? What should I do to help the blueberries by increasing the acidity of their area? According to the arborday website I am both zone 6 and 7. It usually tends to be a few degrees warmer here than Lexington 16 miles to the west.

Still, any help is appreciated..


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Hi, bencjedi, and welcome to the NE forum.

I don't grow raspberries, and haven't grown any grapes except wild ones, but I do grow blueberries - more accurately, I grow blueberry bushes - mine don't get enough sun to bear well, but I like the shrubs and they do produce enough berries to keep the birds coming, so they have a nice spot in my tiny woodland garden.

There are things you can do to make your soil more acidic for the blueberries, but it's going to be an annual chore - adding aluminum sulfate to the soil surface, mulching with pine needles. If I was in a limestone area, I'd probably put blueberries in a large raised bed. I'd also check with my local conservation district and find out which varieties do well in my area; these may not be the ones being sold by national chains.

My other concern is that you've only excavated 2 1/2 feet out from your fence. This isn't enough, in my opinion. I'd leave a 2 1/2 foot swath un-tilled along the fence, then dig a trench about 5' wide and about 2' deep next to that; improve the soil in the trench, plant the berries, and mulch well.

The problem with planting along a stockade fence is that the "rain shadow" can be as big a factor as the "sun shadow" - with dry shade along the fence. Yes, you get flooding in heavy rains, but you may miss the water from the lighter rains that would normally keep your bushes happy.

Although we welcome everyone on the NE forum, I think your specific questions might be better answered on your regional forum, where people would be more familiar with your soil conditions, or on the Fruit and Orchards forum, where there are lots of threads that would be helpful to you.

Here is a link that might be useful: fruit and orchard forum


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I agree with the others pointing out that you are asking for advice without letting us know where in New England you live. There's a huge difference in growing season if you live in northern Maine than if you live in Old Lyme, CT or Martha's Vineyard.

The grapes are vines and grow in a fundamentally different fashion from the others (although blackberry canes can be very willowy). All those fruits, including the grapes, will grow best with a full day of sun. The less sun they get, the smaller and less sweet the yields will be.

You will need to dig out further for the Jerseys. I respectfully beg to differ strongly regarding Jersey being a slow grower. If it's happy in its situation (& you live in southern New England, especially if you live near the coast) it will be 3-4' tall by the end of its second or third summer. Jersey is a cultivated variety of the highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum, a species that naturally grows 5-10' tall. There are also now hybrid cultivated varieties between this blueberry species (native to the Mid-Atlantic) and the "wild blueberry" of New England, Vaccinium angustifolium. THAT is a short blueberry, so the new hybrids involving it (such as Tophat, Northblue, and Northsky) never get very tall.

Jersey is a much older variety and comes from a different breeding program. Jersey will easily get four to six feet tall and as wide if it's happy.

Because it will get up to six feet wide, you are going to have to dig out further from your stockade fence. If you don't you will have a frustrating experience once it gets full sized in a about three or four years.

Oh, one other thing. Jersey will pollinate itself, but with highbush blueberries you get much bigger yields (for the same effort) if you make sure to plant two cultivars that bloom at the same time. Jersey is a late season cultivar, so if you plant another late season, or mid-season, highbush variety (& there are a lot of those, my personal favorite is Berkeley, but there are at least five or six you can find in garden centers and also in mail order catalogs that should work for you) you will have much bigger yields than if you only plant two Jerseys.


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Oops!

I didn't realize you lived in Kentucky!

The grapes, blackberries, and raspberries will probably be okay with your soil's akalinity (provided it isn't much higher than maybe 7.3 or 7.5, you should get a soil test and let the lab know what you intend to grow in the soil for a more accurate assessment), but the blueberries will sulk.

Blueberries require acidic soil and they can be fussy about that. Get your soil tested so you know what its pH level naturally is, and then you can figure out how to add sulfur (probably ground sulfur will be best) to get it down into the 5.5-6.0 range.

And now that I know you live in KY, I stand the more strongly beside what I said about Jersey's growth rate when it's happy. If the soil's right and it gets enough water (make sure you mulch well!!) they will be 4' tall in two years.

Blueberries aren't as able to extract water from the soil as a lot of plants are, so you will need to make sure they get the water they need. Adding a lot of peat moss will help a great deal with that. The peat's naturally acidic, so it helps lower pH, and it holds water well after rain. Make sure you add a thick layer of an organic mulch, too. All of that will help a lot with your blueberries.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I also recommend Nourse Farms. I bought 5 bareroot raspberry plants/canes of 'Caroline' about 5 years ago, an everbearing red raspberry. The main season should be fall if you cut all the canes to the ground in the spring. I cut them to about a foot every spring and they start fruiting in July and don't stop until a hard frost. I actually get sick of raspberries by October. We do have a copper piping system set up for them-4 upside down U shaped sections, connected with copper wiring to hold up the stems. We leave the lower fruit for the 2 terriers and the upper ones for us. The birds don't bother them, probably b/c nearby are 6 blueberry bushes that they love more.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Great photo, Monique!


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Heritage is a widely available, excellent "everbearing" red raspberry, too. I grew it in the backyard when I lived with my parents. It dependably bore in high summer and then again after Labor Day into October. We had to cover both the blueberries AND the raspberries, but we lived in an agricultural area north of Philadelphia where there were loads of robins, starlings, and also mockingbirds and catbirds - all of which are fruit fiends!


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. I am getting much more attention here than in the Ohio Valley section of the site, so I am glad I came here first to talk with the experts.

I don't have much backyard at all to really do 5' inside the fence. I did go out and dig a bit wider, relocating the blueberry 'twig' I had planted a couple weeks ago (a bit prematurely, as it killed off the couple leaves the plant did have). I went out late afternoon and purchased pine mulch for these blueberries as I could not find aluminum sulfate at Wal-Mart, Lowes or Tractor Supply. You'd think with this area being as Limey as it is, that someone would sell this stuff to increase acidity. I settled on pine mulch as mentioned and mixed organic humus + mulch, blackforest mulch and this pine mulch on top. I sort of built up a bed, so the plant is a few inches higher than it was before, so I hope that gives it a better chance to trip on the acid. lol
I think I should get one more blueberry, perhaps the Berkeley if I can find one to add next to the two Jerseys. Thanks for that suggestion. I want to increase my chances I will have success in this less-than-ideal situation.

I realize I should forge out farther from the fence, but digging even a spade shovel's-length deep is like trying to scoop concrete with a plastic spoon. It litterally takes me 30 minutes of maneuving the shovel around rocks and this lock-tight clay to dig out a 2-foot section that is 8" more wide. I figure I may dig out farther a bit at a time. Since my house was the last constructed on this side of the street all the utilities went nuts criss-crossing power, phone and cable-TV coax under my yard. I have to be very careful when I dig. I had several accidents on Labor Day weekend last fall when I constructed my fence, despite all the utilities spraying their marks on my yard. Where the blueberries are planted I am super close to a bundle of these different cables.

I plan to interleave strawberries to the right of the blueberries where the raspberries and blackberries will go. I don't think they will like the acidity modification I am attempting with the blueberries, so they'll stay out of their territory.

I quickly posted a bunch of my pictures to help illustrate my yard. They are not too great as it was nearly past dusk. Let me know what you think.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ben's latest pictures


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Hope you don't think we're being critical, we'd just like to see you succeed as a new gardener. Nothing inspires people to get into gardening like having success with their early attempts, and nothing is more discouraging than early failures - I know because I had my share of those.

Here's what I suggest - any future digging should be well away from the fence. You can leave what you've done, but plan to move the plants into a new position either in the fall or next spring. In preparation, you can start layering organic material in a swath - this is called the lasagne method and it works really well in areas where digging is difficult. You can search on garden web for more info about this system - just about everyone loves it and writes about their methods. The thick mulch of "stuff" - fresh (free) manure, used coffee grounds, newspapers, grass clippings, dry leaves, etc, will slowly break down, enriching the soil around your rocks and encouraging earthworms to loosen the soil for you. If you start creating this now, by next spring you'll have wonderful soil that will be much easier to dig.

Second, get a good pitchfork - much better for digging in rocky soil than a shovel or spade. Alternatively, recognize that this is a big project, and rent a tiller for a day; most Home Depots rent them. These are noisy and cumbersome, but for a new garden they're perfect. Tell the rental people about your soil, they'll be able to tell you which tiller to get.

Third - check out some design books from your library. It sounds like you are really just interested in berries, and might think you don't need to know about garden design, but if you read a bit you'll find that even a small yard works much better with a nice wide planting bed than with a narrow one around the edges. The difference in the size of your lawn will not be noticeable, but a wide bed will give the illusion of more space. (Believe me, it works.)

DtD


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

A couple of questions. First, any specific recommendations on a good digging fork? I have a great one I got at a garage sale about ten years ago, but it is ready to bite the dust. My attempts to replace it with something purchased new have been disastrous. Pretty much every place claims that heavy digging. specifically rock prying, with a fork is tool abuse. But it *works*.

Secondly, any opinions on growing the hardier blueberries like Northsky in a pot? This honestly hadn't occurred to me, but is probably the best solution to my pH problems. Would I be able to leave them out all year? I could bring them into the garage, but don't really have room.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

bencjedi,
The television show Garden Smart (PBS Create) just did a good piece on blueberries you might want to check and see if you get it in your area. One critical point is pruning young blueberry plants so that you are encouraging growth not berries. But to be honest I would suggest not pruning your little stick (which I am guessing is at best a one year old) until next late winter. I agree with dtd a lasagna bed would be a good solution to your soil. Have fun with it this summer and keep an eye on how many hours of full sun different spots in your yard get. Spending time this year coming up with a good bed design will make all the difference. Hope your not feeling too overwhelmed take it slow and have fun with it. kt


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

For those of you that don't have acid soil, and particularly Ben with his clay and rocks, making a raised bed might be the solution. Making a soil mix similar to what works for rhododendrons, though perhaps a bit less free-draining, with compost, some sand, and shredded bark mulch might make your blueberries happier than trying to change the pH of the soil you have. Just build up your edges with a low rock or brick or wood wall (not cinderblock or other concrete product which is basic) or even allow the edges to just slope down. (Just don't let the soil rest against your fence.) It might be cheapest to get the compost and composted bark by the truckload - either delivered into your driveway or picked up yourself if you own a pickup. I can move quite a bit of material relatively easily in my garden cart.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

If you don't have the room for a bush that will be four to six feet wide in a few years you probably need to investigate something like Tophat, Northblue, or Northsky. Those still provide delicious blueberries, but the plants are a lot smaller. I agree that your space is lacking. I suspect you will find the blackberries and raspberries (& the grapes if you are up to dealing with the vines, they can be vigorous) a more satisfying growing experience since they can be sucessfully grown in a way that takes up less room.

If you are that close to utility cables can you learn more about their exact locations? In Massachusetts it can be illegal to dig without learning first where the cables are laid.

When I lived with my parents in their place north of Philadelphia the house was built on a scooped out hill. No topsoil to speak of - all subsoil and then just a spade's depth down you'd start hitting the parent rock, which was some kind of sandstone. I never went out to plant anything using just the shovel. I always brought the pickaxe with me, too. Sooner or later (usually sooner) I'd be whacking away with the pick at the fissures in the stone to split it up and make room for a planting hole.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I'll look for that PBS show. I'm very interested in this stuff. I was born into a produce-growing family on LI. We mostly grew potatoes, but did have some raspberries. I never took the time to really notice how my uncles and father took care of them. I used to spend hours plucking berries to sell though. MANY fell into my mouth. :)

I just don't have blueberries to deal with, but raspberries, blackberries, strawberies and grapes to attend to along this fence. I was at Sams Club yesterday and they are flat-out of those 4-plant berry plant packs. I guess they were a steal at $14. I have also spent alot of money in compost and mulch at Wal-Mart already. I did some research and looks like this place would fit the bill in my area for cheap 'filler':
http://www.conrobinson.com/
I have a full bed Toyota pickup, so I think I will buy a large tarp this weekend, swing into this place and load up two cubic feet.
I think I should primarily go with the compost courtesy of the horsies out here.

I spent another 3 hours after work tonight digging out yet more clay and rocks and encountered a 2-foot by 8-inch iron shield right smack in the middle along the fence line. I spent probably over an hour prying and digging at it, even ripping a crack in my cast iron shovel blade. Underneath I encountered a bundle of coax cables that I inadvertingly knicked, however this must be pre-existing cable. It's obviously dead and everyone's cable is still on. It's like digging treasure up in my yard! Not! I've dug up all sorts of 'trash' in my yard. My tomato garden on the other side of the yard had vinyl siding I pulled up last year. I turned that soil and dug deeper earlier in the month. I've been growing tomatoes for years (half dozen years at apartments in pots). I think that garden could use some horsie compost as well to raise it up. All the clay and rock removal is noticeably requiring LOTS of filler material.. The area under my deck is also becomming full and tougher to deposit a shovel of clay and rocks under.

I like the raised bed idea. I am halfway done digging another 8" to 10" or so out from my last dig. It's like the home stretch, but as I move south down the fence it gets even rockier and harder to dig. I will continue to dig as deep as I can stand and fill in with the compost this weekend.As I pull out rocks, I line them along the fence to deter grass trying to grow under from the other side. It also kind of looks a bit land-scapey.

Thanks for all the ideas and suggestions. I do very much appreciate all of them


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Oh, good, I was really afraid we'd scared you off!

It's great that you have horses nearby, that's an excellent resource. Bags of compost go just so far before they break the bank, but truckloads of horse manure, if aged for awhile, will really help you. Just be careful using it in your vegetable garden, especially if the horses are bedded in hay, because the weed seeds can be a big problem if the manure isn't well aged.

Thanks for keeping us posted, and good luck with your project.

Although the berries at Sam's Club are inexpensive, you may find an equally good deal at your extension service, and they're liable to sell regionally-appropriate varieties.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

So it rained pretty hard this morning. After work I put the shovel to the ground and was more easily being able to pry out boulders and large chunks of clay. I noticed I started going wider on my bed as I moved away from the house. It is 2.5 feet at the house and just a little over 3 feet wide near the back fence. I am digging down a foot to a foot and a half, so on average I will have hauled away over 60 cubic feet of clay and rocks (by hand). My neighbor that works construction agreed a rotor tiller would be anialated by our 'soil (I mean block of clay with rocks). I have everything dug, but it got too dark tonight to finish scooping out all the loose clay I made to sling under the patio deck. I've built quite a mountain. I know where the cables generally are because I had the electric, water and cable companies come out before last Labor Day weekend when I errected my fence. I remembered where the markings were and carefully avoided the live cable coax line that is allowing me to get on this website to type you this message right now. ;)
That cable is shallow to the ground and there's not anything I can do with it, but avoid it.

Nonetheless.. some more scooping and I can fill it in. I am going to take an extended lunch tomorrow to visit that soil place and get a truckbed of compost. I think that would be the best strategy. I will fill it my war zone trench and try to raise the bed at least another foot. This is only the start to the soil conditioning, but I think it is better than not having done any digging at all. I should sell that clay I have been digging up. It's just like what is used for commercial pottery.

Soon the raspberry, blackberry, strawberries and remaining grape plant will have their home. :)


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

If the soil is that full of clay you will indeed want to make sure that you have generously sized planting beds (including raising them). If you make just a small planting hole with wonderful drainage, but the rest of the area is that serious clay, it's possible for the planting area to end up with a flooding problem.

Serious clay soils are much slower about letting water percolate through them because clay soils are made of very small rock particles, with very small spaces between them. These small spaces impede the flow of water into the ground water. That's both a good thing (the soils once wet take a long time to get dry again) and a bad thing. Amending those soils with organic matter (of all kinds, frankly) is the best thing you can do to improve the soil's ability to grow plants. As they rot the organic materials will create humus, a complex melange of variously sized carbon polymers that act as a glue in soils. In sandy soils they hold water (sandy soils have the opposite problem from yours, they wet easily and dry just as easily), but in clay soils they make the soil particles clump together, so you get bigger spaces between them and that dramatically improves the overall drainage in your garden.

Since you are just starting you don't really have the time to improve the planting beds in a major, major way, but you do have the ability to create raised beds, and that will give you a jump start on growing your fruit (or whatever else you want to put there).


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I integrated a large amount of compost and mulch with clay I chipped from the sides to widen further yesteray evening. I think I have a very good mix, so hopefully I will avoid the bathtub effect. I did clay layer, compost layer, stab and twist with shovel, repeat and then added the mulch on top. The bed is definitely rasied.. at least 8" so the few plants I had already planted I boosted up several inches. I'm sure I have improved the drainage ability on that side of the yard.

I did take a soil science course at the university and these concepts of porosity, permeability and flow are coming back to me now.

Now I am ready to plant the rest of the berries. It's so exciting! :)


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

:-)

Have a good season!


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RE: (Oh, just a word of advice)

If you have Japanese Beetles in your area don't panic when they descend on your grapes, raspberries, and blackberries. The adults love all three, but especially the grapes, so gird yourself.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I think I read something about also planting garlic around plants that Japanese Beetles love. Any truth to this? The other plant pack I bought at Sams Club consisted of the strawberries, aspagus, shallots and garlic. The last 3 things I still need to find a place to plant. If the garlic wards off beetles (and vampires) I'll definitely sneak them into my long bed.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I wouldn't count on it.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Finally done with the bed!

Pine Mulch
2 Blueberry plants

Hardwood mulch
Everbearing Strawberries between each type
2 Raspberry plants
2 Blackberry plants
2 grape plants







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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Ben, that's an enormous amount of work! Wow. I hope you hang around and update us on it. I too worry about that fence blocking sun and rain, but am crossing my fingers for you. :)


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

  • Posted by claire z6b MA Coastal (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 2, 07 at 20:28

I've been following your posts here and in the Soils forum and you've certainly earned your berry patch.

I hope your dog doesn't dig up all your hard work.

Claire


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Thanks again for the suggestions and encouragement. I am still sore from all that soil ammending last week. I don't have to worry about my pup too much getting inside the bed.. he's more excited when he snags a clump of the compost from the veggie garden on the other side and runs away to keep it from me. I gotta watch that dog!

So the forecast calls for 80 degree weather tomorrow and then Wednesday through the weekend down to the 50's and 40s with lows in the high 20s at night. How do I protect the greens that are exposed from freezing? The original blueberry plant just started leafing again after the last couple cold days a couple weeks ago killed them off. Should I wrap towels around the plants over night or dig them up and put in the garage til the overnight temps are above freezing again?

I intend to water this patch nearly daily as I understand all these berries need much moisture. Is it possible to re-route the drain on the backside of my house (from the roof) to collect rainwater to water the blueberries? I figure this water would be less alkaline.

Oh.. question about making soil more acidic... will adding orange peels and tangerine peels decrease PH? Is the acidic acid in the peels too? Would a type of citris mulch + coffee beans create some acidity for them?


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

The orange peels won't hurt as an addition, but for acidification they won't do diddly squat. Go to a garden center (or to a mail order nursery that sells it) and buy a small bag of ground sulfur. It's slow acting, relatively gentle as long as you don't overdo it and doesn't have to be applied constantly.

That pine tree's going to shade your bed in nothing flat.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Fortunately I have observed direction of shadow and there isn't much harm towards the raspberries and blueberries. The grapes will be stretching away for light though the blackberries may have some issue. The only reason for the tree's location is the proximity of the neighbor's balcony deck behind mine. They can see every inch of my back yard right now. It's a white pine. I'm not sure how fast it will grow.

I'll look for the ground sulfur. Thanks


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

That's what I was afraid of. About how long do you think you'll be living there?


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I like the house and it is my first, so I really don't know how long I will live here. I got a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. :)

So last weekend it was in the 80s

Since yesterday it has been freezing to below freezing with snow.

It will be cold through next Wednesday. Should I keep covering up and removing during the day or temporarily shovel these guys into bucket to sit in the house by a window til next weekend?


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

To answer that you will have to get on your knees and tell us whether the buds are opening yet or not. If they are still closed I doubt you'll have a problem leaving them alone altogether. Certainly the buckets are fine. I myself do not recommend you dig them up again. That will be more traumatic than leaving them alone in the cold ground.

Once we're beyond this cold snap they'll probably push right open. More than likely by this time next year they won't be much affected by a cold snap like this. In weather like this what damages the plant is having new growth pushed out beyond the bud stage. The new growth can be very sensitive to freezing weather, but if the buds are still mostly closed then there will be much less, if any, damage from freezing temperatures.

My guess is that within five years you're going to see the pine tree is growing too big. You will without doubt need to remove it within ten or fifteen. White pines can grow 70' tall and 30'-40' wide. The shade underneath them is strong enough to kill grass and suppress the growth of plants that want full sun, such as your berries & grapes. If you can find a conifer that has an upright growth habit, but does not get very wide, that will be a better choice for your backyard. Such conifers exist, but most of them will be a bit pricier than the white pine was.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

  • Posted by claire z6b MA Coastal (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 7, 07 at 17:30

I agree with York Rose about leaving the new plants in the ground and covering them every night. They've been stressed enough by the planting process and don't need to revisit the trauma.

I also am looking out my window at the fifty or more year old white pine that is easily 70' tall and 30-40' wide. I love the tree dearly, but I have room for it. You don't.

Claire


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Should I dig up that tree and move it 10' to the west at the very least? I planted it last fall, so hopefully it can deal with a lateral move. My yard is as big as all my neighbor's yards, except my house is so much bigger that is takes up alot of the yard.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

In your pictures, which way is west?


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

To the right (inside the fence)

I have around 5' on the outside of the fence (to the left in the picture). The backside of the fence is on the property line, so I can't put the tree outside the fence further away from the house.

Would the tree not grow well if I moved it this time of year?

The cold snap last week really hurt the blueberries and I covered them the best. The leaves turned red/brown with just a little green remaining. The raspberries survived unscathed while the grapes lost all their new fleshy vines. Hopefully it continues to warm up to give these guys a chance to bounce back.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Congratulations on the first house, Ben! :) (Is your name Ben?) ("I wonder if he means old Ben Kenobi...")

We just bought our first house too, in January... but it's a touch older than yours. To the tune of 116 years. *G* It's sort of overwhelming to contemplate starting a garden from scratch yet again.

Anyway, if I were you I would move the tree or replace it entirely with a columnar evergreen. Even if it's not *you* living there in ten years, planning ahead and picking a tree that will fit when it's full-grown is being nice to future owners. In my area it costs between $500 and $1000 to take down a full-grown tree the size your pine will be in 20 years. 8-O


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I'm with greening; replace it now while it's easy to do so and chalk it up as a learning experience. You don't want the tree to be a liability when you try to sell the place. You don't want to be dickering with a potential buyer who wants to drop your price and does so by pointing out that if they buy they're going to have to pay to have the tree removed.

Keep your stuff watered. THAT DOESN'T MEAN KEEP IT DROWNED. It means pay attention to the weather. If it gets warm and it's not raining, pay close attention to the soil. If it feels dry when you poke your finger into the bed, then water around the plants. Mulching with any plant mulch will help with that a lot if you have not yet done that. It keeps the soil moist for a much longer time than it otherwise would be, and mulches of various & sundry plant material are a natural occurence anyway. What patch of wild berries doesn't grow in a meadow where last year's dead grass is laying in a mat, slowly decomposing on top of the soil? What grove of trees doesn't have last year's leaves decomposing into the soil litter?


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

I didn't get a chance to move the tree (wife likes it where it is at, as do my neighbors). I can keep trimming it back on the west side I suppose.

Anyhow.. just thought I would check in and share a few photos of my blueberry, raspberry and blackberry plants growing in the bed I dug out for them. There's an average of 3 big worms wherever I dig in the trowel, so I think I've made a good home for my berries.

The blueberry plants get extra special attention.. I only give them rainwater collected off the house roof gutter system (our water is super hard.. calcium deposits-a-plenty). It finally rained after a month drought and I collected 50 gallons of water today. These plants also get acidic fertilizer. Ok.. now on to the pictures..


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

How many weeks have the blueberries been in active growth.

You can get another, smaller tree and put it where that one is. My guess is your wife & neighbors will still like it.


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Ben - Thanks for reporting back. It's always nice to see how projects have worked out! Your beds look great and the plants in them happy.

A few suggestions:
Put in edging between your grass and beds because if you don't, the grass will move into the wonderful soil in the beds you have created, and it's difficult to get out once established. You can cut a v shaped ditch that you renew once or twice a year; or get the heaviest duty black commercial edging and sink it to the rim so the grass hides it; or if you can find Trex type of stuff cut thin for edging. I've read that steel edging isn't kid friendly, and rocks won't do a good job of keeping the grass out.

You might also want to make your beds about a foot wider to give your blueberries enough room to grow and a place to move your strawberries to when the blueberries start to shade them. (As it is you may have to prune the back side of the blueberries when they get larger to keep them from rubbing the fence.) Widening your beds needn't require the same difficulty in digging if you follow Diggingthedirt's suggestion: "You can start layering organic material in a swath - this is called the lasagne method and it works really well in areas where digging is difficult. You can search on garden web for more info about this system - just about everyone loves it and writes about their methods. The thick mulch of "stuff" - fresh (free) manure, used coffee grounds, newspapers, grass clippings, dry leaves, etc, will slowly break down, enriching the soil around your rocks and encouraging earthworms to loosen the soil for you. If you start creating this now, by next spring you'll have wonderful soil that will be much easier to dig." You can do this right over your grass if the bottom layer is a bunch of layers of newspaper or unwaxed corrugated cardboard.

I'll add to the votes to swap out the pine tree for something that doesn't get so large so fast. Probably the most common mistake people make in planting is putting in plants without sufficient thought to how large the plant will ultimately be and then having to deal with the problems created further down the road. I figure you've got perhaps 10 years before it gets to the point that it's going to need a professional to get it out unless you have experience felling trees with a chain saw in tight quarters. I live in an area where white pine is native, and we have lots in our woods, and in the woods or as shade trees in our pasture I love them. At our previous house we had them near the house. They dropped pitch on the cars or whatever else was nearby, and dropped large branches when we had wet snow or heavy wind along with rain. In wet soils with heavy snow or rain and wind, the entire tree sometimes tips over, damaging whatever is in their path. When it's a 70 or 80 foot tree, that can be quite a bit of damage! It doesn't need to be removed this year or even next, but the longer you leave it, the more accustomed you will get to its screening affect, and the more you will miss it when you have to remove and replace it. (And realisically, it isn't a question of whether you will need to remove it, just a question of when and how expensive it will be; pruning the west side won't solve your problem.) Some research here on the conifers forum or the trees forum or at the American Conifer Society's website may give you some ideas more realisically sized for your site. Are you looking for year-round screening or just during warm weather? That will help determine whether you get a deciduous or evergreen replacement. You may be able to plant a replacement now several feet away, and not remove the white pine for a couple of years to let the replacement gain some size.

Good luck and congratulations on a great start to your gardening. (Warning - it can be addictive!)


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

  • Posted by claire z6b MA Coastal (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 4, 07 at 15:51

I looked into the future and found a photo of you next to your pine in a few years - OK, it's not next year or the year after, but you get the idea.

Claire

Here is a link that might be useful: Mature white pine


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

  • Posted by claire z6b MA Coastal (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 4, 07 at 16:06

Or perhaps you prefer the photo of your future yard after you took down the fence.

Claire


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Ben, good to "see" you again! Like others have mentioned, it's always great to see updates, especially with photos. :)


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RE: blueberries and rasberries in tiny yard??

Ben,
I hear you that you and your neighbor are happy with your white pine, but in good conscience I must join the majority of voices that are advising you to move this now rather than later. To be frank not only will this tree quickly outgrow your space but it will never (even with annual candle shearing) be the dense screen you are imagining. By the time you realize this you will have wasted five years of growth on a tree that can be everything you want it to be. How am I so sure....been there done that...and now after I pay someone to remove the white pine and grind the stump I am left with a great big open door to my neighbors. Keep in mind by design the White Pine is a soft, open, airy, tree is that what you want?? kt


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