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Blueberry Bog Garden

Posted by DEAP z8 WA (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 19, 04 at 3:43

I have designed a blueberry and cranberry bog garden in my half acre Permaculture demonstration site. It is located in the lowest part of our garden, adjacent to our annual vegetable beds and nursery. The location recieves about half sun and is on a total of 10 acres in a second growth evergreen forest.
I have collected a load of 'forest topsoil' to till into the bog garden. This topsoil is acidic and rich in hummus. I am not sure if this is what I want to use, but I know that blueberries like acidic soils.

What would be best to ammend a silty loam that recieves a good deal of Pacific Northwest rains in the winter? How will I create this bog garden to suit the blueberries and cranberries? How will I hold water and create acidity?

Hope y'all can help.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Blueberry Bog Garden

Did you get enough topsoil to cover 10 acres of bog?!?! And it is rich in hummus? Is that your own original recipie? I like to use lots of chickpeas and garlic in my hummus. I don't put it in my soil though... :)

"What would be best to ammend a silty loam that recieves a good deal of Pacific Northwest rains in the winter?"

Hmm... sawdust? Pine needles?

"How will I create this bog garden to suit the blueberries and cranberries?"

I have never tried these crops, but I have read that others buried firewood or tree trunks, then planted on them to mimic trees rotting in a marsh.

"How will I hold water and create acidity?"

Again, the burying of trees or firewood will act as a sponge below the plants. When buried, the decay is slow enough that it won't rob your plants of too much nitrogen. Make lots of swales to store water in the ground, and if you have a few garden beds that need better drained soil, you can direct a swale down to the low area.
You could try sulpher to keep the ph down, but that is not a permanent solution.

Anyone else have ideas?
Eric in Japan.

RE: Blueberry Bog Garden

All of Erik's ideas would work great....peat moss is a great source of acidity, but it's sustainability is questionable

Also, blues and crans (Vaccinium spp) like moist soil, but they don't want to be underwater in winter...if its a boggy site already, you can plant them on mounds to raise the crown above sog level.


RE: Blueberry Bog Garden

I read the thread with interest, but don't have too much to add. I'm growing some blues on a silty-base soil -- not boggy, though. Added peat moss, compost, and original soil back into the holes -- then sawdust above the root zone (and have added more each spring, increasing the circle). I use a bit of elemental sulphur to keep acidity down to around 5.0 (I test it with a pH meter). My soil in this part of my gardens gets too naturally dry in summer, so I use soaker hoses to really water deeply.

One question for all reading this: two of my blueberry plants are showing marked potassium deficiency -- the classic red (coppery or purplish) leaves. Anything "organic" that you are finding to be a good, quick potassium "hit"? Thanks.


RE: Blueberry Bog Garden

I haven't looked at this Forum in ages, and find some interesting questions. Re: the blueberries and your soil pH. I am presently growing the blueberry named Sunshine Blue. It is a dandy with the following is self fertile so you do not need to grow different varieties for fertilization. Bears a very heavy crop of sweet, large berries. Grows happily in a drier, sandy soil plus it does not need a low pH. Should also be evergreen in your area. It is a shorter growing plant and appears to be somwhat stoloniferous. The catalogs show it as a dwarf, which it isn't. It tops off at about 4-5'. Some firm in your area must sell it and frankly this is where I would spend the dollars rather than fighting soil ammendments. Park Seeds is one national supplier of Sunshine Blue.

For your cranberry bog....have you considered contacting a company that installs ponds and uses the dried clays to seal the pond bottoms? If some of this clay were worked into your sandy soil, plus peat moss (sorry guys, it is still a great horticultural product for certain situations) you would probably have the ideal bog situation. Cranberries grow best in depressed areas in natural clay banks where vegetation has decomposed over time and turned to peat moss.

RE: Blueberry Bog Garden

This is kind of late in this forum, but for what it's worth, when I was getting red leaves on my blueberries, I pulled the fir needle mulch back sprinkled the soil with about 1/2 cup of Epsom Salts. Very good results.


RE: Blueberry Bog Garden

I'm extremely interested in your little project. From what I've been reading it's not just a question of creating acidic conditions but also low oxygen conditions in the water. The short version: this causes certain bacteria to utilise nitrate as an electron acceptor in their metabolic processes to produce a nutrient deficient wetland. I'm not sure if that's important to growing blueberries but it might be. Wetlands that have a high oxygen content turn into fens - a wetland which has either neutral or slightly alkaline conditions.

For the record: I'm extremely interested in bog iron. It forms as a renewable source of iron under acidic reducing conditions and was the main source of iron for the Vikings in the middle ages and was even the main source of iron in the early days of the USA.

According to the Wikipedia page on bogs, cranberries, huckleberries, cloud berries and lingonberries all do well in the same conditions. I would be very interested in knowing what herbs and vegetables you might be trying around the pine trees as well. The main problem with pine forest is that they shut out the light and moisture from the lower levels. If your aiming at also being able to harvest the wood periodically, you can get around that by trimming the lower branches.

And finally: are you going to tap the pine trees to make turpentine? Just curious, that's all. Creating a bog a a mixed food / materials producer strikes me as a fairly interesting permaculture design project.

Fred Bear

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