Doing the berry shuffle

It’s has always been our dream to grow our own blueberries. Besides being delicious, they pack a punch in nutrients. In fact, all berries are good for my condition, and the kids love foraging them, hence the drive to grow many. Our climate is quite good for blueberries, if can keep them watered through the dry summer, which we’re OK at doing. But our challenge is getting the soil acid enough for them. On the other hand, our strawberries do quite well – well, in places, too well! So it was time to apply a bit of feedback and self-regulation.

As I’ve mentioned, our challenge with blueberries is to get the soil acid enough. We’ve done it all in raised beds, and we have tried the organic sulphur, the chook manure, the pine needles, the pine bark – all the natural approaches we could find out about. But below that hard clay layer is a very thick limestone base, so even though we get the pH to drop 2 or 3 points, within a month or two it starts to climb again. Yes I know wicking beds may be the answer, but a) that’s a massive project and b) you have to keep on top of them with the water management. I’m also a bit concerned about what happens below the surface (stagnation, nutrient depletion) and the whole nutrient cycle. Maybe one day… But for now, the blueberry beds weren’t working.

Berries - Blueberries not surviving

Blueberries – not surviving

However, the one strawberry bed in Homeland’s berry corner was exploding with strawberry plants. So the call was made to address the two problems as one project.

Berries - overcrowded

Strawberries (over)thriving!

Clearing the blueberry beds wasn’t hard – just the normal compost fodder collecting process (read: weeding). So the beds were composted and quickly planted with small plants dug out of the overcrowded strawberry bed. I planted another bed as well, and we gave 20 plants away to friends who only wanted 12. But that’s when the reality struck – we haven’t even made a dent in the overcrowded strawberry bed – you can hardly see where we dug the plants out.

Berries - strawberries planted 2

Strawberries replanted

So what to do with thousands of strawberry plants? Maybe we could sell them or give them away as early Christmas presents? We do have hundreds of little pots stacked in heaps, but you need a growing medium to plant them in – that’s quite an effort combined with the input costs. And besides, this particular bed (as many of our other plantings) was a mix of various types of strawberries, so we don’t even know which types they are anymore, not that we would be able to distinguish them as we separate them anyway. So it is a bit of a nightmare of a good resource… Maybe I’ll just plant them all over Dreamland – I’m sure the chooks and ducks won’t mind – provided they let them mature to fruit and not scrub them out prematurely. Maybe I’ll do it in a little fenced off regeneration zones.  Anyway, that’s another project that must be done soon if we want the overcrowded strawberry bed to produce anything this summer.

About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

1 Comment on Doing the berry shuffle

  1. I share your issues with blueberries and strawberries and I’ve overcome the strawberry issue…..I always offer them to folks first. Strawberries are kind of like the exploding zucchini issue and I’ve exhausted family & friends…. they go into compost…… It’s the cycle of life or as I like to say “Feed the Soil and the Soil Feeds You”.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: