Lazarus Blueberries

I found these poor little things on sale for $2.50.  Normally I’m not one to bring home sick, helpless little things but I like blueberries, have a pallet of peat and am willing to try.

The retailer had just about given up on them.  I found 9 that still had green leaves.  I brought them home, filled the pots to the top with peat and gave them a good soaking in a bucket.  Each day since then I have soaked them in about 2″ of water in a bucket until the peat is saturated.  Then they sit in partial sun all day.  We’ll see what happens.  I may have wasted $20.  I don’t really think so though.

I planted two over by the pond about a month ago.  Every day they get a bucket of water and they are doing as well as they are doing.  I dug a big hole for each, mixed in a bag of peat in each hole and carried wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of sawdust.  I should put an odometer on my wheelbarrow…

What about you?  Is there something you just can’t pass up when you see it on sale?  Do you believe you have the touch to bring things back to life or are you at least willing to try?  Have any tips that would help me out?

A Picture of the Future?

I’m going to show you a picture.  Tell me what you see in the picture’s future.

Come on.  Ignore the alfalfa.  Ignore the chicken tractors.  What should be here?  What would you do with this space?

I’m asking you to be creative.  I have an acre that makes several tons of feed for ruminants and chickens.  Is that the best I can do?  What else could I do with the space?

Remember this mild disturbance from mid-March?

Well, now that it’s hot and dry we see this:

Recovery is slower in the absence of rain…but it does recover.  I’m have raised 4500 pounds of chicken on this field and two cuttings of alfalfa…and it’s not even July yet.  But then what?  I haul goat and cow manure out of the shed to spread it out on the field again?  I compost the chicken guts and bring them back out to the field?  Isn’t there something better I could be doing?

I ask this because I’m reading The Blueberry Years.  Also I’m making an intensive study of permaculture right now.  What if I planted 1,000 berry plants?  What if?  What if I planted them on contour to preserve water?  What if I planted an orchard?  What if I planted a food forest?  What if I just sculpted the landscape to retain water and grazed it with beef?  Where would I raise chickens?  Would I raise chickens?  Possibility overload!

I look at the alfalfa field and I see any number of possibilities…maybe even a series of greenhouses.  What do you see?  What could be there?

Planting Blueberries

For years we have purchased blueberries from some friends, Mark and Kelly Smith.  This year we thought we should put in a row of our own and see how it goes.  With luck and in time we may be blueberry independent.  We had 2 inches of rain the night before so working on mulch was going to be the only work I could accomplish in the morning.

Now, I know blueberries in central Illinois may not qualify as sustainable as our soil is anything but acidic.  They are something of a guilty pleasure.  I’ll have to work to keep the acidity up.  But we like them, they will provide a little color in the fall, and a windbreak for our garden.  Also, the line we are planting is at the very edge of the parking lot/driveway and will give us a clear border.

I began by laying out some lines that were square with the buildings.  Please note the recycled bailer twine.  I also had a 6″ deep line of aged wood chips and sawdust in place for the last week or so in preparation for planting.

Then I began digging.  I knew my grandpa collected rocks but I had no idea.  I plan to put up a post in the near future about making sure your short-term goals (preventing your tractor from getting stuck) won’t be in the way of future generations…considering the consequences of your vision.

The goal is to dig a hole 1 foot deep and 2.5 feet in diameter.  I stopped mining rock before I got to my goal on the last hole..

Because I took so much rock out I had very little soil to put back into the hole.  I put in a mix of several things to give my plants a good start.  First I put in a few shovels full of unsifted compost.

Then I added in about half a bag of peat to bring up the acidity.  Now, if given the choice between peat and coco coir I would choose the coco coir but this is a special situation.  I bought a greenhouse from a nursery that was going out of business.  He also had a pallet of peat.  Rather than send the peat to the landfill I brought it home.  This isn’t a choice I make every day but I think, in this scenario, you understand.

Next I add a few shovels of rabbit manure mixed with sawdust.  I realize not everybody has rabbit manure but you have to understand, I don’t have soil in this hole.  I’m using the rabbit manure to replace the missing soil mass.  Bear with me here.  I’m not presenting an ultimate solution, I’m just trying to make lemonade.

Then I mix the components and add some water.

Now I replace my string, measure my space between plants (with a 4′ tool handle) and place my plant in the hole.

I’m still short on soil so I continue surrounding the plant with rabbit manure and top it all off with a bit of horse manure.  Yeah, I know…not everybody has horse manure laying around either.  I’m trying to bring up the acidity after mining out a bushel basket of limestone.

Finally, I cover the row with a fresh 4″ of composted sawdust.  As that sawdust breaks down it will provide a weed barrier and raise the acidity of my soil.  Also it will sponge up moisture and provide soil structure as blueberries want to be moist, not wet.

I have done a lot of work over a couple of hours to plant a measly six plants.  As they grow they’ll tell me what they need.  I may have to make some changes or at least a few tweaks before they really take off.  I don’t know.  It is the unknown unknowns (Thanks Talib) that make gardening exciting.

Special thanks to our friends Nathan and Aimee for lending a hand with the mulch.   They thought they were just coming for lunch