1.) ORGANIC GROWING RESOURCES
We are often asked by organic growing customers about rates of organic fertilizer to apply and pesticides usage. As conventional growers, we do not have the experience necessary to properly advise on organic practices. We do, however, refer anyone interested in learning more about organic growing to the following resources:
NOFA-Northeast Organic Farming Association: www.nofa.org
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service: www.mosesorganic.org
SARE-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education: www.sare.org/resources/organic-production
USDA-Guide for Organic Crop Producers: www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/GuideForOrganicCropProducers.pdf
2.) TIMELY TIPPING OF PRIMOCANE BLACKBERRIES
Grower experiences indicate that well-timed tipping of primocane blackberry growth at 15 inches and again at 30 inches of height not only significantly increases production but also accelerates ripening for earlier harvest.
While this practice does take a lot of labor, the pay off is a substantial increase in production. The fruit will be at chest height, making it more efficient to harvest. Growers who have previously tipped only once at 15 inches experienced a good increase in yield when they also tipped at 30 inches. Tipping at both heights will produce a high yield and the labor cost of performing the practice will pay off in dividends.
Grower Tip: Using the same employees each time to do the tipping eliminates training new employees each time and increases processefficiency for those that do the tipping.
3.) CHOOSING A PLANT DATE FOR A PLASTICULTURE STRAWBERRIES, USING PLUG OR BARE ROOT PLANTS
The decision when to plant plasticulture strawberries using bare rooted plants is influenced by the grower's location and the length of their growing season. The goal is to have three to four branch crowns by the end of the growing season to produce next year's crop. Producing more branch crowns reduces berry size and harvest efficiency. It will also influence the following year’s crop potential as well as the productive lifespan of the planting.
Many growers plant too early to get the full benefit from their plasticulture production. Here at Nourse Farms, we plant at the end ofJune or the first few days of July. Generally, our Pennsylvania growers plant around mid-July. Growers in more northern locations might consider planting mid- to late June.
Commonly, plug plants are planted about 30 days later than bare roots because the plugs are actively ready to start growing/rooting once they are planted. Bare root plants need to come out of dormancy, establish a root system, begin to grow, and flower before going vegetative, which takes about 30 days. More northern growers need to plant plugs in early to mid-August. Moving south, the planting period should be between mid- to late August and early September.
4.) ESTABLISHING BRAMBLE PLANTS USING DIFFERENT WEED CONTROL METHODS
Using mulches during the first year for the establishment of bramble plants can help manage weeds, reduce or eliminate herbicides, maintain soil moisture for the new plants, and maximize the growth of the new planting. The more growth that results will increase yields on primocane varieties the planting year and the following year on floricane varieties, as well as increasing the cane emergence.
Mulching greatly reduces competition from weeds and reduces the labor costs of hand weeding. Mulches reduce water evaporation, making it easier to manage your applications. Installing your drip lines under the mulch provides good moisture control and spoon feeding of nutrients to the plants in the establishment process.
If plastic mulches are used, they need to be removed after the first growing season to reduce the threat from Phytophthora, because soils remain too wet for extended periods of time. This is less of a problem when using straw as mulch.
Dr. Marvin Pritts recently compared various mulches and found straw mulch dramatically increased the number of canes and their growth over other types of mulch.
We have had some experience using straw and would recommend that the straw be chopped to form a tight layer over the top of the soil and be less affected by wind removing it.
The use of mulch is a positive step to ensure the investment of the planting results in maximum cane development for the coming crop and to reduce the labor of hand weeding.
5.) PREPARE YOUR SOIL FOR YOUR NEXT PLANTING OF BLUEBERRIES
Choose your site to plant blueberries and prepare it over a growing season. Soil pH is the most impportant consideration. Blueberries want a pH of 4.5 to 4.8 to perform at the highest level. The first step is to take a comprehensive soil test of your chosen site. In our Planting and Success Guide, there is a chart that will tell you the amount of 90% sulfur that needs to be applied per 100 sq. ft. Note the rate changes if your soil is sandy, silty, or clay.
To make the application:
1. Make a broadcast of the whole block.
2. Apply the sulfur in strips by marking out your rows in advance and apply 4-foot bands of sulfur. This practice will reduce the amount you apply to about a third. Incorporate the sulfur as thoroughly as you can for uniform results.
It is advantageous to the grower to start preparing for blueberry planting early. Doing your sulfur application in the spring will result in your pH being adjusted by the following spring to give the plants the best situation to grow well. Use of cover crops during the preparation year will reduce weed issues the following year and will add organic matter to the soil for good soil tilth.