This past weekend was the start of one of our longer term projects for the farm. Marc and Katie came up with a plan to increase production of the blueberry crop by 50% by adding more bushes. We have talked about adding more bushes but had yet to start on it. Blueberry bushes take a few years to start producing, so there is no better time than now.
The first phase of the plan involves relocating four rows of Patriots from the area adjacent to our central ditch. This is happening for two reasons:
1. The Patriot variety are more susceptible to "mummy berry" and being closer to the water increases the chance of infection. They are also harder to spray both sides as we cannot run the tractor on one side due to the ditch.
2. We need to re-dig the ditch and adjust it to make room for more bushes.
This all started a week ago. Marc and Katie cleared the row of clippings and tied ribbons to all the bushes to be moved. We are starting with the immediately adjacent rows (approximately 56 bushes) and will get the next rows later.
Marc and I moved two bushes last weekend. The first one was a bit easier as I did not keep quite as much of the finer roots. Marc wanted to keep these fine roots to increase the chances of a good crop this year. The second one was with all the roots and it took both of us and a tarp to move it. All told we were looking at about 30-40 minutes per bush.
This past weekend, we recruited a few friends and headed down to get started. We utilized a number of shovels for prying and propping the bushes out of the ground (as well as digging the new holes). All of the new locations were clearly marked. A pair of us would free up the bush while two more were digging holes and moving excess dirt back to the row that was being vacated. We used the tractor initially to lift the bushes onto the tarp, but later used it for the entire move in conjunction with a tarp underneath to keep the roots attached while it was suspended.
The work went well and we moved about 20 bushes on Saturday. Regrettably weather and colds took us out of commission for the remainder of the weekend. only 36 more to go!
Once these are moved, we will move the adjacent rows, then get the ditches dug in the fall when the ground can better support an excavator. By next spring we hope to be planting our third variety and starting the slow increase in production.
One of the other parts of this project will be the mass clearing of a ton of brush from between our third field and our pond. This will give us room for a ton of bushes while reducing the hiding spots for little birds who like to peck our blueberry crop away.
Lots of work on the horizon...look out!