Spring is fast approaching and we are starting to feel the crunch to complete our annual season prep.
Just to give you an idea of how much work we do over the winter months, here is a bit of a breakdown:
Pruning season starts in November (or whenever the leaves drop off). Pruning season must wrap up by the end of February for Patriots and the end of March for Blue Jays.
In that time, we must prune over 50 rows, comprising of over 2000 bushes. Patriot rows can take 6 to 8 hours per row. Blue Jays can take upwards of 10 hours to prune a full row.
Once pruned, all (and I mean ALL) of the clippings MUST be raked up and burned. The reason is to prevent offshoot growth in areas where it is not supposed to be. This also limits the impact of things like mummy berry.
Once the clippings have been raked, we need to put shavings down, as well as fertilize. Some spraying is needed but it can happen leading into the season. Shavings have typically been done as a work party. Over a dozen people plus one tractor can do a third of the field in a full day's work.
This year we are laying coffee sacks over the shavings. We need to assemble 800 sacks into runs of 20 using small sticks of wood and staples/screws. These need to be assembled in place. Later we can roll them up and roll them out.
The impact of not finishing by the spring can affect our crop. If pruning is not completed, the bushes will not produce the optimal fruit. If trimmings are not removed, we could have offshoots and potentially infect the bushes with mummy berry. If shavings and sacks are not done, our weeds will start to choke out the bushes. If things run too late, we disrupt the bees from pollinating the bushes and risk knocking buds off the bushes.
Right now it looks pretty tight. We are on par to complete the Blue Jays by the end of March. We will need to plan a shavings/raking/burning work party soon. This will involve recruiting friends or possibly paying workers to come in and lend their muscles to make it happen. We have had mixed results in the past. Our first year we finished the one field in a day and left the other two for the next year. The next year, the shavings took a long time to complete and it definitely impacted our production.
It is a tight window but we are looking to make it...perhaps barely, but we will make it.