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Knoll Acre Blueberries: A Sustainable Organic Production Project

Replacement Plants, November 2012

We replaced 22 plants in our organic and conventional plots on November 21-22, 2012.  The removed plants were either dead (in a few cases) or had not been thriving in most cases due to a variety of issues.  In replacing plants, we made two decisions: (1) we will select the blueberry cultivars that are the most advantageous for us and (2) we will create the most optimal soil conditions for the replacement plants.

Cultivar Selection

Based on our three years of experience with our various plots and plantings, it was very clear that the plants which thrived the best were the Chandler, Bluegold, and Bluecrop cultivars.  We had the most trouble with Jersey and second with Duke.  In 2010, we planted a few Southern high bush plants as an experiment which included Reveille (two bushes in the organic horse manure plot) and O'Neal (two bushes in the organic sheep manure plot).  All of these plants survived and thrived.  We harvested berries from these plants last summer (first time).  I was especially pleased with the taste of the O'Neal and decided to purchase more bushes of this cultivar.  Duke has been our early producer and in our experience has produced large berries with a good sweet taste which is desired by consumers.  Finally, the Chandlers have been our "end-of-season" berry and we didn't begin to have enough of them to meet the market demands.

Consequently, we decided that our replacement plants would be Duke, O'Neal, and Chandler.  Since we are organically certified, I wanted to find a good source of "organically certified" plants.  We selected Dimeo's Nursery, NJ and ordered 17 (3 year) plants (Duke, Chandler, and O'Neal) for the organic plot and selected Miller's Nursery for replacement of four Chandler's in our conventional plot.

Creating Optimal Soil Conditions

The soil plots where we had the most plant loss was in the organic (and conventional) horse manure plots and in the organic sheep manure plot.  All of our cultivars have thrived the best in the Pine Straw and Planters Choice plots.  Consequently, we decided it was time to "shift" our plot plans and create a better environment for our replacement plants.

In mid-November, I removed 2-3 inches of the covering shredded pine bark mulch from the replacement planting sites.  Then I layered three soil amendments on top of  the current soil at each of the replacement planting sites:

  • Pine needles (about 2 cubic feet/planting site)

  • Planters Choice compost (about 2 cubic feet/planting site

  • Wet (water saturated) peat moss (about 1 cubic foot/planting site)

Then by using a shovel, I turned these materials into the soil, mixing them together to create a new "soil mix.".  Then I created planting holes (about 1 foot deep by 1.5 foot in diameter) at the 22 replanting sites.

Planting Replacement Bushes

On planting day, we created a "planting mix" with the above soil mix: Planters Choice compost:peat moss (1:1:1 ratio).  The peat mass was completely saturated with water.  We also soaked the bared-rooted blueberry plants for about an hour in a bucket of water, prior to planting.

 

The three blueberry cultivars from DiMeo's Nursery were clearly labeled and so we separated the cultivars--Duke, Chandler, and O'Neal--into separate water buckets to soak.

 

After placing the new plants (bare-rooted) in the holes, we firmed the "planting mix" around the new plant and roots.  Then we sprinkled a cup of HollyTone around the planting hole perimeter.  Finally, we added 2.5 gallons of water to each plant.  Sometime soon, I will replace the covering shredded pine bark mulch to provide an insulated covering for the plant roots.

 

Replacement Chandler BB Plant Dimeos Nov 2012

Replacement bare-rooted 3 year old Chandler blueberry plant (DiMeo's) which was planted November 21, 2012.  We soaked the roots in water for about an hour prior to planting and also removed about half of the leaves which appeared diseased.

 

Replacement Chandler Millers Nursery Nov 2012

Replacement bare-rooted 3 year old Chandler blueberry plant (Miller's Nursery) which was planted November 22, 2012.  We soaked the roots in water for about an hour prior to planting.  The Nursery had pruned back the plant stalk and branches and removed all of the leaves prior to shipping.

 


 

Cultivars: Initial Planting 2009

The cultivars of the northern highbush blueberries are members of Vaccinium corymbosum.  Blueberries are native to North America and were gathered by Native American tribes from the forests and bogs of the northeast. Today we recognize three different species of blueberries:

  • V. corymbosum (Northern Highbush). Grew wild in the forests; used to culltivate the modern highbush.

  • V. ashei (Southern Rabbiteye).  Thrives in southeastern US; called rabbiteye because the berry calyx resembles a rabbit's eye.

  • V. angustifolium (Lowbush or "wild blueberry").  Dwarf bushes, only one-two feet high, are cold hardy and found in Canada and the northeastern US states.

Visit the US Highbush Blueberry Council web pages for information about growing and marketing blueberries. US Highbush Blueberry Council Website

Five Cultivars

We are initially beginning with a planting of 179 plants representing five different highbush cultivars: Duke, Blue Crop, Jersey, Chandler, and Bluegold.  The characteristics of these are described in the table.

Plant Quantity Cultivar Timing Berry Description Plant Description Age & Size
43 Duke Early ripening medium to large berries; good color and firmness; light blue color; mildly sweet fruit, ideal for eating fresh Blooms late, ripens early, vigorous upright bush with high yields; Matures 4-6' 3 yr plants 16-20"
44 Blue Crop Early to mid-season ripening large firm sweet berry, good flavor, long loose clusters Most widely planted variety in US; upright bush, hardy, drought resistant; Matures 406' 3 yr plants 16-20"
45 Jersey Late ripening medium to large firm berry, sweet good taste, loose fruit clusters, favorite for baking One of the oldest and most widely grown; hardy productive upright vigorous and fast-growing.  Matures 6-8' 3 yr plants 16-20"
28 Chandler Mid-Late season ripening Delicious, sweet, longest ripening; dark blue berries Chandler features the largest (cherry-sized) berries produced by any highbush cultivar; Dainty waxy, bell-shaped white flowers appear in May; Ovate, dark green leaves turn red and purple in fall.  Matures 5-6' 1-1.5' plants 2 yr?
19 Bluegold Mid season ripening Firm, flavorful, sweet and uniform sized berries, sky-blue color, high production, heavy fruiting; good storage quality Bright-white blooms, yellow fall foliage; Hardy plants; Matures 4-5' 1-1.5' plants 2 yr?

Sources

Duke, Blue Crop, and Jersey ordered from Finch's Blueberries, NC @ $3.75/plant; Early December delivery.  These plants, 132 of them, arrived on December 3, 2009 and were planted by Elva the following day!  The plants were in good condition except for one Duke plant which was about half-sized and had a minimal root system.

Chandler and Bluegold ordered from Miller's Nurseries, NY @ $8.95/plant; November 25, 2009 delivery.  The planting of these were completed on Thanksgiving Day,11/26/2009.  These plants were in excellent condition..

We ordered our plants in June 2009, for fall (late November/early December) delivery.  These are bare-rooted plants and need to be planted after they become dormant.

Planting Guidelines

Tools and Items needed for each planting team: bare-rooted blueberry plants, tub for mixing planting media, three-gallon measuring bucket, spade or shovel, five gallon water bucket; quantities of sphagnum peat moss and shredded pine bark mulch.

  1. Planting tags are pre-placed on the side of the bed border at 5 feet intervals and identify the planned location of the blueberry plant.  The planting tag indicates the specific cultivar. 
  2. Use shovel to dig hole about 18"' in diameter and 10" deep which will remove about 1.25 cubic feet of dirt or a little over 9 gallons.  (1 gallon = 0.134 cubic feet)  (If rocks are recovered, pile them on the row middles so they can be picked up after the planting is completed.)
  3. Mix beside the hole on the ground...
    • 0.67 cubic feet of peat moss: 5 gallons
    • 0.67 cubic feet of shredded pine bark mulch: 5 gallons
    • 0.67 cubic feet of soil: 5 gallons
  4. Put a shovel full of the mix in the bottom of the hole and add water (5-6 gallons depending on the dryness of the soil).  The peat moss absorbs a lot of water.  Add about 0.5 cup of Holly Tone (acid organic fertilizer) to the bottom of the hole.
  5. Set plant in hole and fill about 3/4ths full with planting soil mix; add another 0.5 cup of Holly Tone.
  6. Fill the hole with the planting soil mix and firm the soil with your feet making sure that no air pockets are present in the hole.  Using the remaining soil-amendment mix, create a small shoulder-berm on the down-hill side of the plant.
  7. Add more water around the plant, making sure that the soil/peat moss mix is completely wet.
  8. Cover bed crown with 3-4 " of shredded pine bark mulch at a 1.5' radius around each plant (4-6 gallons of mulch).

Note: We found it more practical to first mix the peat moss and shredded pine bark together at a 1:1 ratio by simply alternately shoveling in these two ingredients in a small trailer.  Then using the garden tractor we pull the trailer with the mixed soil amendments beside the site where the hole will be dug.  As the dirt from the hole is removed and placed on the down-ward side of the hole, we alternately add a shovel full of soil amendment to each shovel full of dirt.  We aim to mix this at about a 1:2 ratio, dirt:soil amendment.  A scoop shovel of soil amendments (peat moss-shredded pine bark) is approximately 2.5 gallons.  We apply a total of about 4 scoopfuls to each planting hole site.

After a section of blueberries are planted, fill in the bare areas between plants with 3-4" of shredded pine bark mulch.  Row width should be about 3 feet.

Using the above method, we can readily plant a blueberry plant in 5 minutes including the watering time.  Unfortunately the element of fatigue prevents us from keeping up this pace for a prolonged time, i.e. hours!  However, if the soil amendments are all premixed, it is possible to average about 10 plants an hour over a prolonged period of time..

Watering Planted Blueberry Plant

Watering the hole prior to planting a blueberry plant. 

 

 

 

 

Final Planting Design -- December 2009

Organic Plants

Row Lgh Sq Ft Com-post Culti-var                            
A 79 237 Hors Man A (14) Duke #01, A Duke #02, A Duke #03, A Duke #04, A Duke #05, A Duke #06, A Duke #07, A Duke #08, A Duke #09, A Duke #10, A Duke #11, A Duke #12, A Duke #13, A Duke #14, A
B 75 225 Hors Man B (14) BlCp #01, B BlCp #02, B BlCp #03, B BlCp #04, B BlCp #05, B BlCp #06, B BlCp #07, B BlCp #08, B BlCp #09, B BlCp #10, B BlCp #11, B BlCp #12, B BlCp #13, B BlCp #14, B
C 74 222 Hors Man C (13) Jery #01, C Jery #02, C Jery #03, C Jery #04, C Jery #05, C Jery #06, C Jery #07, C Jery #08, C Jery #09, C Jery #10, C Jery #11, C Jery #12, C Jery #13, C  
D 71 213 Hors Man D(7) / E(6) Chan #01, D Chan #02, D Chan #03, D Chan #04, D BlGd #01, D BlGd #02, D BlGd #03, D BlGd #04, D BlGd #05, D BlGd #06, D Chan #05, D Chan #06, D Chan #07, D  
E 69 207 Shep Manu A (13) Duke #15, E Duke #16, E Duke #17, E Duke #18, E Duke #19, E Duke #20, E Duke #21,  E Duke #22, E Duke #23, E Duke #24, E Duke #25, E Duke #26, E Duke #27, E  
F 66 198 Shep Manu B (12) BlCp #15, F BlCp #16, F BlCp #17, F BlCp #18, F BlCp #19, F BlCp #20, F BlCp #21,  F BlCp #22, F BlCp #23, F BlCp #24, F BlCp #25, F BlCp #26, F    
G 65 195 Shep Manu C (11) Jery #14, G Jery #15, G Jery #16, G Jery #17, G Jery #18, G Jery #19 G Jery #20, G Jery #21, G Jery #22, G Jery #23, G Jery #24, G      
H 62 186 Shep Manu D(6) / E(5) Chan #08, H Chan #09, H Chan #10, H BlGd #07, H BlGd #08, H BlGd, #09, H BlGd #10, H BlGd #11, H Chan #11, H Chan #12, H Chan #13, H      
I 60 180 Pine Stra A(6) / B(6) Duke #28,    I Duke #29,    I Duke #30,    I Duke #31,    I Duke #32,     I Duke #33,   I BlCp #27,   I BlCp #28,  I BlCp #29,  I BlCp #30,  I BlCp #31,  I BlCp #42,   I  
J 59 177 Pine Stra C(6) / D (5) Jery #25,   J Jery #26,   J Jery #27,   J Jery #28,   J Jery #29,   J Jery #30,  J Chan #14,  J Chan #15,  J Chan #16, J Chan #17,  J Chan #18, J      
K 58 174 Plan Choi A (6) / B (5) Duke #34,  K Duke #35,  K Duke #36,  K Duke #37,  K Duke #38,  K Duke #39,  K BlCp #32, K BlCp #33, K BlCp #34, K BlCp #35, K BlCp #36, K      
L 52 156 Plan Choi C (10) / A (1) Jery #31,  L Jery #32,  L Jery #33,  L Jery #34,  L Jery #35,  L Jery #36,  L Jery #37,  L Jery #38,  L Jery #39,  L Jery #40,  L Duke #43, L*      
M 44 132 Plan Choi D (7) / B (2) Chan #19,  M Chan #20,  M Chan  #21,  M Chan #22,  M Chan #23,  M Chan #24,  M Chan #25,  M BlCp #43, M BlCp #44, M          
N 28 84 Plan Choi E (5) BlGd #12,  N BlGd #13,  N BlGd #14,  N BlGd #15,  N BlGd #16, N                  
Tot 862 2586   160                            

Traditional Plants (not organic)

Row Lgh Sq Ft Com-post Culti-var            
A'* 12 36 Hors Manu A (3) Duke
#40,
A'
Duke
#41,
A'
Duke
 #42  
A'
     
B' 20 60 Hors Manu B (5) BlCp
#37,
B'
BlCp
#38,
 B'
BlCp
#39,
B'
BlCp
#40,
 B'
BlCp
 #41,
B'
 
C' 22 66 Hors Manu C (5) Jery
#41,
C'
Jery
 #42,
 C'
Jery
#43,
 C'
Jery
#44,
C'
Jery
#45,
C'
 
D' 24 72 Hors Manu D (3) / E (3) Chan
#26,
D'
Chan
#27,
D'
Chan
 #28,
D'
BlGd
#17,
D'
BlGd
#18,
D'
BlGd
#19,
D'
Tot 78 234   19            

KEYS to Tables Above

Cultivar Codes

Cultivar Name Cultivar Letter Cultivar Abb. Season Mature Plant Size Berry size / quality Organic Plot: Plants Traditional Plot: Plants Total Plants Plant Source Nursery
Duke A Duke Early 4-6' med-lg / good 40 3 43 Finch's
Blue Crop B BlCp Early /Mid 4-6' large 39 5 44 Finch's
Jersey C Jery Late 6-8' med / fair 40 5 45 Finch's
Chandler D Chan Mid/ Late 5-6' large 25 3 28 Miller's
Bluegold E BlGd Mid 4-5' prod / good 16 3 19 Miller's
          Tot. 160 19 179  

Compost Codes

  • Hors Manu = Horse Manure & Sawdust compost
  • Shep Manu = Sheep Manure & Hay/Straw compost
  • Pine Stra = Pine Straw/Needle compost
  • Plan Choi = Planter's Choice mulch

Bed Border Codes

Height of Bed Border 11.5 inches 5.5 inches 4 inches No border

2010 Cultivar Plantings: Modified Design

March 2010 Planting

Since several of the rows were not filled with plants, I decided to sample a couple of new cultivars -- Reveille and O'Neal -- and plant them in March, 2010.  These were about two-year old potted plants, which I purchased from Lowe's.

Raveille is a middle-season Northern Highbush cultivar that is characterized as producing a medium berry size with very good taste.  O'Neal is an early season Southern Highbush cultivar that is characterized as producing large and sweet berries.

The two Reveille bushes were planted at the end of Row C--organic horse manure treated soil; the two O'Neal bushes were planted at the end of Row G--organic sheep manure treated soil.  For this planting, I dug planting holes in the middle of the rows and planted the bushes in a mix of peat moss and shredded pine bark mulch.

December 2010

I still had some row ends that were empty and "needed" blueberry bushes to fill them out.  So in the fall I tried a new supplier, Heartland Nursery (KY) and ordered 3 year-old gallon container bushes: (8) Duke; (8) Jersey and (8) Chandler.  Also due to some of the plant stress -- defoliation issues -- that I experienced in some plants, I removed several to send to a plant pathology.  Consequently I needed to replace those plants.  We planted some of these plants on 12/31/10 and then "stored" the rest by planting them in a pile of shredded pine bark mulch.  Next spring we may replace a few more stressed plants depending on how these plants survived the overwinter and how well they leaf out and grow in the spring months.

Organic Plots: December 2010

A Horse Manure Duke #01 A Duke #02, A Duke #03, A Duke #04, A Duke #05, A Duke #06, A Duke #07, A Duke #08, A Duke #09, A Duke #10, A Duke #11, A Duke #12, A Duke #13, A Duke #14, A 2010** Duke #301 A 2010** Duke #302 A
B Horse Manure BluCrp #01, B BluCrp #02, B BluCrp #03, B BluCrp #04, B BluCrp #05, B BluCrp #06, B BluCrp #07, B BluCrp #08, B BluCrp #09, B BluCrp #10, B BluCrp #11, B BluCrp #12, B BluCrp #13, B BluCrp #14, B 2010** Duke #303 B
C Horse Manure Jersey #01, C Jersey #02, C Jersey #03, C Jersey #04, C Jersey #05, C Jersey #06, C Jersey #07, C Jersey #08, C Jersey #09, C Jersey #10, C Jersey #11, C Jersey #12, C Jersey #13, C 2010* Rev #1, C 2010* Rev #2, C
D Horse Manure Chand #01, D Chand #02, D Chand #03, D Chand #04, D BluGd #01, D BluGd #02, D BluGd #03, D BluGd #04, D BluGd #05, D BluGd #06, D Chand #05, D Chand #06, D Chand #07, D 2010** Chan dler #201 D
E Sheep Manure Duke #15 E Duke #16 E Duke #17 E Duke #18 E Duke #19 E Duke #20 E Duke #21, E Duke #22, E 2010** Duke #304 E Duke #24, E Duke #25, E Duke #26, E Duke #27, E 2010** Duke #305 E
F Sheep Manure BluCrp #15, F BluCrp #16, F BluCrp #17, F BluCrp #18, F BluCrp #19, F BluCrp #20, F BluCrp #21, F BluCrp #22, F BluCrp #23, F BluCrp #24, F BluCrp #25, F BluCrp #26, F 2010** Jersey #101 F
G Sheep Manure 2010** Jersey #102, G Jersey #15, G 2010** Jersey #103, G Jersey #17, G Jersey #18, G Jersey #19, G Jersey #20, G Jersey #21, G Jersey #22, G Jersey #23, G Jersey #24, G 2010* O' Neal #1, G 2010* O' Neal #2, G
H Sheep Manure Chand #08, H Chand #09, H Chand #10, H BluGd #07, H BluGd #08, H BluGd #09, H BluGd #10, H BluGd #11, H Chand #11, H Chand #12, H Chand #13, H 2010** Chand #202 H 2010** Chand #203 H
I Pine Straw Duke #28, I Duke #29, I Duke #30, I Duke #31, I Duke #32, I Duke #33, I BluCrp #27, I BluCrp #28, I BluCrp #29, I BluCrp #30, I BluCrp #31, I BluCrp #42, I
J Pine Straw Jersey #25, J Jersey #26, J 2010** Jersey #104, J Jersey #28, J Jersey #29, J Jersey #30, J Chand #14, J Chand #15, J Chand #16, J Chand #17, J Chand #18, J 2010** Chand #204 J
K Plant Choice Duke #34, K Duke #35, K Duke #36, K Duke #37, K Duke #38, K Duke #39, K BluCrp #32, K BluCrp #33, K BluCrp #34, K BluCrp #35, K BluCrp #36, K 2010** Chand #205 K
L Plant Choice Jersey #31, L Jersey #32, L Jersey #33, L Jersey #34, L Jersey #35, L Jersey #36, L Jersey #37, L Jersey #38, L Jersey #39, L Jersey #40, L Duke #43, L^ ^Sm plt; few roots
M Plant Choice Chand #19, M Chand #20, M Chand #21, M Chand #22, M Chand #23, M Chand #24, M Chand #25, M BluCrp #43, M BluCrp #44, M    
N Plant Choice BluGd #12, N BluGd #13, N BluGd #14, N BluGd #15, N BluGd #16, N 2010** Chand #206N

 

Conventional Plot: December 2010

Horse manure Horse manure Horse manure Horse manure Soil Treatment
D C B A Row
Chan #26, D
Chan #27, D Jersey #41, C BluCrp #37, B
Chan #28, D Jersey #42, C BluCrp #38, B
BluGd #17, D Jersey #43, C BluCrp #39, B Duke #40, A
BluGd #18, D Jersey #44, C BluCrp #40, B Duke #41, A
BluGd #19, D Jersey #45, C BluCrp #41, B Duke #42, A

Plant Growth Data 2010

Growth Parameters Compared with Soil Treatments

PlantHeightvsSoilCompost2010

 

PlantGrowthBushinessvsSoilTreatment_2010

 

PlantGrowthAveStalkDiavsCompostTreat_2010

 

PlantGrowthVolCylindervsSoilTreat_2010

Growth Parameters Compared with Cultivar Types

 

IntercultivarMeanHeight_2010

 

IntercultivarPrimStalkDia_2010

 

IntercultivarBushiness_2010

 

IntercultivarPlantCylinderVol_2010

 

Plant Growth Data - 2011

Selected Plant Vigor Parameters. 

One measure of early plant productivity is the vigor or health of the plant.  This past year we determined a variety of direct plant growth measurements including plant height, stalk thickness, plant cylinder volume (a three-dimensional quantification of plant size) and a relative value called bushiness.  Bushiness was calculated by multiplying the number of primary plant stalks by the number of primary branches from a plant stock by the primary stalk height.  These values were analyzed based on variations in compost soil treatments and cultivar differences.  The Pine needle and Planters Choice compost treatments had the greatest plant heights, the largest stalk diameters (see Figure 8), greatest plant volumes and bushiness (see Figure 9) over the horse and sheep manure treatments.

PlantVigor_HeigthStalkThickness_2011

PlantVigor_VolumeBushiness_2011

In assessing differences in plant vigor by comparing results from the five cultivars, Blue crop bushes were significantly taller than any of the other cultivars (Figure 10), while the Chandler bushes had the greatest amount of bushiness (Figure 11).

PlantVigor_Heigth

PlantVigor_Bushiness_2011

 

 

 


Related resources

 

Duke

Duke Blueberry Plant

 

Blue Crop

Blue crop Blueberry

 

Jersey

Jersey Blueberry

 

Chandler

Chandler Blueberry

 

Bluegold

Bluegold Blueberry

 

BlueberryPlanting Hole with Amendments

Preparing the hole for a blueberry plant.  Hole size is about 18" x 10".  Notice the pile of soil amendments to the left side of the hole.

Peatmoss and Shedded Pine Bark Mix in Trailer

Mixture of peat moss and shredded pine bark mulch in trailer.

Holding Blueberry Plant

Roughing up the roots before planting.

Setting Blueberry Plant in hole

Setting blueberry plant in the planting hole.

Reveille Blueberry (Northern Highbush cultivar)

ONeal Blueberry

O'Neal Blueberry (Souther Highbush cultivar)