• Growing Matters and Blueberry Basics from OEFFA 2013

    by  • February 19, 2013 • Grow Your Garden, Ohio • 6 Comments

    conference2013sbYesterday I wrote about my introduction to Restoration Agriculture at the 2013 Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference. Below are summaries of two other valuable sessions at the same conference.

    What the OEFFA conference offers beyond these planned sessions are real conversations with wise, experienced farmers and enthusiastic innovative personalities. I am still basking in the joy of talking with:

    The confidence of a community that believes in and works for a local sustainable food system is one that buoys me throughout the year.

    Growing Matters

    by Local Matters employees Trish Clark and Jesse Hickman

    In creating the Growing Matters program, director Trish Clark searched for what is missing in Columbus and how can Local Matters could help. She created programs to support yard garden programs encouraging people to grow their own food as close to kitchen as possible.

    In this session, Trish and Jesse showed a beautiful short video about Local Matters and then offered participants a chance to learn from each other. The large group brainstormed garden challenges and then broke into smaller 5-8 person groups to come up with solutions.

    Use sheet mulching for weed suppression and water retention (use what you have for mulch)
    Plant buckwheat as a cover crop
    Crop rotation helps with almost every challenge
    Solicit volunteers or students to help as labor in exchange for educational experience
    Plant squash after June 15 to avoid beetles
    Plant enough for wildlife
    Plan ahead for food prep
    Collection Edible magazines for seasonal recipes
    Grow the basics
    Learn how to can/freeze/preserve through word of mouth, family history
    Consider raised beds for drainage, weed suppression, seating
    Plant varieties that are reliable regardless of conditions
    Consider keeping dogs to protect crops from rabbits, other small predators

    Blueberry Basics

    Greenfield_logoby farmers at Greenfield Berry Farm

    Greenfield is a berry farm within Cuyahoga National Park. The farmers shared these tips for growing blueberries in a community setting. The farm is open for pick-your-own adventures and educational tours seasonally.

    Get Soil Right First
    – test for pH
    – add sulpher to adjust pH around April 1st
    – plant holes with 50% peat moss
    – avoid standing water by making raised beds or installing drainage tile
    – choose full sun locations

    Plant Well
    – 3-4 foot spacing with 10-12 feet between rows
    – plant in mounds level or slightly above ground
    – ensure no roots are exposed
    – water thoroughly

    Choose Cultivars Wisely
    – bigger, sweeter berries tend to come from early season varieties
    – smaller, tart varieties later in season
    Stokes in Michigan and Blueberry Patch in Mansfield are good sources

    Address Pests
    – insects like datana caterpillars, tent worms, Japanese beetles, blueberry maggot, and ants all may attack parts of plants; treat with soapy water spray and/on manual removal
    – birds love berries; exclude with dense netting like Army surplus mosquito netting, sound devices, and attract predatory birds like kestrals

    Watch for Disease
    – fungal root rot can occur if plants are not properly drained; can try moving to higher location
    – plants suffering from too-high pH will show yellowed leaves with dark veins; add sulpher

    – replenish 3-4-3 organic option, cottonseed meal, bloodmeal (apply lightly to avoid burning)
    – apply at bud break (approximately April 1) and again 4 weeks later after first year of planting
    – spread along drip line of the plant

    – use weed wacker in between plants but avoid hitting trunk or you may girdle plant
    – vinegar (12% acidity) may be successful organic herbicide applied around drip line

    – berries will shrivel without enough water
    – irrigate with drip tape or water frequently
    – mulch with 4-6 inches of pine needles, sawdust, or wood chips; one year aged compost is best because it doesn’t pull nitrogen from soil

    – conduct pruning in late winter after weather has warmed above freezing (March)
    – aim to promote straight growth with room for air and light
    – lop off thick dead wood at base
    – cut off dead or diseased branches to nearest bilateral
    – remove overlapping branches
    – burn removed branches to prevent re-contamination

    Thus ends my OEFFA 2013 brain dump. I hope my attempt to share what I learned was successful.

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    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. My favorite color is purple, my favorite vegetable is whatever is fresh and local, and my favorite drink is whatever you're pouring. Follow me @racheltayse


    6 Responses to Growing Matters and Blueberry Basics from OEFFA 2013

    1. Jen
      February 24, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Is Dale from Morning Sun Farn a German Baptist? Trying to figure out if he’s the guy I think he is.

      • February 24, 2013 at 9:57 am

        We didn’t talk religion but he definitely has the look of a Amish-type sect to me. He was a vendor at the New Albany market this past summer.

    2. February 25, 2013 at 7:26 am

      Rachel, thanks so much for being a part of the 2013 conference! Sharing what you know, like you’re doing here, is what the conference and the OEFFA community is all about!

    3. February 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      What a great list of the blueberry management tips. I had (note the use of past tense) 2 plants last year. One completely crashed and burned, and the other I barely saved through vigorous composting, watering, and general babying.
      Not sure what happened, but I’ll run through this list and see if I can salvage this one plus whoever comes to join it for cross pollination. Though we never did get to eat any of the berries they produced . . . so perhaps my efforts are better spent on the raspberries which somehow were not attractive to the birds.


      • February 27, 2013 at 9:22 pm

        Raspberries do take less care but they aren’t as tasty in my opinion! I would definitely opt for a group or three or four blueberry plants, testing for pH, and mulching. Good luck!

    4. Jennifer Bryant
      May 14, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      I just accidentally hit my blueberry bush with the weed eater. Is there something I should do?

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