Blueberries & Rye

Even though it’s February and a little early for us to plant outdoors, there is still plenty of work to be done around our tiny farm…

This week we washed and sterilized planting trays and cell packs to get ready for this year’s transplants. We wash with liquid dish soap and sterilize with bleach each year to make sure virus or bacteria aren’t hanging around to attack the tiny seedlings. Our transplants are always healthy and vibrant.

We also refurbished the blueberry beds by raking back the old pine straw and digging out any winter-hardy weeds and grass roots and clumps then raking the old straw back up around the plants again. Any old, dried branches with no signs of budding were pruned out and a few plants had their tops cut back a little to encourage bushing. Refurbishing this way loosens the soil to allow better airflow and water penetration around the plant’s roots and encourages branching. In March we’ll replant six bushes that didn’t make it through last summer, spread a handful of cottonseed meal around each plant, lay 50′ of drip tape down each row, and add about six inches of fresh pine straw mulch. This year we’ll be collecting straw from a nearby pine stand then haul it into our field before spreading it onto each bed. This seems like a lot of work, but aside from regular watering and occasionally pulling a weed, the blueberry plants will need no other care all season. Rabbiteye blueberries are actually a very easy crop to grow. Our varieties are Tifblue and Climax.

To prevent soil erosion and suppress weeds, last fall we broadcast winter rye into 32 of our planting beds. This week we mowed the rye and plan to mow twice more, once in early March and again in early April. Just before planting our summer crops in April (after the last mowing) we plan to roto-till the dried rye into the top few inches of soil. The temperatures should be high enough by then to prevent the rye from growing back – we hope, and leaving the roots intact should help with water absorption and retention this summer and prevent disruption of soil microbes and earthworms and such.

An old dilapidated table we were using last year as a wash table finally bit the dust and just toppled over. This week it was disassembled then re-assembled into a much sturdier table for using this year. The ol’ thing just needs its screen top to be stapled on and then it’s ready to go. We’re feeling really excited about getting started this year.





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