Monday, November 1, 2010

The Berry Rows

This fall we transplanted some raspberry plants from Other House (hey, we still own it, and we left plenty for Mystery Buyer), some black raspberry plants growing wild at my in-laws' place, and some wild blackberry plants from our property here.  All three are very hardy and simple to transplant and ours seem very happy in their new homes.  Our hope is that the cultivated blackberries will be sweeter than they are in the wild, too. We tilled two rows that are about 40' long and about 8' apart (wide enough to cut the grass in between), with the idea that next spring we'll expand them to run all the way to the edge of our property.  We have over 150' feet more to go, on each row, and plan on planting a row of grapes as well.  Yeah, we dream big.  And I guess we're pretty serious about this sustainable living thing.

Byron tilled the rows and we promptly raked in mounds of well-composted horse manure Byron got from a colleague at work.  Note that cow manure is usually the excrement of choice for gardening, since cows have those handy double stomachs that help break down weed seeds, but horse manure composted as well as this stuff was will work, too.

Byron used a rotor tiller to dig the rows while Charlie contemplated the cosmos.

The beginnings of our berry rows.
When transplanting the berries, pick a plant that still has leaves on it; you don't want a spent cane that bore fruit and looks dead.  Dig a circle around the plant, at least a foot around the main cane.  Now, I have to admit that I had a tough time with this one.  Since the blackberries I dug up were in the wild, they were surrounded by weeds and wirery vines that gyred and gimbled in the wabe (forgine me, but every time I work in the soil I think of "Jabberwocky" and I have no idea why), so I had to do my best to get all the small, hairy roots that extended out from the main root.  Berry roots are typically pretty shallow (about 6"), so happily I didn't have to dig too deeply.  Once a plant was dug out I placed it, with as much of the dirt it had been growing in as possible, in a pot.
Transplanted blackberry, before I cut it down.
After digging out the plants, I trimmed the canes down to about 6"-8".  They may not bear fruit next summer, but this will help them grow stronger in the long term.

The transplants will look like sticks when you trim them, but that's normal!  I did this with the raspberries, too.

Not all transplants will have one neat root...this one had three runners!
The blackberries I transplanted about 6' apart; the raspberries and black raspberries, 3'-4'.

To transplant: dig hole.  Place plant & its dirt in hole.  Cover.  Water.
To provide insulation from the impending frost, I mulched around each transplant with pine needles from the woods, leaving a bit of space around the cane.  Byron is also in the process of making a trellising system for them by making posts from fallen cedars (surely as a result of last winter's Snowpacolypse).  He cut posts about 8' tall and dug holes about 2' deep, leaving 6' of the post exposed.  These were placed at either end of the rows, making them about 40' apart.  We'll see how that works; it may be that we need to add another post in between.  He'll also add a cross brace on each post and run wire above the rows to trellis the canes.
The berry rows.

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