Sunday, May 8, 2016

April Vacation Week: Blueberry Prep

Ground & soil preparation.  That's what it's all about.  When you're receiving new blueberry bushes in a couple of weeks and don't have anywhere to put them, it's time to think and prepare.

We are picking up 6 blueberry plants from the local grower Nourse Farms* in a couple of weeks.  And though our yard is fairly good-sized, finding the right spot for the blueberries was not a simple task.  We finally settled on a long, sunny space at the back of the house which, unfortunately, has been home to flowering quince and a burning bush of advanced age and size.  With depleted soil and big bushes in the way, preparation had to begin.

I have some experience pulling out shrubs by hand.  When we moved into our home six years ago, I spent the entire first spring and summer pulling out overgrown yews that had blanketed the shady front of the house (that space is now filled with ferns and astilbe and monkshood and toad lily and such).  I sawed, chopped, cut, dug, and pulled until I had removed at least five huge yews.  This time I had fewer shrubs to remove, but they were just as old -- and two of them were thorny.

Ornamental quince stumps.
Quince & burning bush branches.
First I removed the flowering quince.  Two plants that were in reality three or four.  They had been left to their own growing for a number of years (other than some minor prunings) and had tall, straight, thorny branches, as well as some decoratively twisty ones.  It took me three days to remove them and most of their roots.  (You should have seen the worms I found!  As big around as my thumb and twice as long!)  I dug some chicken compost from the chicken run and started layering it into the old, undernourished soil, along with not-yet-totally-composted compost and some purchased organic compost.  Layers of dirt and compost to fill in the holes left by the quince.

The burning bush before.

Burning bush after.

Next it was time to work on the 10 foot+ burning bush that sat at the corner of our house.  The branches are all gone and the digging has begun.  The first "real" root I ran into (about 30 seconds into digging) was a twist of two roots, which combined were thicker than my arm and much longer.  I don't know if you have experience with burning bush, but its roots go on and on -- I dig new roots from it out of the garden every year (that's where all the nutrition I pile into my garden every year goes), and they are never smaller around than my fingers -- and many of them are webby and difficult to dig through.

The dreadful weather has put a serious pause in my work -- I started over April vacation week, but have had nothing but rain and chill since with no opportunity to work more.  I think the burning bush will take multiple days of hard work, digging, hacking, chopping.  The chickens, at least, are looking forward to it.

*I love Nourse Farms -- they have blueberry picking in the summer and sell tons of fabulous fruit plants -- we purchased their strawberry collection a couple of years ago and this year purchased their blueberry collection.  We have also purchased gooseberry and elderberry plants from them -- which are legal in our Massachusetts town.


kris said...

Maybe we should get some of those strawberry plants from Nourse (?) Farms.

emily said...

I will post a picture of them soon. Lots of blossoms right now -- making the bees very happy!