From the Bog to the Box
I have two acres of land just north of Fairbanks that I am currently in the process of building a home and planning a landscape on. When I think about what I want my yard to be like I think about what I want to do in my yard. I’d like to walk through the trees, enjoy the song birds and of course have an aesthetically appealing landscape. But to me the stimulation from the landscape needs to be more than simply looking pretty, I want there to be good functionality in my yard. I want pretty flowers, but I’d like them to be simple, natural and perennial. I’d also like to be able to harvest edibles from my landscape and not just from my garden and green house. These reasons along with others are why I want to manage the wild berry stands I currently have growing as well as adding a few transplants. The berry I am most interested in transplanting and managing is the Bog Blueberry.
Unconventionally I am most interested in the idea of transplanting wild bog blueberries into low but still raised garden beds that would line my driveway and possibly other pathways around the property. Although we do not currently have the house finished, I think that next summer would be the best time to begin transplanting blueberries into the driveway in order to possibly have berry production by the time we are finished with the house and I will have more time to focus on other areas of the landscape. That way, I will have a few years of experience with these before deciding what to do with the rest of the space.
I think that raised garden beds or boxes would be good for experimenting with berries because I will have complete control over the soil composition and watering/irrigating processes and this will give me more detailed information on what is and isn’t working. At the same time though, I think I will also transplant some bog blueberries into the cleared powerline on the opposite side of my property just to be able to compare notes on the original source, and both transplanted sources, completely controlled vs. simply transplanted and observed. Some key things for me to keep in mind about transplanting and box gardening are soil preferences (nutrients, water absorption and irrigation, pH levels), available sunlight, preferred pollinators, and nearby plant species.
Blueberry soil preferences: Blueberries tend to require an acidic soil composition with pH levels of 4.5-5.5. Some berries secrete root acids to help bring iron and other nutrients into a solution they can absorb but blueberries do not secrete these acids and thus they rely on organisms that thrive in acidic soils to help convert nutrients for them. Bog blueberries can thrive in a variety of moisture conditions from highly aerated to poorly drained soils, and often grow in mat layers with roots in shallow but wide areas. Loamy or peaty soil compositions are good for blueberries and adequate watering is a must. Do not let the roots dry out, while also not drowning them. Because I want to build raised beds or boxes for my blueberries I will have complete control over what I make my soils with and I plan to try to use natural loamy soils and peat from local bogs.
Sunlight: Blueberries do well in sunlight areas, often much better than in shade. Because most of my property is undeveloped I think the edges of the driveways will produce sufficient amounts of sunlight without too much heat.
Pollinators: I have a variety of pollinators that live in the nearby woods and am happy to say that there seem to be an abundance of bees in my neighborhood. Another reason my driveways will be a good place to start is because both neighbors on either side of me have bee boxes near us. Honey bees, bumble bees, hornets and a variety of other pollinators are attracted to the wild currants, raspberries and rose hips already growing here so I do not think I will have a lacking of good pollinators. Possibly Ill even be able to trade blueberry jams for honey…
Native plant species: Although I have a diverse collection of other berries, trees, bushes and some wild flowers, I do not think these native species will be of much concern for the blueberries because of the raised beds. I will have to keep up on weeding and pruning, but I do not have any super invasive species other than the raspberries that are spreading themselves about each year (I don’t mind that at all).
I do have a lot of work ahead of me in building the ideal beds that will contain but not limit blueberry growth as well as the effort in creating good balanced soil, and transplanting berries adequately, but I look forward to the experimenting I will be doing for the rest of the foreseeable future. LH Fairbanks
Matthews, R. F. 1992 Vaccinium uliginosum. In: Fire Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agrictulture, Forest Service. Available online: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ Accessed 28 Sept. 2016.
-This is a very technical resource with a lot of valuable information although some of which must be filtered through. Lots of scientific data, but still a useful source I find myself going back to.
Townsend, M. 2005. The Basics of Blueberry Culture. Home Orchard Society. Available online: http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/growfruit/berries/the-basics-of-blueberry-culture/ Accessed 27 Sept. 2016.
-This article was presented as a handout for the talk “History and Cultivation of Blueberries” by Marie Townsend at the Home Orchards Society’s 2005 All about Fruit Show. It is simple to follow and full of good information. Not all information is specifically for the bog blueberry, but still has good tips and ideas to get started.