Category Archives: Garden Farm Culture

How to improve cloudberry fields

Nice research about increasing abundance of cloudberry plants by increasing fertilizers. Here is the abstract. The full article is available from the Canadian Journal of Plant Science.

Rubus chamaemorus rhizome development



Haskaps in your Garden

Alberta Urban Garden Simple Organic and Sustainable. 2014. Planting Honey (Haskap) Berries in the Alberta Urban Garden. Available Online: Haskaps     This is a video of planting, adjustment and winter care instructions for planting the Haskap in your own garden! Worth the watch and very informative.

Irrigation- what’s the best system for berries?

Which way to water. I have been wanting to expand my berry interests for some time now. The berries I grow are doing alright and I hope to continue to improve my patch every year as I learn new and better ways to prune, water, fertilize, and implement different ways to prevent weeds taking over the berries. For the purposes of personal research, I will be doing a small overview of the different ways to irrigate berries and the potential pros and cons involved in choosing which system I will eventually install in my own berry projects.
I obviously cannot list every type of irrigation system possible as that would extend this simple blog into an extensive report that nobody would have the time or desire to read. I will simply list the systems that interest me most and add a few links to other more involved descriptions of the other options.
1. Overhead spraying- Consists of elevated sprinklers which are attached together by a series of hoses running from the primary water source. A pump sends the water under pressure into the system; this causes the sprinklers to oscillate in a wide circle watering all below. I have the most experience with this system as my entire 1.5-acre vegetable garden is watered in this way. The system has various pros and cons. The pros include: It’s easy to set up and maintain. It is easy to use and does not take too much micromanaging. No special training is needed and most any one can run this type of system. It can be used during cold spells to keep the crops from freezing, and can be used to uniformly apply fertilizers if needed. The cons include: This system, unless it is state of the art, can be wasteful of water. My system is old and does need constant maintenance but thankfully it is not difficult or overly expensive to fix. The older my system gets the more water it wastes. When its windy the system is virtually useless because the water blows everywhere but on the plants. On very hot days most of the water evaporates before it reaches the plants. When the weather is very hot I usually try to water in early morning. Overhead watering can also cause mildew and other mold issues with some very bushy plants or plants which develop vines close to the ground. The ground can get very wet using overhead sprinkling and has the potential to stay that way under the shade of thick plants. 2. Surface irrigation- The oldest form of irrigation in which the entire is flooded from channels that are dug on the sides of the field or orchard. Water is pumped into these channels and then from there piped into the field to flood the crop. The pros are it is easy to set up and implement. This system uses and abundance of water to create high yields and will also spread the topsoil evenly over the field (irrigation education). The cons include: This system tends to waste a lot of water as the plants can only absorb so much water at once. If the soil does not hold water it can run straight through before the roots can absorb it. The water is not controlled at all so much of it will drain away from some parts of the field too fast while overwatering other parts of the field. Roots can become over saturated with water which leaves the plant open to diseases and stunted growth (irrigation education). I have seen this style of irrigation used on a pecan farm in Mexico that I visited this spring. It was very interesting to see but took a lot of manual labor because individual dams had to be hand dug around each tree so the water would pool at the base of every tree. 3. Drip irrigation- A system which pumps water through a single tube which has been either perforated or fitted with different styles of applicators. Water is pumped through the tube under pressure; then it flows out through the holes or applicators directly to the base of the
plants. Pros include: Efficient use of water, is a good way to uniformly water an irregularly shaped or small field. Very little water is lost to evaporation and run off. Initial set up is not overly expensive (irrigation education). Cons include: General maintenance can be labor intensive and needs some level of micromanagement. The system can easily become clogged and needs a good filtration system especially if the water to be used has a high mineral content. On a large scale this system can be cost prohibitive but tends to work well on a smaller scale such as a greenhouse for example.
Types of drip irrigation systems. Drip Irrigation systems really are so diverse that I feel to expand on some of the different types available to anyone interested in setting one up. There are also many businesses dedicated to this style of irrigation. In states that have problems with water availability these systems are gaining popularity because they don’t need much water in order to function. One company that I have used is ( This company has many complete systems for sale as well as the supplies to repair any established systems.
Types of Irrigation systems. Drip irrigation using T-tape is a simple form of drip irrigation it requires no drip emitters. The tape is lain down the center of the row; it does not bend around bushes well, unless the proper fittings are installed (harmony farm supply). The tape has tiny holes which allow water to seep out to the roots of the plants. Drip irrigation systems can also be set up using drip line which is basically poly tube of various diameters which can be fitted with a vast array of different emitters depending on one’s needs. This tube can be bent into a gradual curve around single shrubs. The Harmony farm supply website has a good diagram of the different types of drip irrigation tubes and how resistant they are to being clogged. Water lines set up with sprinkler emitters. Small sprinkler emitters can be fitted to the standard drip irrigation tubes and used as a very small version of overhead style watering.
I personally have never used drip irrigation or T-tape systems. I prefer to use soaker hoses. They tend to be tougher in the long run and can withstand a greater level of pressure. The hoses are as easy to hook together because they are designed to connect to a standard garden hose. I hooked a few together for one row and then lay the hose at the base of my raspberry bushes down the center of my row; I used hoop stakes to hold the hose down. I do have filters on my system though soaker hoses are not so easy to clog as drip irrigation lines. For my large patch I have rows over 100 feet long and the soaker hose has equal pressure to the end of the row and is tough enough that I leave it in my patch from year to year. I make sure that the system is flushed in the spring and put a good mulch over the hoses both to keep the weeds in my patch down and to protect the hoses from sun and cold. So far they have done very well. The hoses in my berry patch are ¾ inch and my water system has ample psi to send water all the way to the end of eight (170 ft.) rows through these hoses. In fact, I have excess psi and have to run some of my overhead sprinklers in the veggie patch to keep the soaker system from blowing from the pressure. I also use smaller diameter hoses about ½ inch to water some of my veggie rows. The best deal I found for buying soaker hoses online was Amazon not surprisingly and the shipping to Alaska was very reasonable. I set my irrigation system up piecemeal which is not the cheapest way but was the only one available to me because I wanted to use soaker hoses. Setting up a drip irrigation system would be much simpler because of all the kits available online or in gardening centers.
The best systems for berries seem to involve either T-tape or drip irrigation covered with an organic mulch or plastic mulch to prevent water loss and protect the system. For my next project I may invest in a small drip irrigation kit just to see how it performs. This research has helped me come up
with a few good ideas and some of the websites have very nice diagrams; I especially like the design pages put out by (Harmony farms and nursery supply company).
By Blueberry croft farm and nursery 2016. Watering and mulching blueberry plants. www. Available online: Accessed on Oct. 12, 2016
Posted by Community on Mar 21, 2016 3:09:17 PM. What irrigation type is best for you. Irrigation education. Available online: Accessed Oct. 12, 2016
By Tom Bressan 2006. Drip Irrigation Handbook. The Urban Farmer Store. Available online: Accessed Oct. 12, 2016
By Harmony farm supply and nursery business 1980-2016. Drip irrigation basics. . Available online: Irrigation designAccessed Oct. 12, 2016
By Netafim USA, Published on Sep 25, 2014. Increase blueberry yields using drip irrigation. Available Online: Drip. Accessed Oct.12, 2016
By Patty Woodland, Published on Aug 30, 2013. How to install a Dripworks Drip irrigation system. Available Online:  Dripworks Accessed Oct. 12, 2016

Blueberry Trials in Kenai

This is a good article summarizing project to compare effects of location and cultivar of three northern highbush and six half-high blueberry cultivars on survivability, fall dieback, winter injury, fruit yield and weight at two locations on the Kenai Peninsula. Results suggested ‘Northblue’ as the most promising cultivar followed by ‘Northcountry’, ‘Northsky’, and ‘Polaris’.  Unfortunately this project was discontinued due to shrinking budgets after the first year of fruit production.  CZ Anchorage

Citation: Barney, D.L. and K. E. Hummer. 2012. Northern High Bush and Half-High Blueberries on the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula: Preliminary Observations. Journal of the American Pomological Society 66(3): 145-152.

Available online:


Musings on Mulches

      I am writing about mulch because I find it very intriguing. I am interested in trying out different methods of mulching in my own berry patch, and in my own vegetable garden. This will by a simple synopsis on the few things I have found out about mulch and is by no means an exhaustive study. The act of researching and writing about mulch serves as a good opportunity for me to learn the best ways to use mulch next spring and summer.
Mulching has many uses both in cultivating berries, managing wild berries, and in your own gardens. Mulching serves many functions: It protects the roots of your berry crops; their root systems tend to be near the surface, many perennial berries grow using rhizomes which form mats of growth at relatively shallow depths.
     During cold winter months having a mulch over these mats can greatly increase the berry plants chances of producing the next growing season (New York Berry News). Mulch helps to hold in the moisture and to create habitats for small organisms to live and die. Organic mulches also provide more nutrients as they break down into the soil (Homestead and Gardens). The type of mulch to use largely depends on your purpose for the mulch. Most berry crops that are perennials and or shrubs prefer mulches made up of wood chips or sawdust, and other mulches which take longer than one growing season to break down (Work with Nature). These will protect the roots longer and release nutrients slowly into the soil. With cultivated stands of say strawberries using an organic mulch such as grass clippings or leaf mold is a good practice. These mulches will be a good source of organic fertilizers once tilled in at the end of the growing season.
     Obviously the best mulches are the ones that you have on hand; these will be the cheapest to use and can be replaced year after year as needed. I personally live near a large sawmill so fresh sawdust and chips are available though I would try and age it for a period of time perhaps a year as least. Putting fresh sawdust or chips around the berry plants can rob the soil of nitrogen. If fresh sawdust is all you have, simply add nitrogen to supplement the soil content. Mulch is also a good way to prevent weeds from taking over your plants. This practice is of primary interest to me as I have a big patch and am continually fighting weeds both between the bushes and the rows. Grass clippings are a very good mulch to keep weeds down but will need to be added every growing season as they break down quickly into the soil. Be careful that the mulch you use if it is a type of hay, that it does not have hay seeds still in the bales, straw would be better.
     Not all mulches have to be organic plasticulture works very well for cultivating berries and other crops. Most types of berries need a lot of moisture to produce healthy plants and also when ripening fruit. Plastic mulch can be very effective both for holding moisture and also to keep weeds down. Plastic mulching also works to raise the soil temperature to help keep the berries roots warm. This also will create warmer soil earlier in the year than usual around the berry plants (homeguides SF gate). The downside of using true plastic mulch and not a semi porous ground cloth is that rain water will not get to the roots; an irritation system will most likely need to be installed for the plants. Plastic mulch will also not add any nutrients to the soil and does not provide as favorable a habitat for helpful organisms in the soil.
     Decomposing organic mulches can change the pH of your soil over time. In Alaska the cold temperatures slow this decomposition down considerably and it will be awhile before any noticeable changes occur, but if the proper mulch is added every year and tilled in as needed the soil will be improved (Work with Nature). The soil I work tends to be more acidic so I much more likely to grow funguses such as mushrooms in wet soils. In warmer climates with alkaline soils the bacteria are able to build up better soil systems which is why composting works well in the warmer states (Work with Nature). I will be putting a lot of very old horse manure on my garden this month and have it tilled in for next spring. I might also put some straw and other mulching options down on some of the bare spots in my garden over the winter so that those areas will have a bit more organic matter already decomposing next year.
A quick note about the references below. I especially recommend reading the first website with the forum about mulching pros and cons put out by ( Read the brief overview by J Musser of the different types of mulch, its very interesting.
By J. Musser 2014. Started forum on pros and cons of different mulch. Gardening Stack exchange. Available online: Accessed Oct. 11, 2016
By Perry G., May, 2003. Blueberry mulching. Taken from New York Berry News. Put out by Penn State University. Available online: Accessed Oct. 9, 2016
By John Winings October 2, 2014. Mulches: Types and Uses. Homestead and Gardens. Available online: Accessed Oct. 9, 2016
     Nardozzi C. 2016 Much Ado about Mulch. The National Gardening Association. Available online: Mulches Accessed Oct. 9, 2016
     Rodriguez A. 2016 What type of mulch is best for blackberries? SF Gate. Available online: Mulches.  Accessed Oct.9, 2016
     Work with Nature- Organic gardening, beekeeping, and seed saving. Oct. 1, 2011.The right way to mulch your vegetables and trees / For proper PH! Available online: Mulches Accessed Oct. 9, 2016

Blackberries in Alaska?

Blackberries in Alaska; sounds farfetched I know. Many growers of berries in this state don’t have much luck with blackberries in most of the state (forums). They say the berries needs warmer summers with more sun and that winter temperatures usually kill the new canes that grow during the summer. In most blackberry varieties these canes will produce the next summer but have to over winter successfully to produce (motherearthnews). In the lower 48 growers usually mulch the plants heavily if they are in a colder state and keep the plants pruned to keep them from taking over adjacent plots and garden areas. Blackberries usually fall into two categories: trailing and upright both require different methods of pruning and if this is neglected the plants can quickly get out of hand (motherearthnews). Blackberries also are a very thorny plant even worse than raspberries and the trailing ones can create large brambles that are very difficult to pick. Overtime new and better varieties of blackberries have been created with certain traits being bred out and others becoming more prominent (motherearthnew). One of these traits was a faster maturing berry which would grow on the first year wood; this variety is a possible option for colder climates as one could conceivably get berries from young wood that summer ( The reason I am writing about growing blackberries in Alaska is because I have seen it done and successfully. Years ago I was visiting a farm not far from where I live. The farm had a large vegetable garden, hay fields for the small herd of cows being raised there, and a nice greenhouse. The lady who ran the green house was an excellent gardener and coxed more yields out of her tomatoes and other greenhouse crops than most others could have managed. I liked her greenhouse set up; it was simple and very productive, but the one thing which stood out the most in my mind was the very large blackberry bush that was growing up one wall. The trailing vines grew nearly 12ft in either direction and was trellised to the wall for support. This plant grew out of a 5-gallon bucket set against the wall. I had never actually seen a blackberry bush in living color so I took some time to inspected the branches and ripening berries with interest. The branches were loaded with ripening berries. I have since then asked around and it seems the lady who ran the greenhouse was and is still known for her abilities in plant growing and knowledge of greenhouse growing and berry cultivation. Some of the people who talked tome mentioned her blackberry bush. The bush it seems was a bit famous.
     Perhaps growing blackberries in a hightunnel, or greenhouse is the only way to really get good production in my area. I did not know much about her methods of how she cared for the bush so to find out I asked around, got her phone number and called her up. She was more than happy to share her experience of growing the blackberry bush with me. She said that she bought the berry through a catalog which advertised the berry as being (grow-able in Alaska). The variety was a thornless blackberry sold by Doyle; the plants are still for sail online and I found many favorable reviews though most were in the lower 48( Even Amazon sells them and says they can be grown in all 50 states though I am sure that can be taken with a grain of salt. My friend also said that the berry was very easy to grow as far as yearly maintenance. When the plant arrived it was about a foot tall with a long root system. She planted the small bush in a bucket with holes in the bottom for drainage and filled it with half potting soil, half topsoil from her garden plots. She placed it by the greenhouse wall and used it as a trellis when the bush began to put out larger branches. The fertilizer she recommended is made by (spray-n- called Bill’s perfect fertilizer. She fertilized the bush at the beginning of the year and kept it well watered. She pruned early spring and transplanted the bush the second year into a larger container than the bucket. Every fall she stored the whole plant unpruned in the farm’s rootcellar and watered it once a month with about a quart of water to keep it alive but dormant. The first year the bush produced a handful of berries and the second year it produced a gallon. It would have produced more but the third year she moved and had to give the plant and her propagated cuttings from the bush away. I asked if she had any issues with diseases or pests on the bush and she said no. I also asked if she had any pollination issues and again she said no. I guess because it was growing in the summer and the greenhouse was well ventilated, bees or flies must have pollinated it for her. She felt the whole experiment was very much worth her time and effort. I was glad to get this information straight from her. I also enjoyed finding out how, a little blackberry bush for sale in a catalog was grown, propagated and is still growing in this part of Alaska thanks to her efforts. AB Delta Junction
Spray-N-Grow. 2016. Spray-N-Grow Garden Products. Available online:. Accessed Oct. 5 2016.
Amazo. 2016. Doyle’s thornless blackberry plant. Available online:  Accessed Oct. 5, 2016.
Yelp. 2016. Recommended reviews for Doyle’s thornless blackberry. Available online:
Accessed Oct.5, 2016
Heidenreich, C., M. Pritts, K. Demchak, E. Hanson, C. Weber and M J Kelly. 2012 rev. High tunnel raspberries and blackberries. Department of Horticulture Pub. No. 47. Available online:
Accessed Oct. 3, 2016
Pleasant, B. 2016.  Plant low-maintenance blackberries. Mother Earth News. Available online: Accessed Oct. 3, 2016.
The Old Farmers Almanac. 2016. Blackberries. Available online:

Pruning blueberries

The links below compare pruning techniques between highbush and lowbush blueberries. Although I assume most of us are not interested in growing highbush blueberries, I still think it is an interesting comparison. The first link is a video bythe University of Maine on how to prune highbush blueberries on a blueberry farm. I like that he points out how to looks for vegetative vs. fruiting buds and which branches to prune out to improve fruit quantity and quality. In the video a loppers is used to prune the bushes. The second link is a publication, also by the University of Maine, about pruning lowbush blueberry fields. The techniques suggested here are thermal pruning (eg burning) and mowing, which is quite a different approach! The timing of pruning is the same for both, which is during plant dormancy- late fall after a hard frost, during winter or early spring before bud break. KMD Fairbanks

Pruning Blueberries