Throughout the holiday season we sold our portable “Berry Patch in a Bag” at the Farmers market. The container berry patch was developed using Smart Pot aeration bags to help people with limited space enjoy the gardening experience.
The berries that you purchased in December were entering their dormant phase. Dormancy gives the plants time to store up chilling hours and energy that they will need to produce lots of strawberries starting in the spring. There will be physical changes to your plants during this time which will most likely include: yellowing and/or browning of many leaves, drying of leaves. This is normal.
To help you feel more comfortable that your plants are looking as they should, I will be growing my own demonstration Berry Patches in Bags. Regularly I will update this page with timed photos and comments to show you how my plants are doing during the cold months and into spring blooms. I will also provide maintenance information at these times.
FEBRUARY 7, 2013
In January we had a week of very cold weather with the mercury dipping into the 20′s. During this cold snap I covered the berries with an old canvas tarp. From all I can tell there was no visible damage. Today they are a lovely healthy green and just waiting for a sustained period of warmer weather to start budding. Since the first of the year, I have only watered the baskets once. The rain has done the rest.
With the cold weather a couple leaves turned red and yellow. As you can see from the photo above there are a few brown, crinkled leaves. New growth has already started from the center of each plant. For now there is nothing to do but let them grow more green leaves. When white flowers start appearing and temperatures warm up a bit it will be time to fertilize. I will make my next post at that time. That should be closer to the end of February/beginning of March. Until then, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!
FEBRUARY 9, 2013
Feeling a sense of gratitude for our seasonal rain showers. It was a good soaking yesterday with temperatures touching the mid-30’s. Our mature blueberry bushes are loving it!
Misty blueberries produce fruit first in the season. Their little white blossoms are opening up everywhere on the property. It will be time to amend with organic acid loving fertilizer soon.
Our beautiful Southmoon blueberries lose a few more leaves during the winter and lag a bit behind Misty in bud production. Their fruit buds have started to swell but have not blossomed yet. All bushes look vigorous without signs of cold damage.
MARCH 1, 2013
Spring is right around the corner and temperatures are creeping up (at least for the coming week). Both of our blueberry varieties are budding out so we have fertilized all plants, mature producing bushes and for sale bushes. Over the next week the forecast is telling us that temperatures will be creeping up so I am turning on the irrigation for the first time in the season. Blueberries in 20 gallon pots will have irrigation set for 10 minutes every three days.
The photo shows Rhododendron, Azalea, Camillia fertilizer, aka “acid lover’s” fertilizer, which is what we use to fertilize the blueberry bushes. All these plants are related and have similar nutrition requirements. An alternative acidic fertilizer would be Cottonseed meal. Make sure this is OMRI approved. Non-organic cottonseed meal is derived from cotton plants that have been sprayed with pesticides and we don’t want this! To make your plants extra happy, and I like happy blueberries, top dress the bushes with a nice mix of coffee grounds and organic compost. This just adds to the acid/organic matter environment that blueberries thrive in.
Sources for these amendment include: Gardner and Bloome Organics available at Sunshine Growers Nursery, Yucaipa or EB Stone Organic line available at Cherry Valley Nursery. All fertilizers are available in small box size for a few plants or bulk weight size if you have several plants.
MARCH 10, 2013
Two days of great rainfall have made all the berries extremely happy. As you can see in the photo, many of the plants in the bags are starting to produce their little white berry flowers. This is your first cue that it is time to fertilize.
I am partial to the quality of E B Stone organic products and use many of their fertilizers and potting soil. When choosing amendments always be aware of the NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium). This general plant mix has an NPK of 5-5-5 which is appropriate for strawberries. Don’t fertilized berries with a nitrogen higher than 8 or you will get nice leafy plants with few berries. With this product use 1/4 cup fertilizer per berry bag and distribute evenly around plants.
This year I am renovating many of the beds where I grow strawberries for our jam. Mother plants are usually productive for 3-4 years and then you need to pull them out and plant new. After speaking with a few commercial growers I will lay down irrigation tape instead of individual drip lines. Water is distributed more evenly with this method. As we get around to making this happen I will post a picture. As with many of my supplies I deal in bulk, so for irrigation supplies I have an account with Hydroscape off of Mountain View Avenue.