Here are some questions that I have fielded over phone, at the
farmer’s market, and here at the farm and nursery. It would be
great to read through them, for this is where some of the most
useful information can be found….
Q: Are your plants organic, and non-GMO?
A: YES YES YES. We are certified organic, which means we
cannot use GMO or GMO-derived products. Every inch of our
operation and farm are inspected regularly to make sure we meet the
standards set by the National Organic Program of the USDA.
And, I am an ardent advocate of chemical-free, open-pollinated,
heirloom farming practices. Don’t trust the USDA? Then
you can trust me, because I grew up on a conventional farm, and have
seen first hand the environmental, societal, and emotional harm
caused by chemical usage in our country. I cannot and will not support companies such as DuPont and Monsanto, which in my opinion are bent on the destruction of our great country’s family farms and
Q: Do you still accept mail-in orders and payment with check or money order? How do I figure my shipping for this process?
A: Yes we do. On the menu bar is the tab for opening our downloadable order form. Just fill in and mail with payment. For calculating shipping, just put the items in your cart, go to the checkout page so you can enter your actual shipping address (not just zip code and state), and use that total. Then just clear your cart. I can also figure your shipping if you want to send me an email.
Q: When is the best time to plant berry plants?
A: The short answer is right after you get them.
With our potted berry plants, they can be planted anytime of the
year, so long as you can work the soil. The spring
planting/fall planting protocols have more to do with bare-root
plants than anything else. Remember, potted plants have an
intact, fully functional root system, ready to give full support to
the above ground stem and shoots. They undergo minimal
transplant shock for this reason, and so can be planted anytime,
even when dormant. For summer and fall planting, just make
sure not to forget your newly placed berry plant if you have a dry
Q: What is my hardiness zone?
A: Your hardiness zone is determined by average low
temperatures in your area. Areas of the country that share
similar average low temps are in a similar hardiness zone. You
can go to this this USDA site
to see just what your new, updated
hardiness zone is.
Q: Is there anything that bothers
blueberry plants, like pests or diseases?
A: Yes, there is always something out there waiting to take a knock
at your plants. But, for the backyard berry producer, these
are rarely a problem. Insect pests and diseases are usually
found in areas where large acres of blueberries have been planted,
as these are great places for population explosions of pests.
Keeping your plant cultivars and growing habitat diverse are the
best insurance against high levels of pests and disease. It
works very well on our farm.
Q: Will the birds eat all my berries?
A: They will nail your blueberries if they are not netted, and they
will go after the black raspberries as well (these are the first
berries to ripen). Blackberries on our farm are only mildly
hit, and the red raspberries show no bird predation at all.
Robins are the worst, as they will form gangs and ruin your plants.
Catbirds and Brown Thrashers will get some no matter what you do, as
they are a determined intelligence (all they have to do during the
day is figure out how to get IN there!). My father-in-law
noted that, once the blueberries started producing, he began to see
bird species that he had not seen since he was a boy.
Q: Where can I get bird netting to keep birds off
A: Garden centers, home improvement stores,
nurseries, and online gardening supply stores carry them.
I have been using a 30% shade fabric, which can be purchased online
at companies like A.M. Leonard. They sell various widths, but
I get the 14 or 20 foot widths, for use over single or double rows,
for instance. It is twice the price of regular netting, but is
so much easier to use, and lasts for many seasons (I have some on
our greenhouse that is over 8 years old, and still looks good…I
defy anyone to produce traditional bird netting that old that is
still usable for keeping birds off berry plants!).
Q: Do certain trees bother berry plants?
A: The black walnut will kill blueberry plants, but will not bother
blackberry or raspberry plants (the brambles). Shade can be
good in hot climates (zones 5-8), but make sure it is afternoon
shade for raspberries (blueberries do fine with either). As
for blackberries, full sun=full sweetness. Even the slightest
bit of shade seems to make them sour.
Q: How often should I water my berry
A: That depends. Established plants (at least 2 years in the
ground) should do fine with seasonal precipitation, but plan on
irrigating during dry spells. This will insure proper bud set
for next years fruits. Less consistent watering won’t kill
them, but your overall yield potential may diminish. As for
new plants, water every week, unless you have a good soaker (a 1″
rain) during that week. Hot, dry weather means watering twice
a week, even with a good mulch. Watch the plants.
Brambles will wilt at the tip if they need water, as will the new
growth on blueberries. Severe water stress on blueberries
(either too much or too little water) shows up as browning, dying
tissue on leaf margins. In heavier soils you can overwater, so make sure you
plant them in a well drained spot (or raised up about 8″ if the
ground is poorly drainig).
Q: When will I see blueberries on my
A: Most of our cultivars should have some fruit on them the
year after you plant them, with each year seeing more berries.
Blueberry plants’ peak yields occur at ages 8-12 years, then drop a bit
to stabilize over the following years. Most cultivars are very
precocious, making more berries each year until they hit their
stride. The plants you get from us are 2 years old (from
cutting) and should produce some fruit the following year.
In 6 more years they will hit their maximum production, given
adequate care. There is no need to remove berries while the
plant is young, especially if you are following our planting/growing
guides. You can see the flower buds easily on a blueberry, as
they are the buds that are very prominent (the vegetative or leaf
buds are small and recessed).
Q: When can I expect to see raspberries?
A: The fall bearing raspberries, also called everbearing
(and more properly called “primocane fruiting”), should
produce some fruit the year you plant them. This fruit will
appear on the new growing cane. Expect more the following
years, as the plant builds up its root system and crown. With
the fall red raspberries, I have had a full-cropping row the year
after planting (2 ft spacing used). I usually cut these down
to the ground in December, ensuring quality harvests the following
July-October. Purple, summer red, and black raspberries (as
well as blackberries) will start to flower and fruit the year after
you plant them. On these brambles, only cut out the canes that
have finished fruiting, and any spindly new canes.
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Q: Can I use compost and rotted manure
around my berries?
A: These amendments are fine for brambles, but they really do not
need that much nitrogen, so opt for compost over manure. Never
use these on blueberries, as these materials tend to raise and
balance pH (usually a good thing), thus eliminating the acidic pH
that blueberries require to thrive.
Q: When should I prune my blueberry?
A: Generally, it should need no pruning for about 3-4 years after
you plant it. Let it grow and build its root system, becoming
strong so that it can better regenerate after pruning. The
exceptions to this are for broken branches, dead tips, and spindly
or horizontal growth near the base.
Q: How often should I fertilize my
A: We do it once in late March (zone 5), then again in late May or
early June for our production bushes. We also foliar feed
every other week after the weather has warmed until early June.
It is unwise to fertilize after July, especially with organic
fertilizers, as they tend to prevent the plant from hardening-off
(get ready for winter) properly, which usually results in 2-3 inches
dieback on every branch tip. Foliar kelp is OK once or twice
after fruit is picked, and I usually do this at a half-rate
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Q: Why are my blueberries leaves turning
A: They do this for different reasons. They turn red in the
fall, of course (and orange/yellow), and that is expected. If it is
spring or summer and this is happening, your pH could be too high
and/or they are not getting enough nitrogen. I usually put a
couple full shovels of peat moss around each plant in the spring,
along with its annual spring fertilizer treatment, and I have never
had this problem in my production bushes. I am more likely to
see it in potted nursery plants, as pH and nitrogen can rapidly
change given increased watering (leaching nitrogen and raising pH)
and temperatures (increased plant growth with not enough nitrogen).
Q: Why is the new growth on my blueberry plant pale
A: It needs iron, and may not have an acidic enough pH.
Usually these two go hand-in-hand, as iron becomes more available to
blueberry roots as the pH decreases to 4.5-5.0. First check
soil pH, for if it is too high (above 5.5) no amount of iron
addition is going to help. If it is acidic enough, then add an
iron fortified fertilizer amendment, or drench with a couple gallons
of STRONG stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) tea. This herb is
LOADED with iron, in a very available form for plants and people.
Again, following the planting guides provided with your order and on
our website should steer you clear of these types of issues.
Q: Keith, what is your favorite variety and
cultivar of berry?
A: This is a question I often get, and it depends on
the day to how I answer it. Lucky me, I usually say, because I
get to grow all the different kinds, plus some rare ones. Most
of the berry plants we grow have at least one attribute I feel sets
them apart, and makes it worthwhile to grow. Of course, I do
get some customers at market who don’t buy the “All my children are
beautiful and special” line. So today, here it is: my
favorite lowbush is Polaris, my favorite northern highbush is
Blue Moon, southern highbush is Sunshine Blue, Joan J and Jaclyn top my raspberry list, and
Triple Crown has consistently impressed me. Favorites list
subject to change. Don’t tell the other cultivars…
Q: Which kind of berry plant that you sell would
you say is the most productive per plant?
A: Some customers want production, and any berry will
do. For that, I have a simple answer: Triple Crown
blackberry. This plant has by far outstripped every other
plant on our farm in per plant fruit production, save the
watermelons (remember our springs usually do in our tree fruits, so
I don’t count them as producers on our farm). We have had up
to 22# from one plant, and I have seen results even higher in other,
more amenable growing areas.
Q: For a first time berry grower, which of the
berry plants that you sell would be good to start with, meaning less
work and more fruit?
A: Of all the plants I sell, the Fall Red Raspberries
are great for first time berry growers. They are very easy to
plant, will usually produce a light crop of berries the year you
plant them (which is encouraging), and they have a simple
maintenance: cut them to the ground before spring. Late
frosts do not affect Fall Red Raspberry fruit production, as they
haven’t produced any flowers yet (that happens in late June).
We have never had any bird predation on our Fall Raspberries,
either, so there is no need to net them (like the blueberries).
Removal of canes in early winter also reduces the chance for insect
pests and diseases to pop-up next season, as most of these n’er
do’wells overwinter on the canes. This will help your patch to
stay healthy for many, many years (we have one that is going on 10
years with no sign of any disease).
Q: Some of your plants are heirlooms. What
does that mean?
A: An heirloom is a plant cultivar or variety that
has been maintained for at least 50 years. There are not many
heirloom berry plants available, as the older cultivars are replaced
ones. I am working with a Michigan propagator to acquire plant
material form the ARS USDA germplasm bank of old blueberry
cultivars. Many of these old cultivars are used in breeding
new ones. Running their tissue through a virus indexing
process will provide virus free stock. I hope to be offering
these old time cultivars in the near future.