Gardening · Homesteading

Creating The Blueberry Orchard

I have always wanted an “orchard” of blueberry bushes, all in nice and tidy rows. Before, at our last house we had 45 or so plants, but they were all over, tucked into corners. While it was a way to have them, it wasn’t efficient for growing. I dug up a dozen plants in preparation for our move last winter, and they came with us. This year the plants sat planted in an area not great, but they at least lurked along. However, as fall came into play, I noticed where the blueberry bushes were sitting, they were getting about 1 hour sunlight, so I knew we needed to put in the work, and get the orchard done – and put the blueberry bushes to bed.

I chose the lower right hand field. It is in an area where I didn’t want to till deeply and it needed to be fitted in between the road, the well line and the field. It sits at the base of the sloping hill, with the massive maple tree above it (however, the maple tree doesn’t project shade on the lower field).

Roughly marked out with stakes.

Kirk broke the land open with our BCS Tractor, with the rotary plow attached. There was a lot of chipped wood on this field, as it originally held the first brush/tree piles we shredded. This was both good and bad. Good in that once decomposed, it will better the soil, bad in that it was a pain to chew up dry wood into the ground.

View after Kirk got done with that. We have shredded/chipped so many piles, that we have brought out from the woods. To say the woods were not healthy is an understatement. The forest is so much healthier now, 7 months into it. We finally started small burns once the rains returned, to get rid of the brittle wood we can’t shred: Madrona limbs, root balls, rotten wood, and the horrible invasive holly trees. Two pictures up that is a pile of Holly waiting to be burnt. Holly is hard to chip – the leaves shoot right through. They are jagged and rip at you – and yes, they will slash your hands and legs open! That crap is only good for burning. We have taken out over 40 of the trees so far, some were 40 feet tall. (The worst is each “tree” often has 10 to 20 stems so you can’t just take it down like a normal tree)

So while I tended the fire, Kirk did the plowing.

Early the next morning, in the coastal fog. Kirk ran the tiller attachment after the plow, to smooth it out.

I put down garden tarps/fabric and then Kirk brought in piles of wood chips to lay down over it. Using the Kubota tractor really sped that up. Kirk could only access 2 sides of the new bed due to the hill, but at least most of our hard labor was done easily.

At this point I had put in 4 T posts for the fencing as well. In the background, across the driveway, you can see one of the piles of wood waiting to be shredded. It never quits growing….

T posts in, sun setting, and the mulch spread.

The next morning, my oldest son and I dug up the 12 blueberry bushes and brought them down to the bed. Fabric cut, holes dug, planted and mulched.

I did this bed with a light fencing – I wanted to see if it would work. Jury is still out on it, but it went up well. No sagging at all. I found the Deer-X netting at Tractor Supply, where it is a bit more affordable. In the past we used the heavier netting material, which runs $70 to 100 a roll (100 feet). That will wrap a bed that is 35 feet long by 15 feet wide. One thing about the lighter weight is I could use less poles and the netting was very taught once up. We used zip ties as usual for tying it on to the poles. With the smaller beds I am comfortable doing this method. I wouldn’t be so much if it was an entire field I had to fence. The deer on the island are smaller in stature than deer on the mainland, so jumping is a bit harder. However, they will go for jumping into larger areas. I am sure at some point I will have an idiot deer test my theory. Since the netting is nearly invisible to the eye, I had Ford lay down cut logs all around the bed (like the other bed we did, at the other end of the field). It holds down the extra netting, but also gives visibility. I am going to tie on rainbow tape for eye visibility as well this week. If the deer test this one, I will pick up a roll of red twine (used in hay baling) and wrap the fence with it at the top. Deer seem to understand that and won’t jump it.

But for now, 12 blueberry plants are in the ground, in their (hopefully) forever home. They are tucked in for the winter. There is room for 2 more, plus an optional 3rd row, that can hold another 5 max. I have a half-finished gate, which I will finish as I have time, however the netting is zip tied shut till then. I don’t have any reason to need to get in for a few months!