Last week I took a “staycation” from work to do infrastructure work at our new garden. We are trying to get infrastructure and as much fruit planted in the first year to let it develop to be ready for harvest shortly after we start offering our vegetables. Knowing it take 2-5 years for fruit trees and bushes to mature, it was critical that we get as much planted in the first spring as possible.
Based on our plan, we were to build three beds that were 16’L X 4’ W for our raspberry and blackberry beds and two 8’L X 4’W blueberry beds. This size will allow us enough bushes for critical mass and to produce a large enough crops to sell. Each bed should hold 12 to 14 bushes when fully planted. We prepared the area using two methods…one manual and one reliant on machinery.
In my mind, I thought the right decision was to dig the beds out by hand, using organic methods and just good plain hard work. So Monday, I spent 12 hours digging out one of the three bramble beds…that was really back breaking work given the condition of the sod and the soil underneath, but I managed to do it. Then Will and I constructed the bed frame using 8X6X8 dimensional lumber. We connected two pieces of lumber on each side of the bed and then cut one piece of lumber to serve as the ends. We leveled the lumber and connected them using galvanized brackets at the top and outer seams. I then filled the bed using some of the soil we bought from Jones Topsoil (see previous blog post).
The next day, we decided to use some machinery to speed the process. We rented a sod cutter from the local Home Depot and brought it on site. In the same time it took us to build the first bed, we had removed the sod and built the other two bramble beds as well as cutting the sod out for the blueberry beds. I filled those beds and then planted them the next day.
For our red raspberries, we chose a varietal mix of “Heritage”, Raspberry Shortcake, “Crimson Night” and “Caroline Red”. These will have staggered ripening times so we can offer product for a longer period.
For the Yellow Raspberries, we selected two varieties “Fall Gold” and “Anne”. Fall Gold, is an extremely hardy variety. The fruit color may vary from very light yellow to a dark orange at maturity. This varietal is an ever-bearing cane, meaning it will produce two crops per year. Anne, a late season bearer, it is less vigorous than fall gold, but it will extend our season a bit longer.
For the blackberries, we chose a regular and a thornless variety. The standard “Ebony King is a perennial favorite and the “Black Satin” thornless hopefully will provide abundant fruit with less bloodshed from prickly thorns.
We then finished the week by building, filling and planting the blueberry beds. We are only planting one bed this year as I ran out of plant budget for the time being. We will plant the other bed next spring when conditions, inventory and funds are available. Blueberries are greedy plants so I am top dressing the beds with composted cow manure and then placing a nice layer of mulch for water retention.
We will add support and structure to these beds later in the season or in early next spring when they really start to grow.
We are waiting on delivery of a couple more fruit trees this week and then our fruit planting will be over. Over the summer we will be building our raised vegetable and high tunnel beds and I will report on the progress as we go!