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Drought tolerant berries for very shallow poor soil?

 
gardener
Posts: 529
Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
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Father's  day is rapidly approaching, and my plan this year is to buy my dad a berry plant or two.  So....easy just run out to the garden centre right? Not quite.

His yard is very poor orange subsoil, with maybe a cm or less of topsoil, and about a foot of total soil over bedrock. Over the years we have killed hardy cherry trees, apples, raspberries, currants,  and goose berries , and many, many cedars ( scorched in droughts mostly I think, every few years he gets a bad hot July/August were there isn't enouh water in the river to even get the sump pump in to irrigate his trees and there is almost no rain for months, but also winter killed when there is a winter with no snow and a few weeks of -30). His grapes have one good year in 3 (would help if he pruned them). The wild blue berries had one good year in the last 10.  Wild raspberries and blackberries do much better- I think the forest has somewhat thicker/better soil, and they tend to grow closer to the river.

So.... any plant suggestions (Canadian zone 3b)? More importantly, any planting method suggestions to give these poor plants a chance for survival? We already always plant in a divet to keep water. At this point I am ready to buy a few bags of soil to amend with before I plant anything and mulch with a wheelbarrow or two of 5 year old wood chips. I want to spend as little time as possible planting as the bugs are BAD this time of year. Maybe I will be lucky and I can garden in a nice drenching rain.

Thinking maybe saskatoons? Trying raspberries or blackberries again? Haskaps?
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Yard
 
Posts: 319
Location: South Central Kansas
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Can you do Hugelkultur?

Perhaps break through the bedrock somehow so roots can go deeper?

Perhaps sink a well?

Use a lot of wood chip mulch?

Here is a list of drought tolerant ones:

https://ezinearticles.com/?Drought-Resistant-Blueberry-Plants-or/and-Those-Tolerant-of-Heavy-Soils&id=6138143

Blueberries, because they are shallow-rooted, do require more water than most fruits so the surface roots do not dry out. Blueberries respond best to quality (deep) watering rather than keeping the surface moist. Water will move to the surface.
 
pollinator
Posts: 348
Location: East tn
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Region specific list here:
https://northernhomestead.com/varieties-of-berries-for-zone-3-garden/

As for method, dig a pit, add woody debris, some grass clippings, then a bag of soil. Then mulch. That's the basics of hugelkultur on a small scale. The woody material acts like a sponge, soaking up water, then releasing it back slowly.
 
steward
Posts: 5377
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
2022
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The two species of wild berries that I harvest in the drylands here are saskatoons and currents.
 
Catie George
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Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
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Good ideas, hadn't thought of making a mini hugel. There's a large pile of wood chips beside the driveway.... I can steal some and put it under the bush as well as using it as mulch. And probably get a bag of manure or something. Thinking of that made me think dad probably wouldn't want a mound in his lawn where all the other things have gone to die.. and made me realize I could stick it in the abandoned raised flower bed. Soil is no deeper but is slightly better, and it's all just weeds and lupine anyways and I think it holds water better as he doesnt cut it.

Saskatoons are probably what I will go for, although they are 2-3x the price of anything else last time I looked in the garden centres. My dad and I have a difficult relationship, but some of my best childhood memories from our old house  are of dad and I wild saskatoon hunting- him bending the bushes over so I could fill a bucket... i haven't found any wild near him though. I always thought they were especially delicious with that tasty almond cyanide flavour on drought years.

Thanks all!
 
Kai Walker
Posts: 319
Location: South Central Kansas
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Catie George wrote:Good ideas, hadn't thought of making a mini hugel. There's a large pile of wood chips beside the driveway.... I can steal some and put it under the bush as well as using it as mulch. And probably get a bag of manure or something. Thinking of that made me think dad probably wouldn't want a mound in his lawn where all the other things have gone to die.. and made me realize I could stick it in the abandoned raised flower bed. Soil is no deeper but is slightly better, and it's all just weeds and lupine anyways and I think it holds water better as he doesnt cut it.

Saskatoons are probably what I will go for, although they are 2-3x the price of anything else last time I looked in the garden centres. My dad and I have a difficult relationship, but some of my best childhood memories from our old house  are of dad and I wild saskatoon hunting- him bending the bushes over so I could fill a bucket... i haven't found any wild near him though. I always thought they were especially delicious with that tasty almond cyanide flavour on drought years.

Thanks all!



For my hugel, I didn't have enough logs so I used what I had and topped them with lots of wood chips, leaves, and enough used coffee grounds to indicate a college was prepping for a final! Used coffee grounds incorporated to reduce nitrogen draw down.

Topped that off with barn scrapings (goat and sheep) and some raggedly dirt from yard waste. Then a top layer of wood chips. 1,000 gal of water used every 4-7 days or weekly.

Dang thing heated up to over 130F just 4-6 inches below the surface.

So if you build one be observant of the soil temps before you decide to plant anything.
And bigger is better in this case.
 
Kai Walker
Posts: 319
Location: South Central Kansas
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Catie George wrote:Good ideas, hadn't thought of making a mini hugel. There's a large pile of wood chips beside the driveway.... I can steal some and put it under the bush as well as using it as mulch. And probably get a bag of manure or something. Thinking of that made me think dad probably wouldn't want a mound in his lawn where all the other things have gone to die.. and made me realize I could stick it in the abandoned raised flower bed. Soil is no deeper but is slightly better, and it's all just weeds and lupine anyways and I think it holds water better as he doesnt cut it.

Saskatoons are probably what I will go for, although they are 2-3x the price of anything else last time I looked in the garden centres. My dad and I have a difficult relationship, but some of my best childhood memories from our old house  are of dad and I wild saskatoon hunting- him bending the bushes over so I could fill a bucket... i haven't found any wild near him though. I always thought they were especially delicious with that tasty almond cyanide flavour on drought years.

Thanks all!



Remember, a Hugelgarden is not the same as a Hugelbeet.

Hugelbeet is a no trench/no hill method.

Hugelgarden is a trench and a hill.

Every inch you dig down is that much more water your setup can hold.

I could only go down about a shovel depth for mine due to hardpan (which necessitates using dynamite to get through lol)
Where I live that is a bit NO-NO!
 
Posts: 390
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b) Rainfall 26"
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I hestitate to suggest this because of its potential to become invasive, but what about Gaultheria?  Specifically, Gaultheria shallon.  I'm thinking this because of a property I visited in the north of England where it had run mad over the whole garden and then out into the woods.  The property is called Cragside which tells you something about the depth of soil available there.  Bilberry (whortleberry), lingonberry (cowberry) and crowberry would also do well in similar conditions here.  And I'd actually be a bit wary of creating luxury planting pits for things, as this doesn't encourage them to go out and build a good root system, and then in a wet time just acts a sump and starves the roots of oxygen through waterlogging.  That depends just how bad conditions outside the pit are, of course!  At Cragside, they will have a relatively high rainfall so that little soil there is still water available, just no nutrients.
 
Posts: 664
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:The two species of wild berries that I harvest in the drylands here are saskatoons and currents.



Thanks Joseph for the idea - I've been looking for a berry that would suit a warm climate and not be too much of a princess in regards to upkeep.

Never heard of Saskatoon so did a Mr/Ms Google and we can get the plants here in Oz.

It seems the fruit mature all at once? That suits me fine given bird control and typical unpredictable weather.

At $20 per plant, which is reasonable given the quarantine hurdles that need to be met to bring biologicals into the country, would you please advise regarding their maintenance: water, feeding, sun/wind aspects, pruning, etc?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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F Agricola wrote:would you please advise regarding their maintenance: water, feeding, sun/wind aspects, pruning, etc?



I harvest wild service berries. I don't give them any water, fertilizer, or pruning. The site  where they produce most abundantly is on a north facing slope, in full sunlight during the summer, and shaded by the hill in winter. (About 14" of annual precipitation, mostly snow. Clay/silt alkaline-ish soil.)

I also grow some domestically, which are growing in the hedgerow of a field, and they get irrigated with the field. It is non-fertilized, flat-ground with full sunlight.

 
F Agricola
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Great, thanks Joseph. Appreciated.

 
pollinator
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Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Catie George wrote:

Saskatoons are probably what I will go for, although they are 2-3x the price of anything else last time I looked in the garden centres. My dad and I have a difficult relationship, but some of my best childhood memories from our old house  are of dad and I wild saskatoon hunting- him bending the bushes over so I could fill a bucket... i haven't found any wild near him though. I always thought they were especially delicious with that tasty almond cyanide flavour on drought years.



That's the best way to get amelanchier. I have hundreds of suckers coming from mine, they can be readily split. I try to transplant from several copses, as otherwise basically you have a clone from one tree- all genetically identical and susceptible to disease. I try to find the gems around that have some resistance to rust, look at the leaves and see if they have a bunch of rust spots or none. A plant making berries is one that has good resistance!
 
Catie George
gardener
Posts: 529
Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
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F Agricola wrote:

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:The two species of wild berries that I harvest in the drylands here are saskatoons and currents.



Thanks Joseph for the idea - I've been looking for a berry that would suit a warm climate and not be too much of a princess in regards to upkeep.

Never heard of Saskatoon so did a Mr/Ms Google and we can get the plants here in Oz.

It seems the fruit mature all at once? That suits me fine given bird control and typical unpredictable weather.

At $20 per plant, which is reasonable given the quarantine hurdles that need to be met to bring biologicals into the country, would you please advise regarding their maintenance: water, feeding, sun/wind aspects, pruning, etc?



Saskatoons are $20 a plant in Australis, and $33 in Canada, where they are native and grown commercially?! NOT FAIR.

Hester - good idea on the shallon, I had never heard of them. I checked and they are zone 6 unfortunately. I dobut I could get them in a garden centre, but I will keep them in mind if I ever garden in the southern part of the province. At least the cold means we don't seem to fight invasives like other parts of the world.

I drove up to my dads, as he is away,to water his houseplants and check on the house. In my rain jacket, long pants, socks, jeans, in 28 C and sun, I spent 5 min or so and divided some perennials from the overgrown garden. Only got 20 ish bug bites.  The soil in the garden  is way better than I remember it being. Still only about a foot before I hit good old Canadian shield ( the kind of rock that sings when you hit it with a hammer/shovel). The last time I worked in this garden was 7ish years ago when my mother and I went on a mulching spree when the hydro crews came through and cut back and chippd trees. No traces of the mulch left, but the soil has way more organics than I remember.

Based on the bugs and what i saw when i dug, my plan is to put whatever it is I plant in the old flower garden and mulch heavily, and skip making a hugel. I actually planted a saskatoon this spring a hundred km south or so  in my mothers garden. It bloomed copiously and has set a huge crop of berries. I know I should pinch them back... but I haven't had a saskatoon in years. They were everywhere in Albrta, but I have only seen them in ornamental plantings in Ontario. You wouldn't believe how many well-meaning people have told me "don't eat  those! They are posionous!" as I scarf them down in front of various public buildings.



 
Posts: 492
Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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This guy gets a bumper goji crop with no water from march till september!

Extreme weather crop...very hot, long and dry summers and very cold winters


 
Tj Jefferson
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Another plant I forgot. Aronia. It's not super tasty but not bad
 
F Agricola
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Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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Catie George wrote:

F Agricola wrote:Saskatoons are $20 a plant in Australis, and $33 in Canada, where they are native and grown commercially?! NOT FAIR.



Although it’s not something we brag about here in Oz, we do have a ‘special’ relationship with Donnie and Mel:


Special Relationship With Donnie & Mel


Maybe that Trudeau fellow needs to come on board and share the (thankfully unconsummated) love?!


Then it'll be cheap Saskatoon’s for everyone, well, except down Mexico way …


[Australis? Okay Canaduh!]


 
Catie George
gardener
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As an update to this.... I ended up with a black satin blackberry. The garden centre only had an ornamental variety of saskatoons which described the berries as good for birds and cost $40 or $150. Yikes!!! Black berry was $10, locally grown, and thornless. Dad insisted on planting, and because it was raining AND swarming with bugs I didn't argue too hard. He agreed to plant with a bag of manure though so that's a win. I think he liked my argument that planting in the flower bed would mean he didn't need to lawn mow around it. There was no tag, and i see now its listed to zone 5, so here's  to hoping it survives
 
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