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overhauling a problem area (blueberry, blackberry)

Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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in fall of 2012 I planted 16 blueberry bushes cutting across a slope. all rabbiteye species recommended for the Piedmont Southeast. early this spring I followed up with 24 thornless erect & semi-erect blackberry bushes (arapaho, natchez, and ouachita) were planted about 8 ft down the slope, parallel to the row of blueberries. (I'll try to have photos in a couple of weeks).

everything was well-mulched with cardboard & burlap followed by fairly well broken down pine bark mulch around the blueberries and hardwood mulch in the aisle betwixt the blueberry and the blackberry. my main goal here was to suppress bermuda grass (cynodon dactylon), which is pervasive in this garden space. everything looked great, like my defenses would surely hold, until the warm weather kicked in and the bermuda grass runners & stolons eventually found sure footing. a common story!

I say all of this to share my current plan to overhaul this area, and in the hopes that some of you enjoy troubleshooting as much as I but have a bit more experience than I do.

my first step was to shade out the bermuda grass to halt its growth until I could remove it all in one fail swoop. c. dactylon's growth rate is in direct proportion to % sunlight--ie, covering it with large pieces of cardboard totally halted the growth. I've since removed this cardboard cover-up and dug up as much of the grass as possible, and as intact as possible.

almost in a double-dig fashion, I removed a few inches of the mulch & topsoil, threw down a sheet of cardboard, and replaced it with the now fairly well broken & mixed pine mulch/topsoil. this took many hours as it was an area of approx 800 sq ft! I was growing resentful!

I finished that about 2 1/2 weeks ago and promptly seeded with white dutch clover in a brief spell of weather cool enough for the seeds to germinate. the clover has been struggling in the heat since it's warmed up into the 80's and 90's again, and requires at least once daily watering to keep it alive, but it's slowly developing its true leaves and this area has a nice green glow.

my rational for planting white clover is that I wanted a species that would become dense after a few mows to help shade out the bermuda grass, spreads by seed AND stolon, would support the introduction of other perennials (more on that below), would function as a walkable groundcover, and would at least hang out OK in the summer heat (white clover seems to persist when red and crimson clover subsides in the heat).

the aforementioned aisle area w/the hardwood mulch has yet to be tackled. I think I'm going to till it so as to establish the white clover once it cools off again.

now that I've overloaded you with information, will you please give me some feedback?

- who here has used white dutch clover in this sort of functional fashion? how'd it perform? any differences between white dutch & the new zealand variety?
- I'd like to plant some chop & drop plants. yarrow and comfrey come to mind to me; any other suggestions? ideally something shorter, that won't shade out the blueberry.
- any thoughts on how to maintain a low pH w/plant selection instead of having to add sulfur regularly?

thanks. I am new here and loving the information and experience brought into these discussions. (I hope this is the right forum for this inquiry).
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Here's something that I did that transformed the blueberries from just surviving to really thriving: (1) poke holes in the ground around them, up to a foot deep, and cram the holes full of rotting wood and (2) mulch around the base of the plants with shredded pine cones. This seems to be more effective than my old routine, which was to mulch them with pine straw. I'm even getting volunteer plants coming up!

Oh, and I also have daffodils interplanted among them, but I don't think that does much.
ariel greenwood
Posts: 33
Location: piedmont north carolina
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thanks John. that's interesting; what kind of wood mulch?

photos are forthcoming.. happy to report that the clover is finally getting some growth though I've got plenty of lambsquarters and grasses fighting for space, too. but I'm not too concerned about them.

has anyone ever tried planting strawberries beneath & around blueberries? theoretically the pH of the blueberry soil would be too low for strawberries yet I've heard successful berry producers insist on low pH (like... 5!) for their berries. this may have more to do with other things going on in their soil that neither they nor I know about. but I think I'm going to try as I've got gobs of berries to transplant. my only concern is shared pests & diseases.
Posts: 49
Location: Sequim, WA USA - zone 8b
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has anyone ever tried planting strawberries beneath & around blueberries?  

This thread is 3 years old, but I just stumbled across it & thought I'd share my experience with strawberries interplanted with blueberries. It did not work very well mainly because the strawberries grew like gangbusters & choked out the blues. The blueberries were small starts and just couldn't keep up with the strawberries, which I envisioned to be a nice groundcover. I first mulched everything with cardboard covered with woodchips, which provided nice habitat for voles - so between those two stressors, the blueberry plants really struggled. (In retrospect, I would not use cardboard, but I deal with a lot of quackgrass and bindweed). The strawberry plants also took over all the pathways. Seemed like I was always removing straw plants and trying to find new places for them. In fact, I am still taking them out. I planted lingonberries in between the blues instead, and it seems to be working better. Would be interested in hearing how it worked for you.
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