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Berry orchard on northern Portugal mountain  RSS feed

 
Annalisa Bellu
Posts: 22
Location: Serra de Montemuro, Portugal
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Hello to the Iberia forum readers! First time posting here. I've already posted some question in the general forum but I thought that I needed nearby feedbacks (any of which I thank already!) so here I am.
Well, I begin with my situation and location: I live in northern Portugal (Serra de Montemuro, 1000m) in a typical rural stone village (Campo Benfeito, gorgeous by the way). My partner and I moved here from Lisbon some 8 years ago and since then (even before actually) we have been gardening and experimenting different crops for our own table, and really enjoying every step of it.
Presently we are thinking about creating a berry orchard, possibly with a Pick your own system. Since our budget is very low, we are starting small scale (maybe around 1000 m2). To cut down expenses I've begun propagating my currants and gooseberries and at present I have around 160 hardwood cuts of black currant (Black dawn), red currants (Rovada and another one I don't know), white currants (also unknown) and gooseberry (Hinnonmaki red). I will probably do at least a hundred more Rovada cuts and some Jonkeer van Tets ones.

My first question is: when do you think is better to transplant my babies? I read that I should wait till next autumn, but somebody says that next spring could also be possible. Any experience in this topic?

Second: our future orchard is presently a meadow (lameiro): I was thinking about maybe till it in spring and sow a legume rich mixture to compete with rampant meadow grasses and to enhance N fixing. What do you think? Any suggestion on the seed mix I could use that would also work as cover crop between the berries rows?

Third: plastic mulch or wood chip or other "natural" stuff mulch? I like the idea of wood chip but I don't really know how much work it really implies...

Fourth: would you divide the area in sectors for each species/variety, which would probably be easier to manage and to pick, or would you mix everything in order to enhance diversity and diminish pests and infections problems? (posted in the other forum)

Fifth: I've read a lot about Miracle farms and about interplanting with N-fixers and other species, but how would you do this in a berry orchard, considering the smaller size of the bushes? In my other post somebody (Amjad Khan ) suggested sea buckthorn, which I didn't know. I looked into it and it seems an interesting species, but I think it isn't autochthonous, which concernes me (invasiveness etc.).

That's all for now!
Thank you for any feedback

Annalisa

 
hans muster
Posts: 57
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Hi,

is the soil frozen at your place now? Otherwise I had good experiences making red currant cuttings in automn/winter directly in place. I see the advantage that the winter snow/rain makes contact between the roots and the soil.

Tilling depends on the grasses. Some will come back even after tilling. Would mulching with cardboard, covered by something, be an option?

Legumes for intercropping: Elaeagnus ebbingeii can be cut easily so it does not shade out your crops (and use it either as mulch or as rabbit feed). There are other species of Elaeagnus, some with tasty edible berries, but I know of E. angustifolius as being invasive.

Plastic mulch requires energy to produce, will break down into small particles which can be harmful to the environment, and leach out "not so nice" products. If you have the opportunity to get some "second-hand" plastic it can be helpful to implement an orchard (kill the grasses), but I wouldnt rely on it on the long term. Do you have a source of wood chips or would you make your own?

About making rows or mix everything: 1000 m2 is quite small. If you intercrop with some legumes, a short row of the same crop is not a huge monoculture. And your crops are anyway all of the same family. Inorganic wineyards taller trees (peaches) are used as a niche for beneficial insects and mites. If you want to expand later on it could be an idea, and also produces food.
 
Annalisa Bellu
Posts: 22
Location: Serra de Montemuro, Portugal
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Thank you hans muster.
1) About directly sticking my cuts into the final place: I've done that several time succesfully in my home garden, but I was afraid to do it on a larger and "commercial" scale and I probably should prepare the site with some sort of tilling(or some other system, any idea?) as it has been a meadow like for ever so the sod is extremely well developed.
2) I agree with you about the plastic mulch. I had some bad experience on small scale strawberry plot, but maybe there are tougher plastics? I'm just concerned about the amount of wood chip (and related work) I have to use. I still don't own a woodchopper (low budget at the moment...) but I'm looking into that also (any suggestion is welcome). I was thinking of making my own, but it might be enormous amount of work?
3) I will look into Elaeagnus species.
4) Taller trees: the problem is that I will have to cover the orchard with some sort of netting (absolutely necessary if I want any berry). I was thinking about trees around the plot, although peaches do not thrive here (frequent late frosts).

 
Annalisa Bellu
Posts: 22
Location: Serra de Montemuro, Portugal
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What about a chicken tractor system to be put on the land in order to eliminate meadow vegetation prior to install my berry orchard?
They get rid of the grasses, I sow a legume rich mixture soon after moving them on next spot and so on...This along spring and summer in order to install berry bushes in Autumn?
 
Crt Jakhel
Posts: 171
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
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In the elaeagnus family, the umbellata (autumn olive) has excellent berries, small, similar in taste to sour cherries. Try and get some of the named cultivars because their berries are somewhat larger and very easy to pick.

Here's a comparison of sizes: https://www.flickr.com/photos/frutticetum/10834840665/ and here you can see some photos of a fully laden bush: http://mobile.gartlc.mojforum.si/gartlc-about2093-0-asc-30.html .

We're using these to provide berries, shade, windbreak and to break up compressed clayey soil in a difficult location (drought and wind). They are great. I just moved a bush to make room for a plum tree and the soil around its roots is in a much better condition than when it was planted. They are drought tolerant but I do mulch with grass clipping around them to make their life easier and to give the earthworms something to do.

Rovada, which you mention, is a really good cultivar of red currant, I'm sure you'll be happy with it.

As to mulching in a meadow, check your vole population... If you have plenty of voles, you're likely to have even more under the mulch, so proceed carefully, use netting around young trees etc...


 
Annalisa Bellu
Posts: 22
Location: Serra de Montemuro, Portugal
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We do have a vole problem over here! But what else could I do/use to keep grasses at bay? Plastic mulch would not be a solution either for the vole issue... Anyway I didn't think they could be a big problem for bushes. I mean I never experienced problem with the already established bushes I have.
 
Crt Jakhel
Posts: 171
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6a
9
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Keep the mulch a away from the stems. Firstly because of excess humidity and secondly because voles may decide it's a friendly environment for them.

Voles like some plants better than others. In my experience, currants and gooseberries were never munched on; however, elaeagnus were quite popular.

So maybe if you decide to use elaeagnus, plant the roots wrapped in anti-rodent wire mesh ("hardware cloth") just to be on the safe side.

And/or spread a piece of the same mesh across the surface of the soil in a circle/square around the plant.

And/or plant so many that you can tolerate the losses That's what I do... No permanent solution for voles yet.

A good cat would be excellent. (In our case that doesn't work because we have a large guard dog who likes to chase cats but doesn't care about voles.)



 
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