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Blueberries, ph, hugelkultur mounds, tomatoes  RSS feed

 
Therese Asmus
Posts: 5
Location: Minnesota
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Hi,

We have 4 year old hugelkultur mounds I'd like to try and plant berry plants in. I was hoping of using 1 mound for blueberry plants and another mound for strawberries.

Couple of questions. The mounds are pretty broken down, but still about a 1' - 1.5' tall from originally being around 3'. Has anyone had experience with growing blueberries in the mounds. Did a quick search on the internet and didn't see a great deal of info. We've had a huge success with out mounds growing a variety of vegetables, so much so we are converting all of our garden spaces to mounds this spring. We live in central MN in zone 4a. I'm concerned about the ph of the mounds for blueberry plants. Does anyone have any recommendations for a trustworthy way to check the ph of them? I'm guessing it needs to be lowered some since cabbages, broccoli, squash have done amazingly well on the mounds and I don't believe they thrive in as acidic environment that blueberries would want. Was looking at some ph test on Amazon and they had very mixed reviews. I've had our soil professional tested through International Ag Labs with a focus of building nutrients for beyond organic gardening. However, I'd rather not have to spend the money to do that this year again, especially since each mound can vary depending on what we had decaying in it and where the soil was pulled from.

Also, those who have grown tomatoes in the mounds. How do you support the plants if they are placed at the top of the mounds? I really want to try the mounds with our tomatoes plants, but haven't figure out a good way to plant them and support them, while still being able to harvest from them. Plus putting such tall plants at the top of the mound shadows the plants below so much. The sun never goes directly overhead where we live. Our current mounds run east/west. Still deciding which direction is best for our property/sun/wind for the new hugelkultur beds we'll be putting in.

Thank you in advance for any recommendations.

Therese
artisttahomestead.com
 
Erik Harding
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I planted a row of blueberries one season old hugelkulture bed and they are the happiest I've ever grown. I tried my tomatoes in another similar bed and they grew well but I had issues not related to the growing medium so I can't comment on how they did.
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1295
Location: Pacific Northwest
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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I grow my blueberries and huckleberries together on the same hugel, and it works really well. They both like the same acidic ph, and the strawberries work as a great ground-cover under the blueberries. I grow wood strawberries in mine, and they do fantastic. I would assume that domesticated strawberries would do well, too. They might not be asproductive as if they were grown alone, bu they will still produce, and you wouldn't have to build an extra garden bed.

As for lowering the PH, I didn't really need to lower mine, as we have a low ph already. But, using conifer wood as the wood inside the hugel should help, so will adding lots of needles as mulch. I've never used a soil test, so I can't really speak to which ones to use...

Attached is a picture of my strawberry/blueberry hugel. It's the one on the left. I'm also growing a rhubarb in it . If you put a rhubarb in yours, make sure there's a bit of distance between it and your blueberries, as I think it's roots messed with one of my blueberries. I'm not certain about that, though...
Blueberry-Strawberry-Hugelkulture.jpg
[Thumbnail for Blueberry-Strawberry-Hugelkulture.jpg]
Blueberry/strawberry hugelculture mound on left
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1295
Location: Pacific Northwest
147
duck forest garden hugelkultur
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As for trellising the tomatoes, my garden beds go SE to NW (due to contour of the land and my need for drainage and more sunlight...I have no idea if it's the best placement, but it's the one I have). I planted my tomatilloes and tomatoes kind of in the middle-bottom of my hugel (they were actually planted on the right hugel in the above picture). I then made a kind of tomato cage with bamboo, but a normal tomato cage would work well. I plant things that like a bit more shade on the backside of my tall hugel, and even still they get more sun than they would like. On the backside i have creeping raspberry and mountain huckleberry, and they currently get quite a lot of full sun during the summer (they're currently still in the shade.) Maybe you could grow things on the back of yours that like a bit more shade, or will grow up above the mound, like peas, lettuces, parsley, chives, spinach or other salad greens (http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/shade-tolerant-vegetables-zm0z11zsto)?
 
Roy Hinkley
Posts: 249
Location: S. Ontario Canada
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I also have 4 year old hugels in 4a  where cabbages, broccoli, squash do well.  PH is about the cheapest and easiest test you can do. It should give you a fair idea.
My PH is very high, tomatoes just sit there for months, doing nothing of note. Blueberries will be the same, just worse. If I plant blueberries again it will be in a hole filled with peat moss.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
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Therese Asmus wrote:Also, those who have grown tomatoes in the mounds. How do you support the plants if they are placed at the top of the mounds? I really want to try the mounds with our tomatoes plants,


I don't support tomato plants in any way. I let them sprawl wherever they'd like to sprawl, just like I grow any other vining plant like cucumbers, melons, or squash.

tomato-sprawling.jpg
[Thumbnail for tomato-sprawling.jpg]
Sprawling Tomatoes
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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I will second the comment that blueberries like hugelkultur.  One thing that you can do to keep them happy and the pH low is to keep building up the bed by mulching it with pine straw (or any other conifer trimmings).
 
Therese Asmus
Posts: 5
Location: Minnesota
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Thank you for the feedback everyone. I was just reading Michael Phillips The Holisitc Orchard and he mentioned that mulching blueberries with wood mulch or needles is excellent for them, so it would make sense that a hugel bed would work well. Won't go into all the details of what he shares. He did mention that blueberries can do well in higher ph environments as long as the roots have a way to take in iron. He mentioned using sulfur as one way to encourage iron intake. Very interesting. Also, using the moss as one person mentioned can help. We happen to have wetlands filled with naturally growing moss, so perhaps I can get some from there and use them in some of the beds. I'm trying to decide if it's worth rebuilding the beds some, but don't honestly want the extra work. We are converting all of our gardens into hugel beds and that is already going to be a great deal of work since we have a spade, our arms and our backs and that's it.

growing tomatoes on the ground... I've done that almost every year for one reason or another and have had pretty poor success with it in comparison to when I can actually get the tomatoes to stay up off the ground. Last year we had so much rain late in the season that the tomatoes would rot on the ground faster than I could get them up and slugs (I'm guessing that's what caused the damage) had a hey day. The ducks we have like slugs, but they like tomatoes too!

 
Roy Hinkley
Posts: 249
Location: S. Ontario Canada
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For supporting plants in my sometimes windy location I use my regular animal protection setup. I first drive a 1" steel bar into the ground, wiggle it around till I can pull it out again. Keep doing that till it's a couple of feet down. This will push any rocks out of the way (we have tons here).  Now take an 8 foot cedar sapling, about 2 inches diameter and drive that in with a sledge hammer.
I then take some welded wire fencing(you want holes big enough you can get your hand through, or at least your fingers), cut a 4 foot section and bend that into a circle, zip tie that to the post. Just zip tie the ends to the post, if you take it down they'll lay flat, stack and store better than a bunch of cages.  If you need extra height, stack another section on top. I saw some rabbit fencing that has 1x4 holes at the bottom, 4x4 at the top, 4 ft high. This would be perfect.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Rabbit-Guard-Garden-Fence-/162067058902
Though this seems like a lot of work, once done it lasts for many years unlike other methods that fall apart after a few seasons.

Alternately, drive posts as above and stretch some fence between them. You need more posts than you think if it gets windy when the plants are large.
 
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