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Elderberries!  RSS feed

 
Posts: 16
Location: Western Oregon
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I just purchased 2 elderberry "bushes" (they don't quite qualify for that title yet) from the sambucus nigra family. I purchased "Instant Karma" and "black lace" (2 so they would fruit). My family and I started making elderberry tea and syrup for wellness during this past/current cold and flu season and it seems to have actually helped. I purchased dried elderberries from Frontier for around $19.00/lb, and when we were close to being out, I went back and saw they were close to $40/lb...I believe they are back to a semi-reasonable price, but regardless, with those kind of price mood swings I wanted to grow my own!

My plants arrived yesterday and look to be in decent condition. They are in small pots (quart, I believe) and are both 6-8" tall and maybe 4" wide. I'm wondering if I should pot them in 3.5 gallon buckets (I have a lot of those) until they get bigger, then maybe plant in the fall? It's starting to heat up here a bit and I'm not sure how they will do in our bit of earth.

We have clay soil - like, super clay soil. Mud in the winter, giant cracks in the summer. However - the soil is very good. I can't pull a weed up without getting an earth worm too. So I don't think the aeration is bad, necessarily. And I know worm castings are the best fertilizer ever (we used to raise them...I have a soft spot for my little blind friends!).

I'm a rambler, sorry. Let me just sum this up:

1) Should I repot my plants until they get larger before planting them in my clay soil.\

2) Will they do okay in morning sun + dappled shade? I wanted to plant them in our front yard (the soil is clay, but less dry out there) under/between a smallish oak and some unidentified coniferous tree, in hopes that in the years to come they'll rise up and create a great privacy screen/natural fence. (We planted a few baby boxwoods out there and they haven't died yet/are actually growing...sloooooooowly growing). If not, I do have another location, but it was supposed to be my juneberry "fence", lol.


P.S.
I know there is much debate about this, even on this forum (since that's where I read most of it), but I decided NOT to amend my clay soil. I do plant some things in raised beds (mostly because we had a ton of free rocks plus free cedar plants from my husbands work), but bushes, trees and such go straight into the ground. So far my raspberries, blueberries, and all our new bareroot trees we planted in the fall, seem perfectly happy and healthy. I figure things need to learn to adapt, or we just can't grow it (we don't have the money, really, to get all the stuff we "need" anyway). However, we do mulch (clay soil!!!) break apart the ground really well so the roots can stretch far, and are planning on raising worms again specifically for their castings (in addition to our compost pile). And occasionally we will create a small berm area for plants to get their "bearings" before rooting into our soil (hello, kiwis!) HOWEVER...I do really want these elderberries to GROW because they are SO beneficial (and they cost a pretty penny!), so if raised beds or a better location would be wisest, let me know! I can't wait to get those juicy berries!

Thanks permie people! You guys rock! (Really. I very much appreciate all the kindness and wisdom here!)
 
Posts: 134
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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Where i am, people regard them as a weed. Mine is starting to flower just this week, next week we're gonna pick them to make wine.
I don't know about clay , i'm on granite, acid and poor, but it loves it since i started my compost heap not far from it, so it must like nutrients.
Sun and not dry this article states.
https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/elderberry/planting-elderberry.htm
Good luck!
 
Posts: 353
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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I don't know what you paid, but I've noticed that elderberry plants from Musser Forest are very inexpensive. They are  sambucus canadensis. You have to watch at that site, sometimes you can buy a much larger quantity cheaper than just a few. Anyway the 10 rate there is $1.57 each, they're sold out this season but a lat of nurseries are sold out this time of year.

I bring this up as I think if you're talking elderberries by the pound, you may need more plants. (?)

 
Dee Rose
Posts: 16
Location: Western Oregon
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John Duda wrote:I don't know what you paid, but I've noticed that elderberry plants from Musser Forest are very inexpensive. They are  sambucus canadensis. You have to watch at that site, sometimes you can buy a much larger quantity cheaper than just a few. Anyway the 10 rate there is $1.57 each, they're sold out this season but a lat of nurseries are sold out this time of year.

I bring this up as I think if you're talking elderberries by the pound, you may need more plants. (?)



Thanks for the tip! I am not sure if the canadensis variety has the same medicinal properties as the nigra (European) variety, which is why I chose the way I did. There are varying reports, and I'm far from expert. Thank you for the link though, at that price I'd love to try some out, regardless!

I think 2 bushes ought to be ok for our winter needs, although maybe you are right, since I bought them DRIED, I have no idea how many fresh berries would equal 1lb dried berries (though I plan on using them fresh/cooked, not drying them). The shrubs get enormous and do produce many berries. Also, I think I should have been more clear - we don't eat them by the pound, that's just how we bought them. I only use 1tsp - 1tbsp per cup of tea, or about  2/3 c to make a bunch of syrup. Although, next year I'd probably need 2-3lbs because I would love to be more consistent with our intake (family of 4).

ETA: ooooh! I will definitely be buying some of those elderberries for next year! I heard the american variety grow very easily and the berries are okay to eat right off the bush (and hey, if we don't like them, I'm sure the myriad of birds will enjoy them. Just saying that you again. Bookmarking and stalking that site now :-D
 
Posts: 71
Location: Minnesota
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Dee Rose wrote:
I heard the american variety grow very easily and the berries are okay to eat right off the bush (and hey, if we don't like them, I'm sure the myriad of birds will enjoy them. Just saying that you again. Bookmarking and stalking that site now :-D



Just chiming in to say not to eat them raw.  Some folks can eat elderberries raw without harm but many people will get terrible digestive discomfort (vomiting, diarrhea, cramping).  Elderberries contain seeds that are not good for you and they should always be fermented or heated (gently if you are using them for anti-flu remedies) before ingesting them.  Also, if you're looking to expand your elderberry patch, you can also take cuttings or transplant young runners from elsewhere.  Enjoy your elderberries!
 
pollinator
Posts: 412
Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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Hi Dee, as long as you can protect them from weeds and critters, go ahead and plant them in the ground.  Elderberry are pretty tolerant of conditions and you can plant fairly deep (below the soil line they were grouw out in) to make them more drought resistant.  They will tolerate a range from sun to shade.  It does take a lot of berries for a pound dried, but you can propagate more by just sticking fresh cane cuttings in the ground in Jan/Feb.  Even a 6" cutting you can pot and grow out...




 
Posts: 5
Location: Southern NH, zone 5a(ish)
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I love elderberries!  I also use the dried ones for tea to combat respiratory illnesses in the winter, and am planning on growing plenty of my own.  The Black Lace are beautiful plants - mine are tiny ones purchased this year, and I'm looking forward to seeing them grow.  I also have a volunteer plant from a few cultivars my husband accidentally cleared a few years ago (thought they were weeds).  They are ridiculously easy to grow from both hardwood and softwood cuttings, either in soil or in water.  I had never tried the water rooting thing before, but it worked beautifully.  So, once your two plants are established, you will have lots of plant material to propagate as many as you want!  Good luck. :)
 
pollinator
Posts: 241
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6b
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Dee Rose wrote:
1) Should I repot my plants until they get larger before planting them in my clay soil.
2) Will they do okay in morning sun + dappled shade?



Hey! I'm so late to this :(

2)

They will do fine in the morning sun / afternoon shade situation; one can often see elderberry bushes on the understory level in sparse forests around here. But they will do better in full sun.

1)

I used to put young plants (bushes and trees) in their permanent places straight away, mulch and water them for 2 years and wish them best of luck. But we do also have a "waiting room" for young plants in the form of old wine barrels in a location protected from the northern wind and with no serious competition.

In the last couple of years it so happened that some plants of the same kind got planted out and some stayed in the barrels. We're talking about plants that could be somewhat sensitive in Zone 6/7 (Vitex) as well as more resilient ones (Robinia neomexicana). The difference after one year was very noticeable. The difference after two years for those who did not get their turn in time was ridiculous (staying mostly the same vs. growing another 4-5 feet).

At first I was annoyed by this and thought: hey come on, if they get going in the hardcore way they'll grow up to be super resilient and strong, right? Well, yes, in principle... If they manage to grow up at all. The difference was too massive to ignore. (My past mis-steps include some Hachsberg elder bushes which came to me as cuttings and got the fast rough treatment. After 4+ years the strongest of them is 4 feet high.)

So now when I receive or germinate young plants, they don't get the tough love treatment at once like they used to. I do not stick in them in the ground when they are under two feet high. Instead they first go into the kindergarten environment of the wine barrels for a year or two.

This does NOT mean that whatever you plant out at an early age will die. For example we have 3 Heptacodium bushes that arrived as 1 foot high younglings, got planted out just before an unusually cold winter with howling northern winds and did just fine. But Heptacodium really has superpowers, in my opinion :) - So as a general rule, babying your plants in the first year or two does make sense.


***

One more thing - you've mentioned you have the Black lace cultivar. This one was bred for being decorative. From what I hear from some relatives, it looks like maybe in the process some of the proverbial toughness of elderberry plants got bred out. Their experience was that while the bushes grew tall just fine, they were very prone to d(r)ying branches and unusually sensitive to winter temps. Maybe this was just a bad throw of the dice and it's something peculiar to those specific instances. But it could be something to be aware of.

***

Yet another thing :) - If you have the room, do not stop at 2 bushes. There are so many things you can do. Elder*berry* alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (wines, liqueurs, schnapps, syrup / cordial). Elder *flower* drinks (same). Elder*berry* jams, jellies, and tinctures. Elder*flower* fritters. Dried flowers and berries for tea. It's a generous plant. And for your entertainment and interest, here's some folklore - https://normsfarms.com/blogs/growing-and-harvesting-elderberry/elder-tree-folklore-part-1

 
Posts: 2005
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Elder propagates easily from cuttings and in my experience of wild plants is nearly impossible to kill.
 
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