I've spent the last few weeks working hard to get the berry beds up and running. I'm pleased to report (so far) -- success!
I started with the strawberry beds, two of them. After all these futile years of dying strawberry plants, all the hard work preparing the beds has paid off. My strawberries are doing wonderfully! I have pinched off dozens -- no, hundreds -- of blossoms. I'm not letting the strawberries produce fruit this year. I'd rather they put their energy into growth. But next year -- whoo-hoo, we should be buried in strawberries!
But then an interesting thing happened. Many years ago I attempted to get a berry patch started elsewhere, but didn't realize I chose the most weed-infested spot on our entire twenty acres, thickly infested with thistle, teasel, and other atrocities.
Oh my gosh, I tried everything to get those weeds under control -- black plastic, garden cloth, hand-pulling, you name it. Nothing worked. At last I gave up in despair and paid absolutely no attention to the poor berry plants. I just figured everything had gotten crowded out by the weeds.
Fast forward five years. While walking (wading, actually) through this weed patch a couple weeks ago to determine if anything was salvageable, imagine my astonishment to find several mature strawberry plants hidden among the thick grasses!
Five plants in all. So I dug them up...
...and transplanted them into the spiffy new strawberry beds, in place of a couple of the new plants that never grew.
Some had green strawberries.
One even had a runner, which is already taking root to form a new plant. (In about a week, I'll snip it free from the mother plant and replant it in a different spot.)
Meanwhile the topsoil we brought in sprouted a monoculture of some sort of weed.
No matter, it's an easy thing to pluck them out.
I just can't keep away from the strawberries! I go out two or three times a day just to marvel at my beautiful beautiful beds.
But what about the raspberries I transplanted a couple weeks ago? Most are doing very well indeed...
...but a few didn't make it.
I did notice this brave little sprout.
Fortunately I have a few hardy raspberries still clinging to life in the old weed-infested berry patch, so I transplanted enough to replace the other transplants that didn't make it. By the end of today, the raspberry bed was looking fairly respectable.
Now blueberries -- that's a whole different ball o' wax. I started by preparing the bed as I did the others -- newspaper, hardware cloth, then layered topsoil, composted manure, more topsoil.
Then I had to get blueberry bushes. Look no further than the weed-infested berry patch!
Back in 2004 I planted twenty blueberry bushes in this patch. With the weed issues, I couldn't make the poor things grow and finally abandoned them -- didn't weed, didn't water, just assumed they were dead.
But before spending upwards of $10/bush buying new blueberries, I decided to investigate and see if there was anything worth salvaging in this area.
Well there were! In fact, sixteen of the original twenty bushes were, if not thriving, at least alive! This astounded me because it meant they clung to life through staggering neglect on my part. Well, I'm going to make it up to them.
See the blueberry bush? Well guess what, neither did I unless I looked reeeeeally closely.
It took two days of getting some nasty scratches from the teasels and thistles as I dug up the blueberry bushes, but one by one I got them all transplanted.
Blueberries love acid soil, so I sprinkled azalea food around the plants and gave everything a good thorough watering.
It was a lot of hot, hard, scratchy, ant-infested work, but at last all the bushes were moved. If they survive the transplant shock -- and I was careful to keep as much soil around their roots as I could -- then these poor long-suffering bushes should begin to thrive at last.