A transplanted Southern Californian living in North Dakota Idaho, with some insights on life with deaf dogs, a gluten free spouse, and the occasional mischievous garden gnome. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Raised Garden Bed for Blueberries

Our ongoing saga to grow blueberries has taken me in many different directions over the years and in many locations.  I love blueberries and we buy and freeze about 50 pounds of them every year.  I grew blueberries back in San Diego and endeavored to grow them again when we moved to North Dakota.  The problem is the soil here is very alkaline and blueberries need and love acidic soil.  20 to 30 miles or so to the East, the soil is acidic and blueberries grow easily and plentifully, but here in Grand Forks, in the heart of the Red River Valley?  Gardeners consider any attempt to grow blueberries as pure folly. 
This is what the blueberry area first looked like. It's the space between the two doors, right behind the black iron railing (admittedly not a great photo - but this was when we first saw our future home).  It faces East and was a useless space with a few irises (not my favorite) and some unruly grasses and weeds. This space stayed this way for a few years after I finally got annoyed enough at having to mow/weed-whack the area each week.  I'd planted blueberries in another part of the yard directly in the ground and watched them languish for two years, barely surviving.  It was at this point that I actually learned that blueberries don't like the soil here.  The solution? A raised bed.
I dug out the whole area about 18 inches down, removing some old pieces of a concrete sidewalk that was there and also totally useless.  I made the hole slightly concave, and this also had the added benefit of catching any water overflow.  When we get heavy rains the gutters can't handle the runoff and we'd occasionally get some water in the basement at this point of the house.  We no longer have that problem.  Extra runoff finds its way in to the hole, gets soaked up by the copious amounts of mulch, or into the holding area at the bottom where it absorbs back in the ground or is soaked up by the peat moss that fills the bottom 6-8 inches.  I feel like this is one project that might have taken me a few years to push from planning to action, but was pretty well thought out and done correctly.  I shall savor these instances as they don't happen often. 
There was a good amount of material that was removed and we used it to make some raised mounds/flower beds in front of the house.  There's always something that you can do with extra soil, and I've found that raised beds/mounds are much easier on many levels. 
I had helpers the whole time.  Actually they didn't help, they were the opposite of help and usually only wanted to sniff right where I wanted to put the shovel in, it's quite disruptive. 
All cleared out, dug and ready to roll.  I had some branches and logs from a pine tree that I'd trimmed in the front yard that I added to the bottom of the pit.  They'll not only slowly rot and provide good nutrients to the soil, but hopefully help keep the acidity of the soil down to a level where blueberries will like it.  Despite all the work to keep the soil acidic, I'll still have to add soil sulfur, ph lowering amendments, and pine straw and wood chips as mulch every year to keep that ph down. 
This is fast forwarded a few months.  The blueberries are planted and thriving.  I added some verbena and sweet alyssum for some bursts of color, to attract beneficial bugs, and help fill some space whilst the blueberries spread out. 
Happy verbena blossoms.  We put a temporary wire fence around the area to keep inquisitive/nosy pooches out and give the blueberries a chance to grow without being stampeded or chomped by crazy canines.  This worked well for a while until Alycia decided it was time to get something slightly nicer looking. 
I just put this up last week and I'm happy with how it turned out. The black iron fencing really gives the area a much more "finished" look, and it'll look even better when there's green leaves to see.  I'll upload pictures once the blueberries have leafed out and are green and happy, then this area will look awesome.  Stay tuned for more pictures in a future post.


Jason said...

Looks good. I tried growing dwarf blueberries in containers (the soil here is also alkaline), but have officially thrown in the towel. I hope you get a good harvest!

El Gaucho said...

Thanks Jason. Sorry to hear your blueberry growing didn't work out.

Robin Gagnon (Mom Foodie) said...

Nice raised bed. Sure looks better than my quickie pine one...lol

El Gaucho said...

Thanks Robin. Sometimes things come together well, and when they do we document it on the blog. Otherwise we conveniently forget to post about it....

I enjoyed your blog as well and added it to my Feedly so I'll get all of your posts!