Not much gardening happening; videos, events, articles

A Chandler blueberry layered in a pot. Photo Kathryn Simmons
A Chandler blueberry layered in a pot.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

Not much gardening has been happening here. The soil is still saturated, so we can’t till or plant. We have spread a lot of compost on lots of raised beds. We have finished our blueberry pruning and are looking at filling the gaps before the buds break. We have 44 old blueberry bushes in one planting and 20 younger ones in another spot. All the 20 younger ones are alive, but there are about 8 gaps in the older patch. We propagate our own blueberry plants for gap-filling, by layering.

This involves taking a healthy low-lying branch and pinning it down into some soil. Before pinning it, we scrape the lower bark off where it touches the soil, to help the branch grow roots from that point. We used to pin the branches down into pots of soil, as in the photo above, but for the past few years we have simply been pinning them into the ground. This has the advantage of reducing the chance of the roots drying out (they are in a much larger volume of soil). But it has the disadvantage of being harder to see and so more likely to get damaged, mulched over or uprooted by our visitor-helpers. We use 6″ sod staples, those wire staples sometimes sold to hold down geotextiles or row cover or drip tape. We tie a long piece of bright colored plastic flagging tape around the top of the staple to make it easier to see. If the branch tries to spring out of the soil, we use rocks to hold the staple down. With the pot system, we would cut the new plant from the mother once it seemed to have life of its own. Now we grow them in the soil and we have simplified our system so we pin down new layers while we are doing the pruning, and leave them for a whole year.

After the pruning we dig up the previous year’s layers and replant them. We label and flag them, and even put wire netting cages round them for protection. And then water twice a week if nature doesn’t, for a few weeks, then once a week for the summer.

Young blueberry plant protected with wire netting. Photo Kathryn Simmons
Young blueberry plant protected with wire netting.
Photo Kathryn Simmons

We keep maps of which blueberry varieties are where in our patches and during the harvest season we flag the most tasty ones, so we know where to go to propagate more.

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition is starting a video series with five participating farms. The first video, from Bellair Farm, 11 miles south of Charlottesville, can be seen here:

A different farm will release a YouTube video each week. The other four farms are
Porcello Farm (Charlottesville)
Agriberry Farm (Hanover)
Amy’s Garden (Charles City)
Browntown Farms (Warfield)

The farms address how they got started, where they sell their products, how they organize their labor, and lots more. The conversations were recorded to create these videos to help people learn more about Virginia’s farmers as well as gather practical information to use on your own farm. The goal of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition is to support new farmers at any scale, particularly historically under-served groups.

culpeperimage-front-coverComing right up is my talk at Culpeper County Library next Sunday 2/28 from 2-4pm in their meeting room. I’ll be chatting about writing my book, answering gardening questions, discussing the importance of local sustainably grown food, and selling and signing copies of my book.

The Virginia Berry Production and Marketing Conference
(North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association’s Annual Conference) will be in
Williamsburg, VA – March 1-4, 2016. I haven’t yet got any info I can paste in, but click on the link and find details and registration form.

Growing magazine has just arrived and I’m interested to see they have several articles about carrots. Good carrot production, how to produce consistent carrots twice a year (in central California), insect-infested carrots and weeds in carrots. Why carrots only twice a year? We plant carrots in February, March, April, May and August. Sometimes even in June and July if we need to. There’s also an article about soils and climate change. Growing is not an organic magazine, so I pick and choose from their advice. It is what I’d call open-minded about organics: they recognize some growers use organic methods and they want their magazine to be read by those farmers too. Some articles are online. Subscription to the magazine is free (I imagine the advertisers cover the costs)

Carrot photo from Small Farm Central
Carrot photo from Small Farm Central