Thursday, April 26, 2012

Getting ready for more berries

Remember the   currant and gooseberry bushes I ordered?  Well, they are not here yet, but we are ready for their arrival!  For once, I won't be scrambling to get holes dug and filled with compost AFTER the box arrives on my doorstep.  All I'll have to do is plop those babies into their new spots in the backyard.

The hubster dug 14 holes, a few at a time, and put the sandy soil on my growing hugelkultur bed.  In the spirit of hugelkultur, I dropped a big chunk of split firewood into each of the holes, then filled it with compost.

We have thin topsoil and then sand, sand, and more sand.  Hence the firewood.

As the wood breaks down over the next few years, it will feed the roots of the berry bushes.  It will also retain a lot of moisture in our sandy soil, helping to protect the bushes from drought.  Although it won't be quite as drought-proof as a raised hugelkultur bed, the rotting wood will help keep the berries producing more flavorful fruits.

Filled with rich compost, mounded, and stomped well.

Every job needs a supervisor to make sure the grunts keep working.  "I lift things up and put them down," says the hubster, when doing such chores as digging holes.  On a farmlet, what with planting and fence posts, there are always holes to be dug.  Hence the need for lots of employee supervision.  Gunnar does a fine job, not being distracted by tennis balls and frisbees as Biscuit tends to be.  All bets are off, however, if a rodent of any type sets foot in the yard.

My Old Man dog.  Only semi-retired.

The hens feel the siren song of compost, and will scratch it vigorously, uprooting tender plants and digging holes where I've made mounds.  Each mound of compost over each compost-and-firewood filled hole got a square of chicken wire and a brick or stone to hold it in place.  I'll plant white clover on top to keep weeds at bay and also to discourage the hens.

4' apart in two rows, 6' apart.

Gotta go check the mail again to see if a box has come from Burgess!


  1. Thank you for writing about the reasoning behind the wood in the holes! We have very dense, clay-rich soil and I have some marionberries I am wanting to get into the ground...and also a pile of half-rotten firewood from the previous occupant of our home. I guess I know what I will do with some of it now!

  2. A suggestion would be to use dead/partiall-rotted limbs for the wood in the holes. They will decompose faster, adding their carbon back into the soil that much quicker. They will also hold moisture better (more porous). Another idea along those lines is for raised garden beds .. layer the bottoms of the beds with dead limbs (of whatever sizes you have available). It will provide carbon, add bulk (won't need as much fill soil), help with moisture retention, all while creating a hugelkultur-type situation in a raised bed! :)

  3. I love reading about how you are doing this. And definitely, all jobs must be carefully supervised. We have a lot more supervisors than workers here. :))

  4. Can I ask how this worked over the course of the first growing season? I've got several new small fruit plants/bushes that I'll be putting in this year and loads and loads of spunky logs at my disposal!

  5. The raspberries did great, giving us a small crop late in the fall. The canes kept their leaves for a lot longer than other raspberries in the area, even the parent plants nearby.

    I had some trouble with the gooseberry plants and I cannot recommend buying from Burgess. Both the original plants and the replacement plants arrived in deplorable condition. Although most of the currants survived, I had to have some of them and most of the gooseberries replaced, and the replacement plants arrived in the same condition....most of them were obviously dead, with all the needles gone and lots of mold growing on them. Although I'll send in the label for more replacements in the spring, I think I'll also try rooting cuttings from the one gooseberry that grew into a lush plant.

    The ones that grew did great, now if only Burgess would send out live plants! Buy elsewhere or lose a year or more of growing time.