hugh
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Location: Boucherville, Quebec, Canada

Cranberries

I am growing cranberries for the first time. The soil is heavy clay. I created a moist bed by mixing in 50% peat, which I water regularly. Thus it is a definitly 'damp'. Plus, it is in partial shade.

But I have read that commerically cranberries are grown in virtually water. Should I recreate the bed as a "swamp" by inserting a plastic layer under and around the bed to hold water? Thus it would be wet rather than damp?

Your thoughts would be much appreciated, as I can get little information elsewhere on cranberries.

Hugh Phillips

opabinia51
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I'll have to do some research on that for you Hugh. I have watched a few programs on cranberries that are grown in Ontario, Canada. And what the commercial growers do is flood the fields at harvesting time. (If I remember correctly)

Also, peat does not offer many nutrients for your plants. Leaf mulch will hold between 300 and 500 percent of it's mass in water and also provide a plethora of nutrients for your plants. Also, peat is very hard to properly soak with water. Even if the top of a peat layer looks wet, the center may still be dry. So, just be sure that you dig into your peat and be sure that it is actually full of water.

Also, be sure to work some manure or grass clippings into your peat layer such that there will be a ready supply of Nitrogen to your plants.

hugh
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Thank you, we have a great quantity of trees, so leaf mold is no problem. Plus I think leaf mold increases aciditiy and it seems cranberries like acidity.

So, thank you very much.

Hugh Phillips

opabinia51
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Not all leaf mold inceases the soil acidity (lowers the pH). Oak leaves are acidic and will lower the pH of the soil. But, leaf mold of any sort is always a good addition to the soil (provided that you add some greens like manure, coffee grinds, grass clippings and so on.)

Also, it is a common misconception that conifer needles decrease the pH of soils but, according to several articles that I have read in reputable journals; conifer needles do not signifcantly lower the pH of soils. They do however take longer to decompose than do deciduous leaves.

Good luck with your cranberries and be sure to let us know how they turn out. I tried growing blueberries for the first time this year and just love eating the berries right off the bushes :) !

hugh
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Location: Boucherville, Quebec, Canada

Thank you for all the advice.

My experience of pine needles - we have a whole clump of pines - is that they kill just about everything else - sone dead! They are in great danger of my chain saw.

By the way, I beleive beech leaves should be used in moderation or not at all, as they contain a mild poison - something acid - I forget the name.

Hugh

opabinia51
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Hi Hugh, thanks for the tip on Beech leaves, I'll put that information in the LEAVES AND NUTRIENTS thread that I have. I actually use any sort of needles sparingly and prefer deciduous leaves myself. This year, I started using Arbutus just because at this point in time, there is very little else around.

I'm looking forward to when the apple leaves start falling at my Grandmother's place. Apple leaves are loaded with nutrients.

hugh
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I have been doing a bit of research on beech leaves. It is not completely clear and I am not a chemist. However, it seems that beech leaves may contain tannic acid, probably low levels, plus they are slow to break down. I did find two websites on composting that suggested that they are used in moderation, say less than 10%.

My person observation is that nothing really grows under beech tress, so there may be something in it.

Someone with a better knowledge of chemistry may be able to clarify this.

Hope this helps.

Hugh Phillips

opabinia51
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Just did a very brief amount of research on Tannic acid and it apparrently has an inhibitory effect on organic phosphatase molecules. This could account for the lack of growth of plants around beech trees. Phosphatase molecules (if I remember correctly) are enzyme that cleave (cut) phosphate molecules. The inablility to do this would relieve a plant the ability to use stored chemical energy; therefore making it unable to grow.

Anyway, enough biochemistry for the day, how are your cranberries coming along? What is the size of the area that you have planted? Be sure and let us know how things are going with them.

hugh
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I have this year a bed of just 4 metres by 3 metres on an experimental basis. After the helpful emails, I covered it in leaf mold. The plants look healthy but being the first year no fruit.

I will experiment with just keeping it damp next season. If I don’t get any fruit then I will build a swamp garden style bed, as I mentioned at first.

We are having a heat wave in Quebec, so the rest of the gardening is accelerating, I could go into commercial production for tomatoes.

Thanks for all your advice.

Hugh Phillips

opabinia51
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Be sure to put some grass clippings or manure in with your leaves or they will decay very slowly and tie up Nitrogen in the process.

The Helpful Gardener
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Before you go crazy ammending the soil, I am fairly familiar with the cranberry growing process (lots of bogs down on the Cape, where I go regularly).

First, the idea that they grow them in water is wrong; that's simply how they harvest them. Secondly, the soil where these "bogs" are is SANDY, and they do love a free draining soil that gets watered regularly, much the same as their brothers, the blueberries do (Both are genus Vaccinium) Both like acid soil (so the peat helps there) but I would add sand, not compost, to the peat to get optimal growing conditions for cranberries. (Okay, SOME compost, but not heaps. Sand...)

HG

hugh
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Location: Boucherville, Quebec, Canada

Thank you, the garden needs sand anyway - desperatly, as it is heavy clay. I will go and take off half the leaf mold I put on last night and buy sand this week-end.


Thnks,

Hugh Phillips

The Helpful Gardener
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Sorry to be so late with the advice Hugh, but you are correct; that clay needs bustin!

Scott

hugh
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Joined: Sat Aug 06, 2005 10:01 pm
Location: Boucherville, Quebec, Canada

I am British, gardening in North America for the first time, so cranberries and blueberries are new to me.

It may be useful to summarise your advice not just for me but for other potential readers.

Both blueberries and cranberries are bog plants. They need ‘sharp’ drainage, plenty of water and acid soil. If the soil needs it, you can improve the soil with sand for drainage, peat for acidity and moisture retention. What about feeding - moderate amounts of compost or leaf mold, anything else?

By the way, I have heard the following advice for blueberries from a very experienced gardener:

Plant more than one variety in a bed, it helps fertilisation.

Never mix wild and domesticated blueberries in the same bed, it encourages disease.

I have been treating my blueberries like European bilberries, a heath plant, which explains why they look rather unhappy.

Thank you for all your advice, it is very much appreciated.

Hugh Phillips

P.S. everything grows so fast in Canada, including the weeds.

The Helpful Gardener
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Your summary is complete and concise Hugh. Nice work. The feeding is nicely accomplished with the compost in my mind. And everything does grow nicely on this side of the pond does it not? Despite our efforts to burnout the soil with overuse and chemicals... :?

Scott

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