Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association

News from a half-high blueberry grower

March 12, 1988

I ordered about 200 plantlets of the half high blueberries from Minn-Viho and they arrived May 1. To say I was shocked at their appearance would be no exaggeration. I had prepared two raised beds filled with about a 50-50 mix of top soil and peat moss with two or three bags of cow manure mixed in. I set the little plants in the beds as soon as I could and really despaired of their surviving. However, they have, and are sporting branches from four to eight inches long as of Sept 7.

A few plants have stayed the same as the day they arrived, but they appear healthy enough. The beds are covered with plastic-ventilated at each end- and have provided a warm humid atmosphere on days when the outside temperature was in the 70’s.

They have been kept moist. Every 3-4 weeks, I’ve used a sprinkling can to feed them with liquid fertilizer. I’ve been using AGRO ALASKAN 10-35-20 dissolved in water.

When the ground freezes, the raised beds will lose their plastic covering and I’ll cover the plants with a good covering of straw. Next May I hope to be able to pot the present collection and set out another 200 plantlets. I’m using all three cultivars – ‘Northblue’, ‘Northsky’, and ‘Northcountry’.

Meanwhile the 150 plants that are growing in raised beds at my cabin in Talkeetna are doing just fine. This spring I replanted them to a 4 x 8 foot bed. They have sawdust mulch to hold the moisture. They have had a generous feeding of ammonium sulfate so the pH is now about 5. Most have doubled in size this year. So far no flower buds. Next spring before the snow is all gone I will put plastic covers over two or three beds to see if earlier warmth does anything for them.

Work on the low bush cranberry is at a standstill. There must be some way of starting the seeds, gathering plants or otherwise propagating this berry. In conversations with folks who have lived in Scandinavia memories as to how the berries were raised are vague. Most seem to feel that they were grown in the wild. I find that hard to believe when you consider the tonnage reported.

A second berry I’m growing is the gooseberry. I’m considering a large planting to test the markets. This berry is very easy to produce – but the devil to pick!

And then there is the European black currant. It spreads like wildfire – is excellent for control of soil erosion. The nurseries have shown interest in this plant. They are getting some calls from folks who have emigrated to this country and are remembering favorite foods. I sold some of these plants last year and will have more this spring. An excellent jelly is made mixing black and red currant juice.

— Phil Richardson, Anchorage

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