By Mary Lu Wells, Master Gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension
Step 1: Do – then ask questions.
Step 2: Skip learning about:
-The plant’s needs
Remember – Mother Nature always wins! In speaking to gardeners around the county, I find many make the same mistakes and then come to Master Gardeners to find out what to do to correct them. Let’s cover the basics which will most likely ensure a success for all your hard work and hard-earned money.
In what zone do you live? Due to global warming we have changed from a zone 4 (-30 degrees) to the cool part zone 5B (-20 degrees). Choose varieties which thrive in such a climate. Varieties which bloom later and miss those lingering frosts.
Do not plant in a frost hollow – cold air sinks, especially on clear, still nights in May. The orchard or berry patch in the valley may experience blossom-kill while those on hilltops or sides escape the frost.
Avoid windy hillsides, especially those on the south and west sides. Winter damage can outright kill a tree, particularly when there is no snow cover. We are getting less of this protective white blanket.
Check your soil’s pH! Blueberries need a very acid soil to do well – pH 5 at least – however the optimal is 4 – 4.5 pH. Strawberries like pH 6. Most Allegany County soils range from 5.5 – 6.8. Adding Sulphur to your blueberry plot can be an annual expense (fine for a few plants – extravagant for a quarter acre of 200 plants). If you can afford the money for Sulphur – fine, go ahead. However, maybe it would be wiser to go with what Mother Nature gave you and plant something else? Raspberries – asparagus?
Consider the deer. Yes, little Bambi loves most of what you plant as if it were chocolate cake. So unless you own a pack of guard dogs who sleep out and are at-large, “THINK FENCE.” It needs to be 8 feet high or a double electric. The former is expensive.
Seriously, know what you are getting into. Plan for success. It can be done but doing it large scale might not pay off.
So: Research first. Plan second. Do last…and good luck!