Future blueberries

Blueberry bed complete.jpgThe last few days I have been working on a garden bed for two future high bush blueberry plants.  This was the toughest project so far, in terms of physical stamina.  I was following the guideline of Michael Phillips in the Holistic Orchard.  His first step is to dig a bed one foot deep and 3-4 feet in diameter per plant, (so for me that meant about 7-8 feet long and 3-4 feet wide).

Blueberry bed-bittersweet rootsOnce I had dug the hole, I came upon bittersweet roots, so then spent some time strategizing about what to do for that.  I eventually decided to clip them off where they emerged, and then line the sides of the hole with cardboard. Since I was also making paths around the bed, I bent the cardboard so that it covered the path as well.

Then, the next steps are to fill the hole with 50% peat moss, 40% soil from that you had taken out, and 10% compost.  Peat moss is somewhat controversial (because of environmental questions raised about its extraction), but I did some reading and learned that the percent of peat moss taken in Canada is very tiny compared to the amount of peat moss bogs they have–so in that context it might be considered renewable.  I had to go back to the store to get more stuff, because it was hard to estimate how much I would need.

Blueberry bed-half doneAnd it is a lot of work to dig out a hole, then fill it with other stuff, and then “stir” it around, which really means turn the soil over and over.  I am glad I only have to do it once.  So I would do what digging I could, and then stop and rest for most of the day, and return to it in the evening if I could.  After the peat moss, soil, & compost mix was in, I added 2 cups elemental sulfur, 4 cups green sand, and 2 cups rock phosphate, all organic nutrients.  This whole mix is meant to create the type of soil that blueberries love, with an acid leaning ph, and the nutrients they need.  (You may notice that I purchased more composted manure, because we used up our big pile.)

I topped it off with a few inches of pine bark mulch that is also good for blueberries, and then some pine needles that Margy had collected last year.  After that, I hauled the rest of the unused sandy soil over to our materials area, and did the paths around the bed with more cardboard and hardwood mulch.  And watered all of it well.  Now it is all ready to do its own thing for several months:  the plan is to plant blueberries in the spring.

Wild Blueberries

Wild Blueberry Patch

Wild Blueberry Patch

Wild blueberries plants don’t really photograph well–the plants are low to the ground and often in a large patch.  The flowers are tiny and bell shaped.  I have been trying to grow them in our yard for the last several years with minimal luck. But this May it seems they are bursting with life all along the the street we live on. They don’t really like the luscious bed I made for them… they seem to prefer the sand scrabble mess along the side of the road. There are blueberries flowers everywhere, along with wild strawberry, and I see volunteer raspberry plants greening out in many and diverse spots as well.

Blueberry flowers close DSC07502If we were gathering our food, we are living in the right place. One year I did gather a pint of wild strawberries. Most years we leave them for the chipmunks and birds to munch on…it is a lot of work to pick them and they are so tiny. Same with the wild blueberries. Now it is easier to buy the cultivated varieties at the store.

I think about how people used to give a lot of attention to finding their food, when they were gathering these little morsels in earnest.  It might take a long time to get enough for a real dish.  But here all around us is such abundance, and such a gift of nourishment, if we are willing to receive it in small bites. Could it be that life is like that in other ways? That there might be spiritual nourishment all around us, freely given, in small bites, to those who are willing to pay attention for a while?