“What should we do with Bed 5?” I said to Loren one evening in late October. “No matter how we amend the soil or what we plant, nothing grows there except the blueberries.”
At Silver Maple Farm, our large fenced garden that fronts our property and borders the main road is divided into eight 25.5’x 80’ planting beds. Located in the southeast corner, Bed 5 sits in water most of the winter, and is a virtual bog well into the summer. While Russian mammoth sunflowers grow okay in the less than optimum conditions, cucumbers and other veggies we tried proved a dismal harvest. Two years of battling waterlogged soil sent us searching for a solution.
In an effort to make the bed productive, in the spring of 2020 we added water-loving blueberry plants and relocated three mature bushes growing on the back of the property. After numerous attempts to remedy our soggy circumstance, when the 2021 season ended, Loren and I decided rather than struggle with failed crops, sometimes you have to work with the ground you have. We brainstormed about how to transform the area. The obvious conclusion? Search for plants that love wet feet.
When November rolled around, our son Ben created a stunning wreath from red twig dogwood, which we learned loves to grow on the banks of boggy areas. We soon discovered winterberry, another ornamental, and one I love to add to our own fall displays, also revels in the puddles. Inspired by Ben’s wreath and considering that some of our customers enjoy creating their own fall arrangements, we are venturing into the artful world of ornamental twigs.
In early February, grandson Ethan helped us plow the bed and prep the rows. Ethan hopped on the tractor, loaded the plants from the greenhouse into the bucket and drove them to Bed 5, where we dug holes, and added compost and fertilizer. We planted an 80’ row of winter red winterberry (the female plant) along with their pollinator Southern Gentleman. We also planted an 80’ row of twig dogwood, including red twig, yellow, mid-winter flame, and blood-orange.
Looking ahead to next autumn, we envision growing in Bed 5 a stunning display of ornamental stems, perfect to decorate our customers’ homes for the holiday season!
What a great idea to work with the land instead of against it. I look forward to seeing what I can make with the ornamental twigs!
Even a better idea introduce a soil amendment mother nature makes naturally which will provide a biotope that not only houses the microbiology needed that will create the micro and macro aggregates in the soil allowing for proper water drainage and changes rain compacted soil which becomes filled with anaerobic bacteria killing and water drowning most vegetation. Adding woody fruit producing heavy water feeding is one way. However you should be able to tilt the compaction to a draining soil utilizing BIOCHAR in the proper application that will allow you to plant more then just fruit bushes.
What about cranberries?
We love fresh cranberries, but we would have to haul in many yards of sand from a source approved by Oregon Tilth, our organic certifier.