About those Hardy Blues…
You may have heard that 2014 was a banner year for fruit production in BC. And you might even know that we too at ross mountain farm enjoyed an amazing blueberry harvest.
It was, however, a tad hectic!
The amazing summer heat wave had a couple significant consequences here.
First: all our cultivars ripened pretty much at the same time and second: even with our large and very capable picking crew, we couldn’t keep up.
We decided that we needed to begin the great rmf U-Pick straight away!
The U-Pick was a tremendous help. We got a lot of fruit picked and some really nice people got to ‘play’ in the field and enjoy some beautiful blueberries. Win-Win!
A considerable amount of research led us to our initial choices for the five blueberry varieties to start the farm with…Duke, Spartan, Nelson, Northland and Hardy Blue. Unfortunately, Spartans weren’t available when we put the field in. So, we simply got greater numbers of the other four.
Now after a few seasons and a couple of harvests, we’re starting to become more familiar with the unique qualities of each type.
Hardy Blues are a beautiful, vigorous growing and delicious blueberry. When fully ripe, the berries boast a very high brix (a measure of dissolved sugars in the berry – which means they’re very sweet). We also found the berries retain their quality on the bush for a long time, a significant plus last year!
The HB is an excellent choice for cooking and baking, a preferred choice for many blueberry lovers. Hardy Blues are profuse producers, but the berries are, generally, small. Consequently – from a growers’ perspective, they are not the most economic blueberry for our meticulously-picked ‘fresh market’ standards.
And so we decided that we should reduce the number of Hardy Blue plants by about half. Doing so would also free up field space for new Spartan and Toro blueberries.
This decision was, as it turned out, easier said than done!
Let’s just say that after four years of living here, the Hardy Blues were well - rooted and happy where they were. Digging the plants out was a really big job. – Luckily Steve was able to get a few days off work (his other work!)
Thankfully, sending an adverstisement through the IOPA network (Islands Organic Producers Association) quickly led to several interested contacts. We were very happy that they could all go to the same farm too.
Before getting to the actual digging, the mulch layer and irrigation lines had to be moved out of the way. Then, each plant was extracted, one of us on each side working two shovels, carefully trying to avoid breaking off any branches (sincerely apologizing when it happened) while heaving out the roots (did I mention they were well-rooted?) and finally shaking as much soil off the roots as we could manage. Each plant was wrapped in peat and burlap, watered and ready for the trip down island.
This took us the better part of three days...and we still had a dozen to go when Bill showed up. If we only knew…
We prepared (warned) Bill as best we could about the size and weight of the bundles and even suggested he consider renting a U-Haul to transport the cargo to Duncan. Well, when he pulled in, we were astounded, dumbfounded even…certain that at least one more truck was going to pull in to the driveway behind him any minute. NOPE. Just Bill and his assistant Virginia. One pickup truck. First question he asked? ”Do you have any loppers?”
And then Bill and Virginia efficiently and necessarily 'pruned' (gave a serious hair cut to) each and every plant before hoisting and packing them unceremoniously in a massive heap onto the truck. And you know, they got them all in. All except the few we took down for them in our rented U-Haul (that we wanted to bring our new blueberry plants home in).
What a lesson in sensible farming! By the time we got down to Duncan, Bill and co had already begun their planting. We have no doubt the Hardy Blues will thrive for Bill on his certified organic farm as they did for us here.
And listen, if Hardy Blues happens to be one of your favorites, don’t fret, we still have plenty!