Timely Tips For A Healthy And Productive Berry Patch

Winter annuals, such as chickweed, henbit, and purple deadnettle, pop up in fall and winter and can be a problem in berry plantings. (Photo credit: Gary Gao)

When this issue of the magazine reaches you, you might be enjoying the nice fall weather on a tractor in your berry patch or on a couch watching your favorite football team on TV. I received a few questions from fruit growers in Ohio about what they need to do in the berry patch in autumn to get ready for next year. I think my answer to these growers is something you may want to accomplish this fall — weed management, nuisance wildlife control, and fertilization — tasks that will make a difference next year.

At The Top Of Your List
Weed control should be quite high on that list. This year has been a year of weeds due to record rainfalls in many parts of the Midwest.. We all know that weeds compete for nutrients and water. They also can harbor insects and diseases. You will need to get rid of the weeds that are already present in your berry patch. Some of the post-emergent herbicides are Rely 280 (glufosinate-ammonium, Bayer CropScience), Poast 1.5EC (sethoxydim, BASF), and Roundup (glyphosate, Monsanto).

Winter annuals can present a serious problem. An application of a pre-emergent herbicide in fall could be a very beneficial practice to control winter annuals, such as chickweed, henbit, and purple deadnettle. Examples of pre-emergent herbicides are Casoron CS (dichlobenil, Arysta LifeScience), Chateau WDG (flumioxazin, Valent), or Sinbar 80WP (terbacil, Tessenderlo Kerley).

Another benefit of fall application of pre-emergent herbicide in fall is extended weed control in spring, since spring weather can be very unpredictable.

Since fruit types, age of plantings, and location of plantings all can play a role in determining which pre-emergent herbicide to use, growers are encouraged to check the spray guide in their state for the best choice. Growers in the Midwest should check the Midwest Small Fruit and Grape Spray Guide at is.gd/MidwestSprayGuide for recommended herbicides.

Kathy and Steve Kuflewski of Once in a Blue Moon Farm in Waynesville, OH, stand inside their netted blueberry field. (Photo credit: Gary Gao)

Controlling Pests
Nuisance wildlife control is another highly critical task that growers should complete in fall. I can devote 100 pages to nuisance wildlife control. Birds, deer, rabbits, and raccoons are near the top of the list. I only have enough room to address the problem with birds.

There are many possible methods of controlling birds. Air dancers, laser, noisemakers, and taste repellents can help somewhat. However, netting might be the only effective method I know of to control nuisance birds. The hungry birds can eat a lot of fruits. Kathy and Steve Kuflewski of Waynesville, OH, can definitely attest to the effectiveness of bird netting. “Without our bird netting, we wouldn’t have a crop, as proof of first year of fruit harvest when we only got three weeks of picking in before the robins and starlings ruined the field,” Steve Kuflewski says.

Thanks to netting, Kathy and Steve are able to extend their harvest season by at least five weeks.

Fall Fertilization Is Essential
Fertilization in fall can be a very beneficial thing to do in a berry patch. I assume you have done a soil test. If not, now is a good time to take soil samples. Phosphorus and potassium fertilizers can be applied in fall. Since phosphorus is needed for root growth, phosphorus is normally incorporated into planting beds prior to planting.
In an established planting, phosphorus can be either injected through drip irrigation in the form of phosphoric acid or applied as a banded application in the form of triple phosphate. Phosphoric acid injection is more efficient than banded application of triple superphosphate since phosphorus moves very slowly in soil profile.

If needed, check with your irrigation dealer about the proper ways to inject phosphoric acid through a drip system. Potassium is essential in translocation of sugars in plants. Banded application of potassium sulfate is one good way to deliver potassium to plants. Potassium hydroxide is highly soluble and can be injected through drip irrigation.

Nitrogen application in fall is not recommended since nitrogen can promote vegetative growth and increase winter injuries. Nitrogen is better applied in spring before new growth starts.

I hope I gave you some good pointers. Please let me know what you think..

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