Bees, Garden

My wild Wine Raspberry harvest thanks to the bees: Rubus phoenicolasius

I’ve been organizing my thoughts on our classification of “Invasive” species. This plant is one that has spurred that train of thought.

I’ve also had a series of very short posts written off-line at my farm regarding the natural(ized) nectar and pollen sources for the bees. Those posts were subsequently forgotten on my computer hard drive. Now I can publish those thoughts along with an update!

1 month ago I had written:

The naturalized, invasive by the definition of others, wine raspberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) are blooming in impressive quantity. The bees are crawling all over these plants and many of the flowers have already developed into burrs which will become raspberries in the next few weeks:

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As of yesterday, I have to say that I have never in the life of using this property had such an abundance of wine raspberries. A hunch says that my 2 honeybee hives are to thank:

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Picking commenced at 6:30 pm and concluded when the bowl was full at 7:45. The final haul:

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I want to again gush over my love of that kitchen scale. Now that I have used and abused the stainless steel bowl including weighting homebrewed beer ingredients, food preparation and even baking it at 500 degrees to contain steam around loaves of sourdough, I can fully endorse it! Amazon prices fluctuate quite a bit. The scale is currently at $50 but I bought it not long ago for $37. Either way, it was worth every penny!

The berries are just now beginning to ripen. For most of the bundles of berries, only one in the group was ripe (the beehive picture demonstrates this) so I will be able to harvest a huge amount in the coming weeks!

However not all non-native plants are as worthy of shedding the invasive label as this one. My current ecological dilemma is the subject of tomorrow’s post.

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Bees, Garden

Lets talk about companions, acid and berries

If I had to make the choice of a single fruit to eat for the rest of my life, it would be blueberries. Raspberries are such a close second that I would read the fine print of the agreement to try and loophole them in.

Blueberries need acidic soil. I will have to retest my farm, but I anticipate the karst limestone-heavy area is going to need some amendment. In the raised beds I need a solution that doesn’t involve hauling in chemicals or soil amendments. My solution will be to mulch up many of the cedars that have encroached on the pasture. Every year, I will assist by adding a top mulch of chipped, discarded christmas trees (needles and all). I would like to note that I have not found any studies that convince me that pine mulch is any better the just plain old organic matter in acidifying the soil. In a pinch, I won’t hesitate to use the leave litter from the forest as a soil amendment.

As for companions, the literature prescribes clover to help fix nitrogen or acid-tolerant herbs for pest deterrence.

I’m going to take a different approach here. My perennial blueberry patch will be a sanctuary for the bees. Widely-spaced Rhododendron could provide shade for the plants during the dog days of summer, beautiful flowers in its long blooming season, and potentially psychedelic honey. I’ll probably avoid them in the end, but they are a viable companion. Lewisias flowers enjoy acidic soils and bloom in the late winter providing food for the bees when not much else is available. Strawberries are another delicious potential companion that would provide a living mulch but they have many pest and disease issues. Yarrow flowers have a rich history of natural medicinal use and seem to enrich soil where they grow. Clover is the last plant to consider as a legume that fixes nitrogen for the berries high demand.

Honestly at this point I have no idea what companions I want to plant with the blueberries. I think for now I will plant strawberries as a ground cover with no expectations regarding production while locating the flowering herbs on the boundaries of the rows.

If anyone has any suggestions for acid-tolerant plants that provide human food or nectar for bees, please let me know!

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