Published March 30, 2018
Weird Weather!? Cold Damage report
You are right! It has been very cold. It is March 25 at this writing and for the month of March we have had only 71 Growing Degree Days (GDD) to the base 50 where the 10 year average is 245 growing degree days and last year we had 290 GDD in March. The flowers have grown extremely slowly. This has been a blessing as the more immature the flower the greater it's tolerance to cold. We have had 8 nights in March so far where it has been very close to significant damage. We have had no significant crop loss in the blueberries except for the variety Climax... We have been reduced down to about 80% of a crop in this variety.
Blackberries appear to be all right... you can see just an occasional king flower bud.
Wind Machine Status
Our wind machine is still not working. When we swapped out gear boxes last year we did not realize that the new gear box was running clockwise. Our new blade requires counter clockwise. We have the right gear box now and hope to get it changed out in the next day or two.
Blueberries - done! Grapes - 1/2 done, Figs and Muscadines - zero done. It just takes time!
The Happy Berry “Doings” - aka Upcoming Events
The following is a list of events that we have coming up. We hope to see you soon!
March 31, Farm Day at Bart Garrison Agriculture Museum, at 120 History Lane, Pendleton SC from 10am until 3pm. Our booth will be listed as the Clemson Farmers Market. In addition to having willows for sale we will give free lessons on how to grow-your-own. We will also bring eggs, jams and jellies.
April 7, We will be at the Easley Spring Fling from 9am until 3pm, selling woody floral sticks and stems including willows
April 10, Easley Rotary Club at West End School beginning at noon. Walker will speak on "The History of Agriculture."
April 14, Anderson Library from 10am until 2pm. We will teaching how to grow your own willows as well as having them for sale
April 21, The Azalea Festival on Main Street in Pickens, an all day event. We will have sticks and stems for sale.
April 23, Upstate Seekers at Keowee Keys. We will make a presentation on the history of agriculture in the upstate with a peek at a possible future. Willows and woody florals will be available for participants.
April 26, The Garden Clubs of South Carolina at the Embassy Suites, 200 Stoneridge Drive, Columbia SC. An all day event.
May 1, Walker will be speaking to Newcomers Club of the Foothills.
May 3 the Clemson Farmers Market at Patrick Square will start and be every Thursday this year 3 to 6pm. Note this is a change from Fridays to Thursdays for 2018.
Also the Six Mile Farmers Market will be on Thursday evenings 3 to 6 PM. We don't know the start date yet. If Zoe is not working off the farm, she will be handling this event. Otherwise we will not be able to be there.
May 26, will start TD Farmers Market on Main St. in downtown Greenville SC, Saturdays from 8-12.
June 5, will start Mauldin Farmers Markets at the Mauldin Cultural Center, 101 Butler Road in Mauldin Tuesdays from 5-8 PM
We so appreciate each and every one of you, and all of your support!
The Happy Berry Bunch - Walker, Ann, Zoe and Betty-Ann
Published March 2, 2018
Pussy willow sale at the farm this Saturday March 3, 2018 from 11am to noon
Bouquets, plants, grow-your-own cuttings (with instructions) and handmade wreaths by Zoe will be available. Eggs and Jams will also be available.
We are still pruning and sweating out whether we will get it done in time... Blueberries 80% done, Blackberries 98%, Grapes 5%, Muscadines 0%. Any volunteers?
Chill hour report
Just like you need to sleep at night so your body can sweep/clean up all those chemicals in the brain generated by thinking during the day... Chill Hours are when plants organize all that energy stored from the previous season, prepare growth regulators, other instructive chemicals and gather nutrients for that burst of growth when temperatures warm up.
Chill hours are recorded from November 1 until end of February of each year. We use a web site called getchill.net and our own Weather Underground station [free app] ( our station number is KSCsixmil4) for our results. This year we recorded a total of 1126 chill hours, which includes hours below 32 degrees. The really good chill hours, called chill units, are when the temp is between 32 and 45. This is when the plants are able to clean out the old, organize their energy and prepare for a burst of new growth. We recorded 791 chill units this year. This is the most chill hours and chill units we have measured in several years.
Once the bushes satisfy their required chill units, they will start to respond to warming temperatures. Generally warm-up is measured in Growing Degree Days (GDD - base 50 F) and for us, we start measuring the first of February each year. You can get a free App entitled "Growing Degree Days" in the App store (it has a corn stalk on its icon) if you want to try this at home.
We are at 245 GDD for the month of February and we think we are ahead of schedule by maybe 10 to 12 days. Blueberry bushes are already budding. Flowers are from buds "well cracked" to "well defined flowers" all the way to Pistils extending beyond the Corolla (flower petal). In blackberries we are in bud break (buds are starting to swell) to mostly 1 inch bud burst. These stages of growth are susceptible to frost, so now we start to sweat the weather forecasts.
Our current forecast is calling for 34 degrees with 21 degrees dew point for early Sunday morning March 4, with light to no wind...so frost damage is likely. If nothing changes we will probably run the wind machine 3/4/18, the earliest we have ever run it in ten years!
Wind Machine Report
Last year we ran the wind machine with a cracked blade...really scary! So we invested $3750 in a new blade.
Image left: Brad from Superior Wind Machine Michigan Is 37 feet up the pole grabbing the new Plastic blade to mount on the top gear box. The blade is about 21 feet long and weighs a little over 200 pounds. Michael Marchbanks of Six Mile is operating the 60 foot boom truck.
In addition to the blade repair, each year it is a challenge to make sure the motor (314 Chrysler industrial) is running properly because if the motor dies while the blade is running it will tear up the gear box(s). Just this year, we have already had a bad starter solenoid, bad bushing, water condensate in the gas tank and replaced spark plugs. The bottom line, we think we have it running, and we anticipate we are going to need it.
Why spend the money and what does the wind machine do? Because of the inversion effect that is created by our geographic location near the east side of Lake Keowee, there is warm air above the farm when lower temperatures set in. The wind machine creates a vortex which sucks the warm air down and spreads it over the farm. The moving air keeps the flowers from super cooling and keeps them at the ambient temperature of the moving air. The difference of 1 to 4 degrees can mean the difference of a crop or no crop.
Right now, barring a catastrophic event like a frost, (or damage from the marauders- see below) things are looking good for this year’s harvest.
Threat very high for mummy berry and Exobasidium leaf and fruit spot Over the last several weeks, we have had several 24, 48 and 72 hour periods of continuous wetness with temperatures in the sixties and even low seventies. This kind of weather creates ideal conditions for these two diseases to infect blueberries. We use lime sulfur to control both. Stinky stuff but it is considered organic. It does a great job on the Exobasidium which resides on the stems of the plant to spread to developing berries and leaves and is a onetime spray. It also kills mummy berry spores on the buds and also burns back the source of the spores on the ground if we get the timing right. We tried. If we prevent primary infections then we do not need to spray for secondary infections. The problem is it is readily washed off by rain.
That is it for now!
The old timers say that if you can get past Easter without frost damage you are probably good. Let's hope we make it. Easter is early this year.
Thank so much for your support!
Walker for "The Happy Berry Bunch"