Springtime At The Bogs
Springtime is a vital time for cranberry farmers. There are so many things to do to ensure a quality harvest come fall.
Cranberries are perennials, meaning they come back year after year. We are fortunate to not have to sow seeds and plant each year as it would be A LOT of work to plant over 250 acres of cranberry vine each year! A bog, if planted and cared for properly, can provide many years of quality cranberries. So what do we do in the spring?
One thing we do in the spring is prune the vines or as well call them, runners. Runners are extra long vines that need to be trimmed to maintain an efficient bog. We use a machine that cuts the vine (not too far down!) but enough to give the bog a trim, if you will. The cut vines will be raked and kept watered until they are brought to another location to be planted as a new bog. The vines can also be sold or simply composted. (See Building a Bog blog for more info on that!)
Another thing we do in the spring is sanding. Sanding can be done in the winter too (spreading sand over the thick ice covered bogs) but sometimes we can’t make enough ice in the wintertime to sand so we do it in the spring. We use a tractor and spread a ¾ inch layer of sand over the vines. The sand gives the vines a little “refresh” for the growing season. It also acts as a natural pest repellent. Did you know that sanding cranberry bogs has been in practice since the early 1800’s? 1816 to be exact, when Captain Henry Hall of Dennis noticed a better crop after sand blew off the beach and over his bogs. It became standard practice in the industry rather quickly after that.
Testing the irrigation system is very important. We need our irrigation system to be working for two reasons, the first being to water the bogs (obviously) and the second for frost protection (not so obvious). Frost is a big concern for growers. If we have a frost warning for a particular night we are up and checking the irrigation system to make sure they kicked on. The water keeps the vines from freezing (kind of counterintuitive, don’t you think?) which can cause damage to the vine and affect growth. Our irrigation system is wicked SMAHT! It has sensors that will kick on when the bog needs watering (it senses the soil moisture) and when the temperature drops below 32 degrees fahrenheit. The sensors help us to be efficient and run our irrigation responsibly.
We also prepare for the bees to come back! They usually arrive in June in time to pollinate the cranberry flowers that bloom later in the month. We will have another blog post all about bees - but for now we simply plan where the hives will be located and how many hives we will need from our supplier. The standard is two hives per acre of bog which is about 500 hives for our operation! That’s a lot of bees!
As busy as spring is for us, we love to see the bogs come back to life for another growing season. And who doesn’t love the warmer weather?