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The Future Is Now

The surrounding counties are still growing and we have to continue to keep up with that growth.  In an effort to keep up, we are currently in the plans for expansion of our blueberry crop.  Over the past several years we have added about 5 more acres of blueberries.  This past October, we added one more.

We start each field by digging the holes for each plant.  The holes are about 6 feet apart and only 8″ deep.  Doesn’t sound too bad, but we have to do hundreds at a time.  So this year instead of using a gas auger, which may be faster, we have decided to go with the PTO driven auger that runs off the back of our Kubota Tractor.  It is much slower, but requires little to no human energy to use.  After a long day of working the fields with the hand held gas auger, ones back, legs and arms are extremely tired and sore.  Not so much with the use of the tractor.

PTO Driven Auger

As the holes are being dug, two of us drive the John Deere Gator and trailer through the fields and drop the plants next to each hole.  Every row is a different variety, so we only take what we need per row.

Trailer with blueberry plants

Dropping off Blueberry Plants

Now that the blueberry plants are all in place, its time to plant.  This is a very simply process that takes no longer than 10-15 seconds per plant if done properly.  You simply remover the pot, loosen the root ball if need be and drop in the hole.  Next, you fill in with loose soil and DONE!

Pot Removal


Planting Complete

It takes about 5 years for a blueberry plant to reach a growth for a good harvest.  So planting now is planning for our future.  Since it takes time for the plants to get established, we don’t have the ability to wait and see how the counties develop around us.  We have to develop well in advance.

The field is near completion.  Our next step is running drip irrigation down the rows.  Since we do not run the irrigation in the winter, this process can wait till the spring.  Until then, we can focus on clearing and planning for future plantings.  We have about 2 more acres that we would like to put back into production.

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Fall Pansy Planting

Every year around this time, we begin our transition back to our greenhouse operation.  During the fall we supply the local landscapers with colorful pansies.  We take pride in our products.  To get a good quality plant, we take the necessary steps to achieve this.

Pansy Plug TrayThe very first step is the receiving of the shipment.  Usually FedEx will delivery the pansies in large boxes.  We unpack the plants, spread them out, fertilize and take a deep breath.  These are called “plug trays”.  Each plug tray holds 144 individual plants.

Pot filling machine

Next we fill the potting machine with a bag of potting soil.  We run “flats” of 15, 4″ pots thru the machine.  The machine fills and sweeps any excess soil off.  The excess falls into the white container.  We then stack the trays on a table and begin the planting process.

NutricoteThe first step is to sprinkle Nutricote onto the soil.  Nutricote is a slow release fertilizer.  It allows the plants to get a steady amount of food throughout the growing season.  We then mix that into the containers.  This is a photo of a 6″ round pot.  We do the same for the flats of 15.

Pansy in a 4" Pot

After the soil and Nutricote have been mixed, we will insert the plug directly in the middle of the container.   The final step is to place the flat in its designated growing area.  We have certain areas set aside for landscapers and our retail section.  These particular plants are for a landscaper.

The final and most important part is the watering in of the plugs.  The plugs need a good dose of water to get themselves established in there new soil media.  Soaking the plant during the first watering will help eliminate any air pockets and help settle the soil.

Look for our pansies to be ready sometime near mid September.  We will have plenty of colors to chose from.


1-Finished Landscape Product

2-Finished 6″ Pot

3-Filling 6″ Pots with soil

4-Finished Flats

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Shaking for the Winery

Do you ever wonder what we do with all those berries out there that don’t get picked by the public.  Well, we help supply a Virginia winery with fresh blueberries.  Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, located in Nellysford, VA,  makes several different blueberry wines.   In order for us to get the quantity needed for the winery to make wine we can not hand pick.  So, Clyde has developed a low cost way of “picking” hundreds of pounds in a matter of hours.

July the 23rd, we needed to reach a quota of 600 pounds of blueberries.  The basis is simple, lay a tarp under the bushes and shake the living daylights out of them.  The ripest berries will release from the stem and fall to the tarp.  The tarp is then emptied into a container that holds anywhere from 16 to 25 pounds.

The containers, full of berries, stems and leaves are then taken to be cleaned and weighed for delivery.  We dump the berries into a long container and blow out the stems and leaves with a leaf blower, leaving just the berries.  The blueberries are then poured back into the field containers and adjusted to the proper weight.

Once the berries have been processed and weighed we will then load for delivery.  The end result for today’s shaking was 636 pounds.  Eight of us did this in less than 4 hours of work.  That is an average of 159 pounds per hour.  We reached our goal with time to spare.  We did our part, so lets hope the Winery does theirs and makes another delicious batch of wine.

Hill Top is on Facebook.  Just click the word WINE to get to their link

Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery Website

636 Pounds of Blueberries

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Premier Variety Still Going Strong

Bucket of Premier Berries

We are going into our third week of picking.  Mother Nature has been very kind to us thus far.  In the past several days we have had over 1.3 inches of rain fall.  What a relief!!!!  The berries really needed a fresh rain.   

With the good rains and wonderful sunshine the Premier variety has had a second surge.  There are spots in the fields where the bushes have completely folded over with the weight of the berries.  We had one lady who picked over 12lbs on one blueberry bush.  That is incredible!!!!  The Premier are extra sweet right now.  You will be hard pressed to find a berry you didn’t like. 

With the peak of Premier, you will soon find the Tifblue ripening.  There are blue Tifblue berries on the plants, but they have yet to sweeten up.  Once again, with a little rain and some good sunshine, the Tifblue will be ready to pick. 

So come on out and enjoy the super sweet Premier while they last.  Can you break the 12lb barrier on 1 bush?  We would love to see you try.  Come on out and join us soon.  The weather is quite nice out here in the country!

On a quick side note…WE HAVE HONEY!  The bee keeper has finally delivered the honey from the bees that pollinated our blueberry crop this year.  So hurry in a grab a bottle or two while supplies last. 

Fresh Local Honey

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Opening Week 2010

What a great opening week for our blueberry season.  Excluding the first day which reached nearly 100 degrees, we had perfect weather.   We have a wonderful staff established for this season.  We all arrived super early on Monday to get set up and wait for our biggest fans to arrive early.

The earliest picker arrived at 7:30am primed to pick.  Several minutes later, the pickers arrived in swarms.  The parking lot filled quickly for our opening day.  I would have to say it filled a lot faster than anyone anticipated.  Each picker arrived smiling and ready to get some fresh blueberries.  It was a pleasure being around such wonderful people.

The rest of the week was no different.  Pickers arrived early and often.  Each leaving the field with a big blue smile and a bucket full of berries.  The big blue smile is a funny thing.  It states the following. “We know, you know, that we know you ate blueberries.”  So don’t hide that pretty blue smile.  Flash it with pride and tell the world about those delicious blueberries.

The company has been great.  We appreciate every one of you guys coming out to our farm to pick.  We love sharing what we do with the public.  We hope you have enjoyed it as well.  Thank you for making the opening week a success.  We owe it all to you.  Thank You!

I will end this post with a few photos and captions.  Thanks for reading and hope to see you soon at the farm.

A lovely group of well behaved kids having a nice picnic under the shade trees.

Our record breaking picker.  He picked 11.26 lbs in one bucket! Amazing!!!!

The future looks Happy!

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Irrigation Process

Same Cluster New Week

Have you ever wondered how we supply our fruit with plenty of water?  Well I am going to demonstrate for you.

We have 2 ponds.  1 is about an acre in size and the other is nearly 1.5acres.  Both have ample supply of water drainage to help with extra water during rainfall.  Did you now that 1 inch of rain on 1 acre of water equals 27154.2876 gallons of water?  Thats a lot of water!

Gas Engine and Pump

We pump the water out of our ponds with small gas engines.  These pumps work efficiently, pumping water thru a 3 inch pipe from the pond into 2 large sand filters.

Sand Filters

The filters clean the water enough so that irrigation lines and sprinkler systems do not get clogged with debris.  The water then exits the filters at about 32-34 psi into another large 3 inch pipe.  This pipe runs along side the fields, buried in the ground several feet.  This prevents freezing and cracking of the PVC during cold winter months.  It is very labor intensive to replace broken pipe.

Irrigation Line Running Through a Blueberry Bush

From each row of blueberries runs a small black irrigation line that has drippers every 2 feet.  This line is connected to the main underground line.  So for several hours as the pump runs, water will drip consistently from each black irrigation line.  During the peak fruit season we will irrigate the fields daily to prevent the fruit from drying.  Blueberry plants have a shallow root system and need a regular supply of water.  Blueberry plants lack a large tap root and thus the need to water regularly.

Although we irrigate on a regular basis, a good rain fall is always a warm welcome.  It replenishes the ponds, refreshes the grasses in the rows and keeps down the dust.  But number one, it gives the plants a much needed soaking that only mother nature can supply.

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