Question of the Week
Answer:I am pleased to provide you with information regarding Huckleberry cultivation.
Huckleberries have a 15 year maturity cycle and will typically begin producing fruit after the 5th year of growth. You can use that as an estimate of when you might start seeing your huckleberry stand start to produce.
Huckleberries require snow cover in very cold temperatures. On sites where temperatures fall below 0 degrees F, survival will be best when the plants are covered by one to several feet of snow. If you live in an area with very cold temperatures this is a consideration and the plant should be covered with mulch or something if you have very little snowfall in the winter.
In general, huckleberries do not tolerate drought. Soils that are consistently moist but well drained provide the best plant growth and fruit production. If you live in an area with relatively frequent summer rains, you shouldn’t need to add supplemental moisture, but if you are in an area where June through August or September are typically very dry, a light to moderate overstory would be desirable along with some supplemental water.
Most huckleberries and bilberries survive under full sun through moderate shade. The optimal amount of shade depends on soil conditions and topography. On a cool, moist, north-facing slope, full sun is often desirable. On a warmer, drier, southerly slope, light to moderate shade can be beneficial. Research in Idaho and Montana suggest that 30% to 40% shade (60% to 70% full sun) is optimal for mountain huckleberry production. Thin the tree overstory to meet the needs of your particular site.
Fertility/ soil requirements:
Huckleberries like well drained, high organic matter soil with a low pH (between 4.0 – 5.0). Most likely the soil requirements are adequate, as the huckleberries germinated on that portion of your property, but some supplemental fertilization might be helpful. I would not encourage you to plant cover-crops, as huckleberries have not performed well with competition. I have seen recommendations of applying a 20-20-20 fertilizer in the early part of the season then switching to a fertilizer with lower nitrogen and hight phosphorous and potassium. Organic fertilizers are typically much lower than these recommendations. In the re-forested environment that you are referring to, perhaps side-dressing plants with compost would add stable fertility and organic matter to the plants to increase fruit yields.
Barney, Danny. Huckleberries and Billberries. Sandpoint Research and Extension Station. University of Idaho.
« What can you tell me about recordkeeping requirements for livestock producers under the new COOL regulation? :: What are some resources for finding research and statistics about community supported agriculture (CSA)? »