This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
Before cranberries are planted, the land must be cleared of all its natural growth, the stumps and roots removed and the ground leveled to a greater or less extent. The more nearly level a bog is made, so that proper drainage is provided for, the more economical it is in the use of water and the easier it is to provide the optimum amount of irrigation during the summer. The first cost of such perfect leveling, however, may be prohibitive or it may require the removal of all the good peaty soil over a considerable area, leaving nothing but pure sand in which the cranberries will not grow well. In many places, the removal of the natural growth may best be accomplished by cutting off the tops of the bushes and trees so that they will not extend above the surface of the water and flooding for two years, thus killing all vegetation. While this flooding entails loss of time, it is much easier and cheaper to clear away the dead roots and stumps than live ones, and when no sand is applied to the surface, as is the rule in New Jersey, it greatly lessens the expense of keeping the bog free from weeds for there are no live roots in the ground to send up suckers.
In some places, as in most of Wisconsin, this method of drowning out is impracticable, because the surface soil, in which are the roots of all the living plants, will separate from the more perfectly decomposed peat below and rise to the surface of the water in floating islands making death to vegetation by drowning impossible. In such situations the ground must be turfed and all roots and stumps grubbed out. In either case the roots and stumps are best disposed of by piling in heaps and burning. In Massachusetts, it is the custom to cover the cleared and leveled bog with 3 to 5 inches of sand, which makes it still easier to keep the bogs free from weeds and acts as a moisture-retaining mulch for the underlying peat. Where sanding is practised, it is the custom to apply a fresh coat of sand an inch or less in depth every two or three years; this keeps the vines short and close.
Cuttings for planting are secured by mowing vigorous vines from an old bog with a scythe. These cuttings, preferably not more than 8 or 10 inches long, are thrust diagonally into the surface of the bog from 12 to 14 inches apart. Not more than 3 or 4 inches of the top should be exposed, and if the bog is sanded, care should be taken that the cutting extends well into the muck below. As the vines grow they send out runners in all directions, netting the ground completely over. These sometimes grow as much as 6 feet in length and root in the soil at frequent intervals. From the runners grow upright stems which, in time, cover the bog with a solid mat of vegetation. The uprights are preferably not more than 6 inches high but under some soil conditions grow to a foot or more when the fruit is likely to be scanty. From the time of planting, three to five years must pass before the ground is matted over and a crop may be expected.
The character of the growth of cranberry vines precludes any cultivation in the ordinary sense of the word. The care of the bogs consists in keeping them free from other plants, which is accomplished almost entirely by hand-pulling; the regulation of the irrigation water, and preventive and curative measures for the many diseases and insect enemies to which they are subject.
Fertilizing of cranberries has met with considerable success in increased crops, various brands of commercial fertilizer having been employed. The subject is not well understood, however, and is attracting the attention of many thoughtful growers and their scientific helpers in the state experiment stations.
The pretty little pinkish white flowers of the cranberry open during June, when the bogs are not flooded, but the holding of the winter water till May throws the fullest bloom into the early part of July.
Spraying with bordeaux mixture is very generally practised to prevent "scald," a fungous disease which has been especially injurious to the growers of New Jersey and which was so named because it was long thought to be caused by the scalding effect of the hot sun shining on berries wet with dew. As it is seldom possible to run heavy spraying machinery over the bogs, spraying involves the use of very long lines of hose or the laying of pipe fines, or both, the spraying of each property being a separate engineering problem.
Insects of many kinds attack the roots, the leaves, the blossoms and the fruit of the cranberry. Knowledge of the life history of each of these is necessary for successful warfare against it, and detailed information is best secured from the various bulletins of the
United States Department of Agriculture and the agricultural experiment stations of New Jersey, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. More varieties of insects may be successfully combated with water than with any other one thing, as already explained. Arsenical poisons are expensive to apply, of indifferent success in destroying insects on the bogs, and they are suspected of being an actual poison to the vines.
Fig. 1090. The flume or outlet at the bottom of a cranberry bog.