Forum: Polyculture & Niche Analysis Questions & Comments (optional)

House Wrens & Blueberries

Picture of Kathy Partridge
House Wrens & Blueberries
by Kathy Partridge - Wednesday, December 2, 2020, 8:11 PM

Last summer, a family of wrens set up housekeeping under the eaves of my covered shed deck. I noticed that they were spending an extraordinary amount of time perched on the trellises of my one and only garden bed (about 100 sq. ft.). For the first time, I had made an effort to really plant it as a polyculture as best I could instead of the usual rows and neat blocks of little monocultures and by July, it was a real jungle. The wrens seemed to love it and then I realized that I wasn't having much of a problem with cucumber beetles at all. I had a few, but the population never got out of hand. I finally put 2 and 2 together and realized the wrens were likely helping themselves to the crunchy little critters.

I am in the process of adding another 250 sq. ft. of bed space for next spring and I certainly want to invite my wren friends back. So I decided to do a niche analysis of the House Wren and I can certainly understand why they spent so much time in and around my trellises. I had unwittingly created the sort of leafy habitat they love for "foliage gleaning" (as put it).

In addition, I want to finally plant some blueberries so I did a second niche analysis. I already know that my soils aren't at all suitable for blueberries, but I think I can create the right conditions with some effort. With last summer's heat and drought, the commercial blueberry season around here was a complete bust, but if I'd had my own manageable little patch to water, I think I'd have gotten a good supply into the freezer anyway. Keeping 4 - 6 bushes well watered is an entirely different proposition from the irrigating the big operations would have had to do. I'm not sure if I have room for highbush plants, but the half-highs look promising. And I will definitely have to net my patch if I expect to get any berries for myself.

Peggy Berk
Re: House Wrens & Blueberries
by Peggy Berk - Wednesday, December 2, 2020, 9:30 PM

The permaculture farm I visited has an nice section devoted to blueberries and other berries.  which they established in hugelkultur beds,  

I've known others who tried hugelkultur in the mountains here and didn't succeed because the gusty winds eroded the beds too quickly and they fell apart before the plants could root well enough to stem the erosion.  On this farm, they dug down and buried the bottom log layer in the ground, with the rest of the hill materials added above. It's proven to be not only structurally reliable in the intense winds they get at their 2,000+ foot elevation in the Catskills, ,  but apparently conserves a great deal of water.  They reported to me that they have never had to water them, not even in the first year.

It strikes me that with blueberries preferring very acid soil - generally a pH between 4.5 and 5.5 - the hugelkultur technique might also be a good way to contain your acidic amendments so that you don't have acid runoff into the rest of your garden where a more neutral pH is desired. 

Might be a way to go.  If you do give it a try, I'd love to hear about it!



Picture of Debbie Sexsmith
Re: House Wrens & Blueberries
by Debbie Sexsmith - Friday, December 4, 2020, 11:18 PM

Yes I agree that you will need nets :)  We have shared our elderberries and blueberries with our bird friends for quite some time. I think they have had their fair share and its time we get some to our market or at least into jam.  Interestingly, we have a couple of bushes near the barn and they haven't found them.  The 500 bushes in the main crop garden are open game and they know of their existence.  I was thinking of trying to add other trees or plants to camouflage them but I think netting but they appear to like the plants I chose too. This way I can release the chickens in there for a spell and put some of our crops that are browsed by the deer in there too.  They inhaled our chard, beans and sweet potatoes this past year. 

We have lots of barn swallows and I they are amazing at keeping flies and mosquitos and things that bother the livestock and us in check. However, they aren't so great to have in our market area and nesting over food.  They have been coming for over a hundred years, so I need to figure out a way to coexist and still meet the increasing regulations of biosecurity.  They consider all birds pests. Thankfully, they are still just guidelines.