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Pick a Patch at Rockberry Farm!

From strawberries to pumpkins, your seasonal favorites are here!

 

by Melissa Bravo - July 6, 2015

‘Sparkling,’ ‘Jewel,’ and ‘Allstars’ of Rockberry Farms’ strawberry patch – these are just three of the varieties of June-bearing strawberries that owner’s Paul and Christie Blackwell have planted on their property along Dartt Settlement Road in Charleston Township, Wellsboro PA. Wellsboro Home Page stopped by the patch earlier this month to visit with the owner’s and learn more about the challenges and rewards associated with this labor-intensive agriculture crop.

Paul and Christie both grew up on dairy farms here in Tioga County. “I’ve always been around farming,” Paul said “and wanted to try something different.” His decision to turn an acre of lawn into a strawberry patch three years ago is now bearing the fruits of their labor.

“Last year the patch yielded 550 quarts,” Christie Blackwell said, adding that most of those were from the 2013 planting of the Cornell University variety ‘Honeoye’. This early-midseason variety is highly desired by home gardeners and commercial growers. The large fruits have a super sweet flavor if they are picked before they over ripen, and the plants are very winter hardy. They grow vigorous, producing early runner production and heavy yields. However, it is susceptible to red stele disease so planting other varieties is an added measure of protection. There are more than 30 varieties of strawberries producers can choose from that could be planted in our area, according to Cornell University’s Strawberry Variety fact sheet on their Berry Resources web-site. Variety selection is important because each one has advantages and disadvantages that are influenced by the type of soil, drainage, and disease resistance.

The Blackwell’s added ‘Jewel’, ‘Sparkle’, and ‘Allstar to the patch to spread out their risk and now have close to 1,000 plants. While all four of these varieties will ripen sometime in June they are differentiated further as early season, mid-season, and late season which give producers an opportunity to stretch the berry season over four weeks if the weather cooperates.

“This year we had hoped to be around 1,000 quarts but the damp weather has really impacted the picking season, and a lot of berries have molded before they could be picked” Christie explained. “In a normal June we’d expect to have a good two weeks of picking for a patch of this size but the weather has not cooperated”.

Unfortunately, since filming this feature the area received another 3 inches of rain which ended the picking season for most of the region. Still, the Blackwell’s expect their patch to yield about 800 quarts despite the 5 inches of rain our area got in the month of June. Now that the season is over for this year, Paul will mow the old foliage down with his lawnmower and thin the plants before covering them with a light layer of soil. This is necessary to stimulate the plant’s to produce new crowns and roots. Plants can now winter over and produce a new patch of berries for next year.

The Blackwell’s would like to invite you to return to their place this fall for pumpkin picking. They have planted a small pumpkin patch ideal for young children to pick with their parent’s. You can find out more about the progress of the pumpkin patch and picking dates on their Facebook page ‘Rockberry Farms’.

Credits:

Writing: Melissa Bravo

 

Produced by Vogt Media

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