The Mighty Lingonberry (cont)
By: Robert E. Gough
Planting and Care
Locate your planting in a sunny spot on land with good air circulation and soil drainage. My lingonberry garden has a southeastern exposure. It receives sun most of the day and yet is protected from the brutal northwest winds of winter by a thick blanket of drifted snow. The plants grow well in the acid soils of our region. The ideal is soil of pH 5 that is also high in organic matter.
According to research by Dr. Elden Stang, professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, plants grow best when up to about seven pounds of peat moss is incorporated into each 100 square feet of row. Adding more does not increase plant growth substantially. Dr. Stang's research plots were located on a loamy sand soil. In your garden, work in the peat moss or compost and adjust the pH during the fall prior to spring planting.
Order your plants early from a reputable nursery. Start with plants in either two-inch or one-gallon pots. Set them out after danger of severe spring cold has passed and the soil has dried sufficiently to be worked. In my garden, on the border of zones 4a and 3b, that's late May.
Make the planting hole wide enough to accommodate all the roots without bending and set the plants as deeply as they grew in the pots, about 12 inches apart in rows spaced about 36 inches apart. Water them thoroughly to settle the soil about the roots.
By the second season, the plants will begin to spread, sending up shoots increasingly distant from the crown. In this respect, their growth habit resembles that of another cousin, the lowbush blueberry. The aim is to establish a hedgerow of plants about 18 inches in width.
According to MacKentley, weeds are the single biggest pest of small lingonberry plants. The best prevention is a two- to three-inch-deep mulch of sawdust, pine needles, chopped straw or peat moss that smothers young weeds. Otherwise, there is little the home gardener can do but pull them by hand and risk injuring the shallow roots of the new plants.
Mulched plants produce stronger growth and up to quadruple the yields of unmulched plants. Peat moss is far superior to sawdust or chopped straw, probably because it simulates the lingonberry's natural soil environment. Place it a couple of inches deep around the young plants right after planting, and increase the thickness of this layer each year as the plants grow in height. Several inches of damp peat moss make a wonderful mulch for mature plants, and the plants' rhizomes will actually spread through its lower layers.