Aronia plants are easy to grow and they will grow in many different garden soils. Aronia berries have high levels of vitamins and antioxidants, growing them can be a worthwhile addition to any home garden or field.
General Aronia Growing Ideas
Purchase your plants from a reputable nursery. Your best buy is usually two-year old plants. You should start getting some berries the following year. This will provide you with a berry crop very soon. The aronia plant varieties for fruit production are Viking and Nero. For fruit production purchase one of these varieties.
Aronia bushes are not very picky about the soil in which they are planted. They are well suited to a wide range of soil types. Aronia shrubs are some of the best at doing well in very wet winter soils that may be caused by slow drainage, and in dry summer soils.
To find out if you have suitable garden soil, take a sample to your local county agent and have it tested. Soil tests are one of the great bargains when it comes to gardening and growing plants. Your local extension agent can be a great resource for information. If your soil is not quite suitable, the report should tell you what you need to do. You can amend the soil by adding organic matter to the soil. Soils with high clay content tend to be very fertile. This is because the microscopically dispersed clay particles have the capacity to form chemical bonds with the elements or compounds essential for plant growth found in the soil. Adding organic matter to soils will improve the soil's fertility; help reduce soil compaction of the clay soil and increase water flow through the soil. Adding organic matter also will increase and increase air space within the clay soil, and make the soil more tillable. Sandy soils tend to be more acid than the more fertile loams and clays that are rich in nutrients. Adding organic matter to sandy soils will increase its fertility and water holding capacity.
The optimum pH level to grow aronia is slightly acid (6-6.5), but aronia will tolerate a wider pH range (5-8.5). You can supply a soil sample to your county agent for analysis. The report will tell you would if anything is needed to amend your soil.
Aronia plants are not drought tolerant but they can usually dry summer soils once established. They need watering for maximum fruit production. Once the plants are established water them as needed usually once or twice per week when dry. You need to take into account recent rainfall amounts before watering your landscape. For a field of an acre or so the following guidelines may be helpful. Be ready to provide a several hour-long watering times of drip irrigation a couple times a week for a full year if rain is not plentiful this will increase the likelihood of success of plant survival. Not enough water after they are planted is the major cause of death for newly planted shrubs.
Water your plants at the right times
Water your plants when needed, while the sun is down between about midnight and 8 am using a timer. This can save up to 700 gallons of water each month by reducing evaporation caused by the sun and wind by watering. This time is when the plants are most receptive to water. The most basic principle in watering is a very simple: Never water in the evening or at in the middle of the day. Morning is always the best time to water. The plant's roots are most able to receive water in the morning, and will utilize any moisture you provide most efficiently. Plants are also most to receive water in the morning, because the cells of the leaves 'open up' to accept the morning dew. This is the reason early morning is the best time of the day for foliar feeding using compost tea directly on plants. Never Water While the Sun Shines! Late afternoon or early evening is the worst time to water because the plant cells have shut down and will not open up again until the sun goes down!
Use drip irrigation system for your aronia shrubs and may save up to 375 gallons of water each month. Make sure your drip irrigation watering heads are not clogged or broken. Check to see that the system does not leak and that the water is directed to your plants
Fix leaks supplying in your irrigation water system and save many gallons each month. Plants once established if your property does not receive sufficient rain each year you should water your plants as needed. Most plants generally need at least 1 inch of water per week. However frequent watering risks the plants' roots staying wet, over watering and standing water can cause the plants roots to drown and rot in the ground. The plant's roots need to dry out between watering. These easy tips will save water, help protect the environment and reduce utility costs for the water and the energy required to pump it.
Increasing the amount of organic matter is probably one of the most important things you can do to improve your soil. Decomposed compost in the soil is a necessity for successful aronia planting. Add your own compost, leaves, grass clippings, or manure to the soil and mix it in well. A soil mix should contain about 2% to 5% organic matter. Sandy soil should contain closer to 2% or 3% and clay soil needs 4% to 5%. Spreading a layer of about 4 inches of organic mulch around plants helps retain moisture and saves water, time and money.
Mulching is one of the most important ways to maintain healthy plants. Mulching reduces the amount of evaporation from the soil surface and reduces irrigation needs by about 50 percent. Using about 4 inches of organic mulch can save up to 750 gallons of water each month. Mulch helps keep plants cool, reduces evaporation, provides nourishment and helps control weeds.
Green manure crops
Cover crops, also referred to as called green manures, are an important way of improving texture, soil aeration and adding nitrogen. Cover crops support and encourage microorganisms and worms. Planting a "green manure crop," is an effective method of improving poor soils. Crops such as buckwheat or winter wheat serve as good green manure crops. Other green manure crops may include legumes such as cowpeas, soybeans, annual sweet clover, vetch, sesbania, and velvet beans. Rye (Secale cereale) is perhaps the best overall small grain cover crop. It can be seeded from August in northern and eastern Kentucky through mid-November in western Kentucky. Extremely winter-hardy varieties, such as Aroostook, should be considered if late planting is necessary. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is very effective in suppressing weeds and can also be used as a winter cover crop. It can survive over winter and will need to be mowed or by using No-Till rolling down the cover crop in spring instead of mowing it, the cover crop takes longer to decompose and becomes a weed-suppressing mulch. Use about the same seeding rate as annual ryegrass. Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) can be used as a winter cover crop even though it is not an annual grass. It can be seeded mid-August through September and can provide a good ground cover before winter. Broadcast 20 to 30 pounds of seed per acre on clean-tilled soil. Use a corrugated roller (cultipacker) to firm the soil and press in the seed. The seed should be covered no more than ½-inch deep. Fescue can be grazed or cut for hay in early May. If it is to be used for hay. These crops improve the soil by the nutrients they bring up from the lower soil and converting them into plant organic matter. This actively growing organic matter is plowed under to incorporate the roots and leaves into the soil. This is an effective, cheap, and ecologically sound way to build organic matter into the soil.
Weeds compete with plants for sunlight, water, nutrients, and growing space. Weeds are one of the major threats to your crop they grow faster than your plants and successfully out compete them for available resources. Consider using permeable landscape cloth to control weeds if it is requires too much labor to control weeds otherwise. Weeds are a major factor in reducing farm productivity.
Pollination or fertilization is not required to set aronia fruit because the flowers are bisexual and thus the plants are self-fertile. Aronia violet-black berries are firm 1/3 inch in diameter and produced in loose clusters of about 8 to 15 berries. The fruit ripen in mid September and can be harvest over the next four to six weeks however the berries tend to start shriveling up after ripening. The fruit and the foliage are not bothered much if at all by insects or diseases. Birds do not eat the developing fruit. Bird depredation is an indicator of when to harvest. If not harvested, birds and game birds will eat the fruit during the winter
In one site three-year old Nero plants planted in clay loam soil with a pH of 5.7 the plants produced over 20 pounds per plant. For an acre of 670 plants this was of about 14,000 pounds per acre for the third year of planning in the field. This is a pretty typical yield for Viking and Nero varieties. Typically Viking and Nero aronia variety shrubs produce about two pounds of berries per bush two years after planting. By the fourth year after planting, aronia berry production is about 20 pounds per bush. Production levels off at around 20 pounds or more per plant by the fifth or sixth year after planting.
Planting density for machine harvest is usually about 600 to 700 plants per acre. For mechanical harvest, plants are spaced 3 to five feet apart in rows that are 12 feet apart. The plants produce numerous new shoots that will grow up from the roots of established plants. These will form a hedgerow by filling in the space between the plants. Most new growers who are just getting started initially plant one-half to five acres and expand the number of plants later.
The rising interest in eating healthier foods has help make aronia berries and their products gain in popularity in recent years. The levels of vitamins, minerals and folic acids are high in the berries. Aronia berries are a little known super food that is gaining in recognition that has tremendous nutritional value. The aronia berries are also one of the richest plant sources of phenolic substances, mainly anthocyanins and proanthocyanins. Tests on aronia grown show that juice has a pH of about 3.5 and a brix of around 16.
Antioxidant capacity of fruit
Aronia berries top the list of more than 100 foods that have been scientifically tested for antioxidant capacity. Aronia berries have a huge potential as a healthy super food. Researchers have investigated at how aronia berries affects cardiovascular disease, liver failure, colon and breast cancers, and obesity.