Cranberries are a unique fruit. They can only grow and survive under a very special combination of factors: they require an acid peat soil, an adequate fresh water supply, sand and a growing season that stretches from April to November.
There are probably as many varieties of cranberries as there are varieties of apples, but the differences between cranberry varieties are subtle. Cranberry varieties differ by size, color and keeping quality of berry, average yields, time of ripening, hardiness and suitability of the vine to certain climates.
Once a suitable marsh has been chosen, a ditch is dug around the perimeter to lower the water level. Trees are cut, and the surface vegetation is pushed into rows. These rows are shaped into the dikes that surround each cranberry bed. Dikes make it possible to flood each bed individually and also provide vehicle access. Ditches are then dug around the perimeter of each bed as well as down the center. A system of reservoirs, dams and flow gates is required to manage water. Once the beds are level, a thick layer of sand may be spread out on the surface. After the irrigation system is installed, the bed is ready for planting.
Planting is done in the spring. A suitable variety is selected and an existing bed with that variety is pruned. It will be two years before the pruned bed will produce a crop again. The cuttings are then taken, chopped into smaller segments, and spread out evenly on a bed that has been prepared for planting. They are then pressed down into the soil and watered regularly. They immediately send out roots, but it will be five years before they will produce a full crop. If well cared for, cranberry vines can continue to produce indefinitely. There are cranberry marshes that have been producing crops for more than 100 years!
If It's Not From The Forest, It's Not Wild!
James Bay Wild Fruit