What I do on my Elderberry Farm
What does a work schedule on an elderberry farm look like? Here is mine, broken down into chunks. This work schedule is specific to my elderberry farm in Missouri, zone 6b, It is a general reminder chart for me. It does not include all the tasks I do and will not apply to all areas of the country. My work schedule is set up so that I can handle it on my own, with little to no outside help. An elderberry farm work schedule for a larger elderberry farm that employs farm hands may look very different. Chores may be able to be condensed into a few days whereas I need to sometimes stretch my work over time in order to get the same things accomplished. Read about it in more detail below.
Elderberry Farm Chores
January/February - In January and February I take cuttings, pruning plants as I go. I decide which, if any, rows of elderberry plants will be pruned to the ground, and begin on that. Outdoor temperatures are relative as plants must be dormant, so this is sometimes very cold work. Cuttings are taken as orders come in only at the very beginning of the season. As the weather forecast turns and elderberry dormacy is nearing the end all cuttings are taken from the field and refrigerated for later propagation. Elderberry cuttings are being shipped out and as time permits more and more cuttings are started for spring plant sales and for my own elderberry farm.
Late February/Early March - Organic dormant oil is sprayed on plant branches to interfere with any overwintering mites and insects. There will be continuing care for indoor propagated cuttings. All cuttings that are in storage are sorted by which are to be sold and which will be kept. Kept cuttings are either started in pots or planted directly into the field at this time. Soil samples are taken and tested. The extreme row clean up begins. Any branches that will impede summer mowing are cleared in the row interiors. Any plants that do not belong are removed and branches that are not showing green are considered dead and are removed from the field.
Late March/April - Test results dictate what fertilizer is needed, it is acquired and applied. Propagation continues. The extreme row clean up finishes.
May - In early May I begin to harden off my elderberry plants that had been started indoors. Weather is watched for the last frost date and soon after I set out plants that have been indoors that will go into my elderberry farm field. I mulch areas that need mulching once new shoots have emerged. Mowing usually begins sometime in May. The row interiors are mowed weekly and any sprouting weeds are removed.
June - I monitor and hand remove insects (stem borers and japanese beetles for me). I begin checking for mites and diseases weekly. Flower harvest begins in early June, flowers that are waist high and below will be taken for harvest. In mid-June, or as lack of rain dictates, I check and repair irrigation lines and roll out irrigation into elderberry rows. I have drip irrigation lines that are stored indoors overwinter to extend their lifespan. I begin irrigating when necessary, continue to mow and remove weeds.
July/August - Elderberry Farm berry harvest begins in late July and continues through mid August or later depending on elderberry varieties grown. Picking is daily or every other day. Elderberry harvest time includes a multitude of tasks. I continue with mowing and irrigate as necessary until the first frost.
October - Roll up and store irrigation lines inside for winter.