Cranberry Production Timetable

NOTE: This timetable was originally created as a ‘timeline’ pamphlet in 1996 by Charles Armstrong, Cranberry Professional for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, who at the time, was part of the Maine USDA-Americorps Program. It represents the culmination of work done by individuals at Down East RC&D in Cherryfield, Maine, the Maine Department of Agriculture, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

A General Timetable for Planting and Growing Cranberries on a Commercial Scale [based on personal experience from both growers and experts in the field]:

Preparation Phase

Gather Information:

  • Visit one or more of the major cranberry production areas in the country
  • Visit current Maine cranberry growers
  • Locate sources of funding for which you may be eligible
  • Talk to cranberry handlers and processors
  • Obtain cranberry publications and fact sheets, etc.
  • Attend cranberry meetings and workshops
  • Start a business plan, including such things as: cost of bed establishment, where to market your berries, who to be in production with you, condition of equipment, etc.
  • Visit our UMaine Extension site for new farmers

Site Assessment: Consider hiring private consultants and engineers for advice, and try to organize a team from the following organizations to simultaneously visit your site:

  • (NRCS) Contact your District Conservationist for a preliminary site assessment. Site review will include information on factors such as water availability, soils, slope and land cover considerations. Note: If interested in receiving or being eligible for USDA benefits, a certified wetlands determination must be  requested.
  • (DEP) to determine if application for permits will be required. Read the Maine DEP Cranberry Information Sheet. Bangor office tel: 207.941.4570, fax: 207.941.4584
  • (Army Corps of Engineers) to determine if you will need Federal permits. Manchester, Maine office tel: 207.623.8367
  • (Local) Call code enforcement officer to determine if local town ordinances will apply. Know your neighbors and what their concerns might be.

Permit Applications: Based on the outcome of your site assessment, obtain the appropriate permit application form(s). Ask the Maine DEP (207.941.4570) about available pre-application forms.

1st Year: Construction

January through the end of April:

Planning & Design of beds (A consultant can assist you in these areas):

  • Engineering drawings, surveying and designing
  • Development of a more thorough time schedule for the various phases of construction
  • Planning the layout of your beds, including size and orientation for best management
  • Sediment and erosion control plan
  • Help with completing any unfinished permit applications
  • Number of acres you have for potentially planting cranberries
  • Where and how to develop water sources

Note: Solidly built, erosion-resistant dikes that supply and maintain water levels are very important. During and shortly after bog construction is when the cranberry operation is most susceptible to the ravages of erosion. [see also Maine DEP’s Erosion Control Guidelines]

May through the end of June:

Bog and Dike Construction:

Note: From experience, experts agree that it is best to clear and level the land and excavate the drainage ditches the year before the vines are planted.

– Removal of surface vegetation
– Creation of erosion and sediment control structures, such as:

1. Siltation fencing
2. Staking haybales
3. Permanent and temporary mulches
4. Culverts
5. Drop structure
6. Rocked waterways
7. Sediment catch basins

– Leveling of soil surface and bed area
– Compacting subsoil
– Formation of ditches and recovery pond

July through the end of September:

Permanent and Temporary Seedings: Maintaining water quality is important. Seed over all open areas as soon as possible before winter.

  • Start in July (no later than August 1st)
  • Preview your vine source in August to learn of chemical usage (especially Casoron®) and any weed problems.
  • Plant seedings on all bare ground, using the recommended amounts of seed, fertilizer and lime (consider hydroseeding for improved coverage).

October through December:

1) Continue attending cranberry meetings and/or special cranberry education workshops; 2) Order your cranberry vines, which are available from a variety of cranberry producing states, including Maine on occasion.

2nd Year: Vine Establishment

January through the end of February:

1) Attend additional workshops (if available), grower meetings, Ag. Trade Shows (such as the one in Augusta, Maine each January), etc. 2) Re-examine your financial situation and predict and prepare for upcoming expenses

Mid-February through early April:

Final Site Preparations: 1) Watch for uneven settling of cut and fill areas that may have occurred within beds, and 2) Make any necessary repairs or improvements in your planting equipment.

April through the end of May:

  • Install sand (or sand-peat) growing medium
  • Identify low spots and regrade bed elevations as needed
  • Test the pH of the sand (or sand-peat mix) (Ideal range: 4.2 to 5.5); lower with sulfur (to lower a single pH unit, such as from 6.0 to 5.0, apply a total of 1,000 lbs per acre of sulfur, spread over 14-day increments of 200 lbs maximum per application)
  • Apply and incorporate phosphate into the sand
  • Establish irrigation system
  • Plant Your Vines (May 1st through June 6th) — You must plant no later than June 6th to ensure they are established well enough to survive the winter.

June through the end of September:

Ground Cover Maintenance

  • Apply proper rate of fertilizers (see also Plant Nutrition FAQs)
  • Enroll in an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program; Maine growers can contact Charles Armstrong at the University of Maine in Orono for details: 207.581.2967 (no paperwork needed in order to take part).
  • Conduct soil and leaf tissue samples in subsequent years (once every 3 to 4 years for soil; every year or every other year for tissue tests); Be sure to sample only from late August – mid-September for leaf tissue tests, as that is the time period that researchers used in establishing the tissue test standards, or optimum values.  It is also the period when the nutrients in the plants are at their most stable levels.
  • Manage your weeds: 1) Perennials (pull), 2) Herbaceous (pull or cut before going to seed), 3) Grasses (herbicide), 4) Rushes & Sedges (pull or use herbicide); NOTE: It can be helpful to draw a weed map (or have one drawn) to document the type and extent of your weed problem for future reference.
  • Manage your insects (more problematic in subsequent years, once populations have found you and begun to become established): obtain a sweepnet and scout for various pests; use threshold tables and other resources found in various Maine cranberry publications (many are online through this very same site); Save unknown specimens for identification by an entomologist or cranberry specialist.
  • Fall Fertilizer
  • Fall Chores

October through the end of December:

  • Keep attending any cranberry meetings or workshops that might be offered (in Maine or elsewhere)
  • Frost Protection: Use your sprinkler system during the appropriate hours [Table of Frost Tolerances] or flood the bed if using sprinklers is not an option.