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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sanding Season on the Cranberry Marsh

I'm sure you're wondering, what in the world is sanding season?

In a quick sentence:  it's laying down a layer of sand over the cranberry vines to invigorate growth.

Isn't it winter?  Isn't everything covered in snow and ice?  Well, yes it is.  But on the cranberry marsh, late winter is a very busy time.

Here is the process of (what cranberry growers across WI call)sanding.
This is the sand pile.  

Basically, sand is scooped from the pile and then dumped onto the A-frame.  


Sand falls through the screen into the dump box and shale rock rolls off.

Here's a closer look.  You can see the large chunks of shale rock rolling off.

The sand inside the dump box, all clean and ready to be spread.

Interestingly, the top layer of sand is frozen, however, the frost only goes so deep.  Everything underneath the frost layer is loose; that's the sand used for sanding.
Once the sand is loaded into the dump truck, it's time to head to the cranberry bed to be sanded.

The sand spreader has been mounted onto the truck/tailgate.  It spins, allowing the sand to be spread in a uniform layer on the cranberry bed.
 Now you might be thinking, how in the world can a dump truck loaded with sand drive out on a frozen, snow-covered cranberry bed without causing damage to the perennial vines.  Earlier in the year when temperatures were falling below zero the marsh was flooded just as it was during cranberry harvest.  The goal is to make enough good ice to hold up a loaded dump truck.

This ice along the edge of the cranberry bed shifted, cleaved and allowed for a visual of the thickness.  It looked to be about 10 inches thick.

The sand is laid out in strips about 3/4 inch to 1 inch deep.


Getting into position.

Lifting the dump box, engaging the spreader and driving at an even speed - precision matters.

Backing up into position again.

You better be good at using those mirrors.

Taking it to the edge, but not quite.

In order to get all the sand out, a box vibrator is engaged.  It shakes the sand so it spreads freely.
There are a number of reasons for sanding cranberry beds.  As the ice melts and the sand sifts down through the vines, it creates a layer of drainage.  Cranberries grow best in well drained soil.  On newly planted beds the sand layer invigorates growth by supplying a rooting surface.  Cranberries grow on slightly woody vines which produce runners.  These runners help the new plantings to fill in nicely; a uniform mat of vines ensures the best possible growing conditions for the cranberry.  During harvest cranberry leaves fall, creating a nice wintering habitat for insect larva and eggs.  The sand helps to bury this layer of leaf trash and potential insect pests.

Temperatures are expected to reach 46 F on Saturday, which will most likely put an end to good sanding ice.  It's been a good year of sanding; more than planned for was accomplished.

You might also like:
Cranberry Marsh Tour.....(in the comfort of your own home)

My 14th Annual Cranberry Harvest

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