Q&A: Growing Blueberries
Blueberries are delicious fruits that inspire amazing desserts and memorable breakfasts.
Being able to eat whole, sun-warmed handfuls off of your own bushes makes one cry out Hallelujah to the Heavens.
You can eat them fresh, as jams, pies, canned, frozen, dried.
I once went to a potluck at Royal Blueberry Farm, outside of Eugene, Oregon. We had been told that all potluck dishes must contain blueberries. I thought the whole table would be filled with dessert dishes. Wrong! Have you ever tried Blueberry Quiche with Onions and Spring Greens? Or Baked Salmon with Blueberry Compote? Or Blueberry Spaghetti, Salad, Muffins, Polenta…. Most of it tasted pretty good once you got past the blue-gray color.
Adding more blueberries to your diet is a good idea. As you probably know, recent research has claimed that blueberries are full of antioxidants and helpful for keeping our memory strong. Read this interesting “In the Loop” article for more blueberry health-giving attributes.
We recently posted this question on our Peaceful Valley Facebook page; “You have $4.99 to spend on blueberries: should you buy 4 oz. of berries at the grocery store OR buy a blueberry bush on sale that produces for years?” This question produced several return questions, which inspired this blueberry blog post. Here is our reply to the questions asked:
I have been told that blueberries begin producing berries in their third year. How old are the blueberry bushes PVFS sells? All our blueberries are two-year-old stock.
Will my blueberry bushes produce fruit the first year in the ground? Yes, you will probably have a few berries in the first year. If you pull off these berries when they first begin to form, all the energy the plant is producing will go toward root development and plant growth. If your bush has established well enough to produce berries and you can’t resist plucking some of those first treasures, the plant will survive.
Do you need two different varieties of blueberries to pollinate? Yes, a mix of varieties is best. Two are the minimum for reasonable production.
Do you have patio or dwarf varieties? How big a container does a bush need? Yes we carry a dwarf blueberry named ‘Top Hat’ and a semi-dwarf variety called ‘Sunshine Blue’ [pictured above]. Your pot size should match the size of the mature plant. In the description of ‘Top Hat’ it says it grows 1’ -2’ high and wide. For best results plant in a 2’ x 2’ pot.
My blueberry bushes have never produced many berries. Any suggestions? As members of the Rhododendron family, blueberries require an acidic (low pH) soil, preferably in the 4.8 to 5.5 pH range. When soil pH is appreciably higher than 5.5, iron chlorosis often results. Top dress with an acid fertilizer and cottonseed meal by digging it in the top few inches around the root line, then gently and thoroughly water it in. Be careful to not disturb the roots.
The following information is quoted from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service - ATTRA:
High levels of soil organic matter are especially important in blueberry culture, contributing to the soil’s ability to retain and supply moisture to the crop, buffering pH, and releasing nutrients through decay. Soils rich in organic matter are also a desirable environment for symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi that assist blueberry roots in absorbing water, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other minerals.
High-quality compost is an all-around good blueberry fertilizer. Depending on the humus condition and biological activity in the soil, compost may provide all the fertility needs of the crop. Where compost is of average quality, it may still function as a good soil conditioner. Using aged animal manures in blueberry production also is possible, but less common.
Foliar feeding of blueberries is practiced by some organic growers and is especially helpful when plants are stressed. Foliar fertilization programs usually employ seaweed and fish emulsion. The Ozark Organic Growers Association has recommended a seaweed-fish mix applied three times per growing season—at bud break, just prior to harvest, and just after harvest. More detailed information is available in ATTRA’s Foliar Fertilization publication.
If you’d like further blueberry information, check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service - ATTRA’s article on Blueberry Production.
Here is another article about blueberries for warm climates, written by my PVFS colleague, Charlotte.
Hope all of this information assists in bringing forth an abundant blueberry harvest.
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