Blueberries

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Here's what I'm most excited about in my garden these days: my new blueberry plants. Blueberries have been at the top of my gardening wish list ever since my days at the community garden. My plot-neighbor, Brad, planted blueberries and I would always ogle at them from the other side of the fence. He had great success with his, and I've wanted to try my own ever since.

Here we are three years later. I chose two different varieties of highbush blueberries: blueray and bluecrop. Both are said to be good varieties for Maryland gardeners. Planting two or more varieties that bloom at the same time can result in more and bigger berries on the plants -- that's what I'm aiming for.

I started preparing a place for the plants last year, first with the removal of the crape myrtles along the border between our yard and the neighbor's. Then I added compost to the planting area and grew a cover crop -- winter rye and hairy vetch -- to improve the soil through the fall and winter. Before planting three weeks ago, I dug in pine bark soil conditioner and LeafGro.

The most important step I missed along the way, however, was a soil test. I know, I know. Bad gardener! I should have done a soil test first. Blueberries like acidic soil and I've been more or less winging it and guessing that my efforts have been making it such. I really need to test for sure.


When I bought my plants at the wonderful Homestead Gardens, they were full of flowers. The Maryland Cooperative Extension recommends removing all the flowers and pruning the plants back by about 50-60% after putting them in the ground. Okay, I know that might sound crazy, but the idea is to let the plants put their energy into growing good roots rather than berries the first year. I sacrificed the blossoms for the greater good of establishing strong root systems. My efforts will be rewarded with healthy plants that produce lots of berries next year, and in many future years -- I hope!

The guy at the nursery recommended that I use a liquid feed of root stimulator at planting time. I could have just handed him my credit card with a glazed-over look in my eyes -- Yes...I will do/buy whatever you say... I must. Have. My blueberries...

So I bought a special 3-10-3 (heavy on phosphorus) liquid fertilizer and added it at planting time. I also added a bit of Holly Tone, which is formulated for acid loving plants.

Okay, so that leads me back to the soil test. No sense in adding all these extra nutrients without really knowing what's necessary. I plan to submit a soil sample to a lab this coming week.

Sure sounds like a lot of fussing, doesn't it? Fuss I will do. I want good blueberries. And lots of them.

14 Comments:

OpenID graduallygreener said...

Oh, that's so exciting that you'll have blueberries. I was going to put in a blueberry bush at my Newark Street Garden plot, but one of the veterans told me you have to have at least two bushes to ensure good pollination. I definitely didn't have that much room!

Good luck with the blueberries - be sure to post photos later in the season!

12:38 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I have a couple blueberries in pots--'round here the soil is so alkaline, that to keep the soil where it needs to be, I need to grow them in pots. They're happy and they produce like mad.

I'm sure you'll get yours going very well. I can't wait for you to be able to have all the blueberries you desire.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

I have two blueberry bushes in containers. I prefer to keep them in their containers so that I can ensure they've got the soil which they require. I'm hoping to get a good crop this year.

2:52 AM  
Blogger mamawhatthe said...

If you have to acidify, what will you use? Sulfur? I have never had to make my soil more acidic, only less- but we may move and I have never learned how to garden in another soil type. Good luck with your blueberries!

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Precast Concrete said...

Lovely pictures. I have a question, did you grow them from seeds or buy them already grown. I have trouble growing anything from small seeds.

___________________
janice
Precast Concrete

2:13 PM  
Blogger Matron said...

I have naturally acidic soil here so blueberries are doing quite well. I make sure I mulch them with a thick layer of pine needles or sawdust and always use rainwater and never tap water.

3:51 AM  
Anonymous Christy said...

Yay for blueberries!

I just planted 3 bushes last week - only to find over a dozen wild blueberry bushes in my woods a couple of days later. Must determine how to keep the critters out of them...

I've already picked the blooms off the new bushes - do I really need to prune them back by half? I'm in the Southeastern US.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous The Drooling Vegetable said...

I think coffee grounds are good for feeding blueberries. Not tried it myself (as I managed to kill my blueberries last year) but my local Starbucks dishes out ready-packed bags of grounds to dig into the soil, so maybe worth a try?

5:30 PM  
Blogger Molly Chester said...

When I was young, and my mom and dad couldn't find me... I would be out back kneeling under the blueberry bush picking and eating until I, myself, was blue. :)

I just found your blog. I like it a lot... I am an organic personal chef in California, and I love visiting farms to find out how they do what they do. I have written two blogs that I thought you might like...

The first is about my visit to a blueberry farm in Santa Barbara and the second is about my kitchen plant named FERN. Here are the links, and I hope you enjoy. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on your blog...

Blueberry Farm:
http://organicspark.blogspot.com/2008/05/blueberry-saturday-afternoon.html

FERN, the kitchen plant:
http://organicspark.blogspot.com/2009/04/fern-kitchen-plant-sorta-raw-kale-salad.html

Best,

Molly from California
http://organicspark.blogspot.com/

11:06 PM  
Blogger Red Studio said...

I love blueberries! They are a beautiful plant with lovely blooms and yummy fruit.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Nurse Triage said...

Blueberries add a lot to healthy food and diet...the jams and the spreads are awesome made from this.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow that's great. I have a few bluebery bushes with lots of leaves but not flowers. Some did flower when they first arrived but now only leaves and no flower. Any suggestions or comments?

Cheers!

T

4:23 AM  
Anonymous Dazy said...

I'm a big fan of all berries, including blueberries. I have read that blueberries are also a good source of fiber - a half-cup serving gives you almost three grams.

3:25 AM  
Anonymous Rumela said...

Blueberry varieties are distinguished by their climate suitability and ripening season. Be sure to choose varieties suited to your area. Bushes with brilliant fall color or different growth habits offer the gardener lots of choices to use throughout the landscape. For blueberry lovers, allow at least two plants per family member. thank you for shearing your post.

3:03 AM  

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