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.