There’s nothing finer than strolling through your garden and enjoying fresh-picked crisp and sweet blueberries. I feel blessed to live in California, where I can grow and enjoy Southern blueberries year-round, including during our mild winters. But you don’t need to live in the Golden State to enjoy this wonder fruit. Other types of blueberries, such as highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum) grow in Michigan, North and South Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, while lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) are native to Maine and Alaska – just to name a few.
Enjoy the pleasures of homegrown blueberries!
Photo Credit: Jennifer Lenet
Blueberries have terrific red fall color.
Photo Credit: Felder Rushing
Pretty white bell-shaped flowers appear in spring.
Photo Credit: Felder Rushing
Blueberries are acid-loving. This presents challenges in my garden, with its alkaline soil and alkaline water. I always like to test my soil and water before I plant so I know what I need to amend. Adding copious amounts of well-rotted compost, earthworm castings, peat moss and oak leaf mold, along with sulfur, brings my soil closer to that ideal acid level blueberries need, as well as increases the water-holding capacity and beneficial microbial populations.
Because blueberries have fine, fibrous roots growing in the top 18 inches of soil, concentrate your amendments in the top 2 feet. (I place 4-6 inches of organic material on top of my soil and incorporate it into those 2 feet as well.)
Good drainage is also critical for growing healthy blueberries. Due to the heavy soil in my garden, I’ve built raised beds to allow for better drainage during wet periods. New plants should be mulched regularly and kept well-watered. My blueberries don’t like to dry out. An evenly moist soil keeps them happy and healthy throughout their lives. (And although full sun is necessary for maximum fruit production, my blueberries also appreciate protection from the wind.)
Blueberries prefer a coastal climate, but they can also be grown inland. High temperatures (above 85 degrees F) can shorten the harvest period, as well as the quality and quantity of blueberries. Deer and birds want to share my garden with me, so protecting my blueberries with netting assures me there will be some delicious fruit for my family to enjoy.
Don’t fertilize blueberries until you see new growth as the weather warms in early spring (or earlier in mild-winter areas). The fruit does best with mild fertilizing with each watering once that new growth begins. (Organic fish emulsion works great in my garden.)
I prune my blueberries once a year in an open-vase method, just as with roses, right after fruiting and flowering have ceased. (I remove the flower buds the first two years of establishment to strengthen the plant.)
I’ve had homegrown blueberries for Thanksgiving, and often in January and February during mild winters. (Don’t forget to keep watering your blueberries during dry winters!) And then each spring I anxiously look for those first few crisp and delicious blueberries to sprinkle on my cereal, yogurt, ice cream, salads and fruit crisps. (Of course, the very first ones always go right into my mouth. Yum!)