Get Your Blueberries Early!

I love blueberries, plain, on yogurt, in a pie or straight from the bush…

Blueberries are magnificent in every way. And best of all, they’re easy to grow. Seriously. Sun, pine (acid), water, done. That’s it. (That’s pine mulch around the base of the plant.)

All you do is dig a hole, add water and pine bark mulch (acid), and they’re good to go. Oh, and twine. I’m not the only one who loves blueberries. Birds love blueberries and are usually out and about at the crack of dawn dive-bombing the plump ripe berries before you’ll ever get a chance to stop them. Sheesh! If you run twine over the bushes, it’s “problem solved.” I used to use netting until I learned it keeps the bees out, too. Not good. Blueberry blossoms need bees.

Blueberry bushes will begin showing up in your local plant stores soon and if I were you, I’d grab a few. A few—because they need other blueberry bushes for pollination. You do want some, don’t you? Of course you do! And now is the time to find blueberry plants at your local garden center. Just remember, blueberries need to cross-pollinate, so make sure you purchase at least two different varieties for your garden. I have several, including Southern Highbush Sharp Blue, Windsor, Jubilee, Jewel and Gulf Coast. If you can get your hands on some Highbush Misty, they are supposed to get along well with Highbush Sharp Blue. I also have some Rabbit Eye varieties to round out my berry garden.

Special note: Blueberries require a certain amount of “chillng hours” to produce fruit. Chill hours are considered between 32 degrees F and 45 degrees F. I chose these varieties because in Florida we don’t get a lot of cold weather and these bushes require the least amount of chilling hours, ranging from 200-500 hours. So choose wisely according to your growing region.

Plant in organic-rich slightly acidic soil (4.0 — 5.0 pH) and mulch well. Feed with a 12-4-8 fertilizer and prune during the summer months after harvest for more vigorous growth.

Best results = tons of berries. Look at those beauties!

Quick fun facts about blueberries:

July is National Blueberry month.

Blueberry muffins are the most popular muffin in America.

Blueberry muffins are the state muffin of Minnesota. (Who knew muffins had state status?)

Maine produces more blueberries than any place in the world. (I’ve actually visited some blueberry orchards in Maine and was quite frankly, surprised to find them there!)

Blueberries are relatives to the rhododendron and azalea bushes.

Not only interesting and beautiful, blueberries are FULL of antioxidants. So get shopping! The early bird gets the best bush.


Tami’s Garden is Doing Terrific!

Wow, what a couple of weeks will make.  Just look at how much progress she’s made!  Soaker hoses are in place and keeping the plants happy. 

A couple of things to keep in mind when using  soaker hoses is placement and hose material.  When plants are young, be sure the soaker hose is close to the plant, as their root system has yet to spread out.

When plants grow larger, looping it around them (like she did with this cucumber plant) will work fine.  Not only does it get the water where it needs to go, it wastes less.  A good thing.

Also, Tami found she prefers the lightweight soaker hoses.  They’re more flexible which translates into easier handling.  A closeup for the stiffer hose can be seen here, in the photo below. 

The more flexible hose appears below.  She keeps it in place using a small metal anchor.

As I’ve never worked with soakers in my garden, I’m glad for the tip.  It’ll save me from myself later when I head to the hardware store and dither over which is best!  Another new concept to me is the use of oak leaves for acid-loving mulch as opposed to pine.  At the moment we’re talking about her blueberry and strawberry plants, but I imagine the same can be used anywhere in your garden to achieve the same results.  For example, acid-loving azaleas seem to delight in living beneath oak trees.  And since blueberries like acid, shouldn’t it be reasonable to assume oak leaves will work for them, too?

Yes, and no.  According to one gardener, the research is still out on this one.  He says oak leaves may be acid when “fresh” but turn alkaline with time.  Who knew?  And pine needles?  Seems the same applies and as they compost, their acid-producing benefits are neutralized.  Well, live and learn!  I say we observe how well her berries do and THEN decide.  (Too much of what I read in regard to gardening “how-to” turns out NOT to exactly the case.)

Speaking of mulch, one excellent way to retain moisture in your soil is to line the dirt with newspaper, then cover with hay or leaf mulch.  Not only will the newspaper decompose well and prove harmless to you and your plants, it’s a great way to recycle those old newspapers.  I do love a multi-tasker!

Where Tami lives, mulch is extremely important because a few days without water and no rain can really spell disaster.  Just look at this poor baby bean leaf.  Now I’m only guessing here, and I’ll take any advice from the experts, but this looks to me like leaf scorch — the product of too much sun and not enough water. 🙁  Bad combination.

One only has to glance at these little pumpkins (term of endearment — these used to be watermelon sprouts) to realize the effect one day of missed watering can have on your plants.  Devastating. 

But sprouts are fussy that way.  Without enough volume of dirt and sun shelter, they are susceptible to your bouts of memory loss.  Once in the garden though, they stand a much better chance. With a bit of mulch and deep even watering once every other day or so (depending on what you’re growing), your babies should be good to go!

And remember:  these plants are like your babies.  You must care for them until they can care for themselves.  And you must keep predators away.  While this part of her project is still in progress, she has secured her pipes to the outside of her beds.

All she has left to do now, is wrap this mesh around the corner pipes and she’s golden!  Or neon orange—but who cares?  The rabbits will be forced to go elsewhere! 

Don’t worry.  They’ll be fine.  As in Tami’s garden.