how to grow blueberries

Feeling Blue & Loving It

Spring has arrived which means there’s a bunch of stuff to do in the garden. Great times! I get to till and toil and snack on sugar snap peas all while strolling the rows of organic vegetables. This doesn’t make me feel blue. That happens when I approach the house.

new berries 2015

And pass my blueberry patch! Aren’t they gorgeous? The blueberry blooms are out in full force along with the berries I love and adore.

blueberry blooms 2015

Berries the birds love and adore as well, but we’re not discussing those bad boys right now. We’re discussing berries. Decadent, full and delicious berries. I’m not sure how plentiful my harvest will be this year due to the fact that we didn’t have a very cold winter. Blueberries require a certain amount of “chillng hours” to produce fruit. Chill hours are considered between 32 degrees F and 45 degrees F. I’m taking the blooms I see as a good sign, though. Blooms mean berries. They also mean “bait” for birds. Grrrrr…

Another consideration to bear in mind is that blueberries need to cross-pollinate, so you must have at least two different varieties in your garden. I chose Southern Highbush Sharp Blue, Windsor, Jubilee, Jewel and Gulf Coast  varieties because they require the least amount of chill hours. If you can get your hands on some Highbush Misty, they are supposed to get along particularly well with Highbush Sharp Blue. I also have some Rabbit Eye varieties to round out my berry garden.

delectable blueberries

These varieties work well for Florida because we don’t get a lot of cold weather and these require the least amount of chilling hours. Choose wisely, according to your growing region. And now is the time to find blueberry plants at your local garden center (in warmer regions, later for my Arctic Amigos), another sign that spring is in the air!

Once you have these babies in your hot little hands, plant them 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. They aren’t what I consider high maintenance, but they do require some.

Blueberry & yogurt stock photo

And they’re well worth it. In yogurt, cereal, pie, cobbler or fresh off the bush, these berries are my all-time favorite. You know you want to grow some. What are you waiting for? Get going and DO share how it’s going!

Blueberries are Worth the Wait

I don’t know about you, but I love blueberries. On my yogurt, in my cereal, plucked straight off the bush. They’re delicious and healthy and only have one downside. They stain your teeth. Ugh. Bring a toothbrush out to the garden, right? A little staining isn’t going to stop me from enjoying this delectable fruit!

And mine are finally here, in varying stages of growth.

blueberries almost ready

Really beautiful… And that’s pine bark you see in the background. Blueberries like acid and pine is full of it making it the perfect mulch for your blueberry garden.

gobs of blueberries

You do want one, 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.

Granted my clusters should be much plumper but I’ll admit, I had some watering issues throughout the year and my bushes have not fared as well as they should have. Don’t let this happen to you. 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.

This week they should be ready to pick! Unless the birds get them. The other downside to growing my favorite blueberry…

It’s Blueberry Season!

We learn by doing.   It’s an age-old saying for a reason.  We read books, study the almanac, listen to the experts, but sometimes there’s no substitute for experience.   The tried and true kind.  Shall we say, true blue?

Blue, as in blueberry patch.   My pride and joy, my dream come true… strolling amidst the morning chirps and peeps, plucking fresh blueberries for my yogurt and bran flakes.  Well, you understand.  This little patch of heaven has come to mean a lot to you.  You work hard for these sweet, luscious, high in anti-oxidant fruits and you don’t want to lose them to the natural elements.  Wind, pests, birds.

bird netting for berries

 Blueberries are fairly easy to grow.  Lots of sun, lots of water, a good acidic soil (think pine bark/needle mulch), a well-balanced organic fertilizer and you’ll have yourself a blueberry patch in no time.  However, once you set out on this project, understand that birds are a definite problem when it comes to berries.   Like you, they enjoy a plump serving of berries with their breakfast.  But they’re hungry varmints and will eat you out of house and home—and garden, if you let them.  But me, I count myself as smarter than the average bear (no pun intended to my friend and also fan of blueberries).  I figure I can outwit these flying friends with a simple bird net.   Says so right on the package:  bird nest for fruit and shrubs. 

Wonderful.  Problem solved.  All I have to do is cover my plants—all twelve of them—and I’m off and running in the blueberry race.  It’s not pretty, but it is practical.

First recommendation:  don’t choose a windy day to start your net project.  Blueberry blossoms are extremely sensitive to the slightest tactile cling and snare easily.  Translated: touch them and they pop off the vine.   Bad.  Very bad.   No blossoms means no berries.

With a little practice, though, I became quite good at throwing and securing my net without touching my delicate blueberry blossoms and only lost a few to the endeavor.   Can you really miss what you never had to start?  If you’ve noticed, philosophy seems to be on overdrive in my garden.

But abstract distractions aside, I finished my task an hour later, rising with a nice deep yoga stretch for my back before I secured my last stake in the ground. 

Second recommendation: don’t attempt this after several hours of weeding and tilling in the garden.   Me?  I’m more doer than planner.  “Oh look, I still have two hours before I need to pick up the kids!   What else can I slip in before my time runs out?”

That’s when I heard it. More

Tami’s Plants are Moving IN!

It’s moving day at Tami’s garden and the leaves are a wavin’ (very exciting day).  You remember those glorious beds she prepared?  She’s filling them!  The first bed will be home to okra, aloe and lettuce, with okra providing the needed sun-relief for delicate lettuce leaves.  In Florida, we like our salads, but tender lettuce leaves don’t like the blast of Florida heat.  Enter okra and their lovely canopy of shade.

Next bed over we’ll find tomatoes, basil, bell peppers and squash snuggled together in a wonderful example of companion planting.  These plants all get along well and it’s even believed that basil will improve the flavor of nearby tomatoes.  Hm.  Perhaps even sweeten our peppers?  We’ll keep you posted!  Note:  No, your eyes do not deceive you.  She has yet to fill this bed with dirt.  It’s still in the layout stage. :))

Along the fence line we’ll find green beans (and soon to be cucumbers).  These folks love to climb so why not encourage them?  Saves on space!

Tami also picked up some blueberry and strawberry plants (because gardening is SO fun and a gal can get carried away with little or no effort) at the store so we’ll place those together off to one side.  Why together?  Because strawberries and blueberries both like it acidic (think low ph) so they’ll get enjoy the same growing conditions.  An easy way to acidify the soil is with pine needles–or bark.  Either work and they both make GREAT mulch material for our sweet baby berries.

But Tami will need to get another blueberry plant or two if she wants fruit because these guys and gals need cross-pollination for best blueberry production.  If they’re self-fertile, they can produce on their own, but she’ll get better results with more bushes and different varieties.  Others are self-sterile (like Rabbiteye) and require cross-pollination in order to produce blueberries.  Who knew?  So check the varieties best suited for your region and make sure you have the necessary number of bushes and varieties to produce fruit.

Tami’s on her way to the plant store now!  To round out her lovely backyard garden plot, she’ll transplant her tender watermelon and cantaloupe sprouts, both of which need plenty of room to roam–which is why she planted them OUTSIDE her planter beds.

They’ll thank her later (with plenty of delicious fruit!).  Since it’s the vines that will spread, she’ll confine her energy and organic soil to the sprout area, and line her border with weed paper.  This will eliminate some hoe work (no need to remove all that grass out there) and keep her vines happy and weed-free. 🙂  A good thing!

And in her neck of the woods, rabbits tend to pose a problem, so she’ll attach these white tubes around her beds and line them with screen.  No sense in going to all this effort to have the rabbits turn around and eat you out of garden and greens!  Nope.  No sense at all.