Posted on 07 June 2010 by urbangardencasual.com

Blue for Blueberries: How to Grow Them

blueberriesBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Blueberries are great for urban gardens.

Their compact shape and texture can create visual interest in flowerbeds while being a perfect container plant if space or land is limited.

The trick to growing blueberries is one, keeping the soil acidic enough and two, planting at least 2 different varieties for fruit production.

To get started one must decide where you plant to plant your blueberries. This step is very important because the area or container will need to be supplemented with acid building materials 3 months before planting. The pH, lime index, nutrient status, and organic matter will need to be tested to see what is needed. If the soil pH is too high it can be lowered by applying used coffee grounds, used tea bags, sawdust from untreated wood and/or fertilizer for acidic loving plants.

Once this is done have the soil tested again. If the pH is still too high add organic material and granular sulfur throughout the top 4 inches 3 months before planting. Your goal is to have a soil pH of 4-4.5 and 4-7% or more organic material in the ground or container. This pH will have to be maintained the lifetime of the plant for fruit production.

There are 3 general types of blueberries. These are highbush, rabbiteye, and southern highbush. These in turn are broken down into different varieties and for blueberries to fruit one must choose 2 different varieties. But regardless of which type you choose the process of planting is the same. The first step is to dig a hole that is 18 inches deep and 18 inches wide while spacing your plants 5 feet apart.

After the hole is dug one must mix 1 cubic foot of peat moss with topsoil and fill in the hole within 4inches of the top. Then place the blueberry plant in the hole and fill in with remaining soil mixture. Once all plants are in the ground cover the ground with 4 inches of sawdust or wood chips that have not been treated the lifetime of the plant.

Container growing blueberries follow the same process but one must make the acidic soil for the planter and provide supplemental water. Also depending on what part of the country you live in one may need to bring in your plant so it does not freeze in the planter.

Regardless of how you choose to plant your blueberries there is one challenge that must be dealt with, that is birds. While humans love blueberries so do our feather friends but keeping birds away is a simple task. One can play loud music, wind chimes, or pie pans to create any type of loud sound. Also fake snakes, owls, or cats can be used but they have to be moved often.

If these strategies do not work or you choose not the try them then bird netting is something one should try to protect your fruit. This material is simple to use and only requires you to cover your plants with the netting while fruit is on the plant then remove after fruit has been picked.

Blueberries take 3 years to produce so while you are waiting for your first crop try the recipes below.

Blueberry Marmalade

Ingredients

  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 medium lemon
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/8-teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries, crushed
  • 5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 package (6 ounces) liquid fruit pectin

Peel orange and lemon then finely chop rind. Place chopped rind in a large cooking pan and add ¾ cup water, and baking soda. Bring this mixture to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes while stirring occasionally.

While the mixture is boiling chop orange and lemon pulp and set aside. After mixture has cooked for 10 minutes add the lemon, orange, berries, and sugar. Bring back to a boil and reduce heat. Cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat for 5 minutes. Then add pectin and bring to a boil for 1 minute while constantly stirring.

Take off the heat and skim off any foam with a metal spoon. Pour into hot sterilized jars. Fill jars to ¼ inch from top and wipe rims before placing metal lids and bands on. Screw bands by hand and place in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. This recipe makes 6 half-pints.

Blueberry Ice Cream Muffin

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1-cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Mix flour, egg, and ice cream in a bowl until smooth. Gently stir in blueberries and fill well-greased muffin cups ¾ full. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 muffins.

Please note only wash blueberries before using. The berry itself has a natural coating that protects the fruit and if washed to soon the quality of the fruit will be decreased.

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4 Responses to “Blue for Blueberries: How to Grow Them”

  1. urbangardencasual.com Carole & Chewy Says:

    Great article on blueberries. I’ve spent the last 5 years or so building a patch of nineteen bushes. There’s at least 4 or 5 varieties out there (the biggest sweetest berries so far are from the “Misty” variety). I use thick blankets of pine needles for mulch, underground soaker hoses (increasing the water during May and June), and lay CD’s (the computer or music kind) shiny side up, around the plants, and occasionally hanging from the plants to keep the birds away. Works great. Got my first blueerries last week (I’m in Virginia).

  2. urbangardencasual.com Kimberly Says:

    I’d like to add that I bought a dwarf variety that self pollinates. It is thriving in its container for the second season. I bought it from parkseed.com, but they don’t seem to have it in stock anymore.

  3. urbangardencasual.com FlordiaHydro Says:

    Thanks for the info. I’ll getting my plants soon and I look forward to enjoying them. I will look into getting self-pollinating types

  4. urbangardencasual.com Katherine Says:

    The variety that Parkseed sells is “Sunshine Blue”. It’s a dwarf variety that self pollinates, and has a 100 hour chilling time. We can actually grow them in the Bay Area in California with good results! Our nursery actually carried this variety – you may want to check your local nursery to see if they carry them as well.

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