How To Grow Buckets Full Of Blueberries No Matter Where You Live
Blueberries offer long-life health benefits that exceed their tiny size, because they are high in antioxidants that boost the immune system and guard against cancer and heart disease.
They also contain lots of proanthocyanidin, which have been shown to aid in weight loss, fight cancer and help you enjoy younger looking skin. Blueberries can provide you with vitamin A, C, and K, as well as with manganese and potassium.
So why not grow buckets full of blueberries with that flavorful taste and all that nutrition? Get them right of the bush, eat them, or add them to plain yogurt, or use them in baking or smoothies.
In this article we will teach you how to grow them on your own!
The good news is that blueberries are long-lived, dependable, and some of the easiest fruit to grow organically.
Here’s what else you need to know in order to reap those buckets of berries.
Decide where and how to plant
The first thing you need to now is decide where and how you’ll plant the blueberries. If you don’t have enough space, use a bucket or other type of container placed on your patio or deck. Otherwise, you’ll stake out an area of your garden and ensure the soil has the right acidity. The pH must be below 5.0. If it’s just a little too acidic, between 5.5 and 6.0, you can acidify it further by adding sulfur twice a year.
If it’s too alkaline, above 6.0, you should consider container growing and buy a bark-based, acidic planting mix, or create your on miniature acid-loving zone with a little effort. Here’s how to do so.
Choose a well-drained, sunny spot. When first developing, blueberries need high amount of organic matter in the shallowest layers of the soil. You can amend the soil with four inches of acidic organic mater (leaf compost, or rotted sawdust).
When to get started
Most gardeners and gardeners to-be think about planting in late winter or early spring – and this is the best time to get started in planting your blueberries, during the 6 weeks before the last spring frost. They need time to grow roots before the summer and hot days arrive.
Choose your plants
It is important to choose the right type of blueberry plants for your region. For instance, people who live in the northern climate, should choose lowbush blueberries, since these are native to colder areas and tend to do well there. They do well in partial shade. For those who are very far north, choose Saskatoons, a very hardy variety that can do well in low temperatures as minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants need more neutral soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
The type of blueberry plants you get will also help determine spacing requirements, these can be anywhere from 12 inches between plants to as much as 12 feet. Lowbush blueberry plants need just 12 inches of space in between each, while for highbush plants you should make 4 feet in between.
Before planting, enrich the soil by mixing a bucketful of pine needles, peat moss, or composted leaves. These will help maintain acidity and provide long-lasting humus source for optimal nutrition, aeration, and moisture too. Set each plant in slightly deeper pot.
After you plant, spread a 3 inch layer of organic mulch over the ground. This will serve to thwart weeds and it will keep roots cool and moist. One of the greatest types of organic mulch is a well-aged sawdust, or pine needles, wood chips, straw and crushed or shredded leaves too.
Once the plants are well settled, it’s time for watering. They require 1 or 2 inches of water every week, in order to maintain a moist soil. If you see the soil it’s drying out near the surface, water deep by holding a hose to their bases and count to 20. If you grow in container, give them water until the container starts to run out of the bottom of the pot.
Give your blueberry plants watering priority during droughts, because you want to ensure they get a thorough soaking, to 6 inches deep.
Even though some blueberry plants are self-fertile, they need a second or even a third plant to pollinate with if you want to have a larger blueberry crop. They often do pretty well by having different varieties to cross pollinate with. In fact, grouping them together will ensure they cross pollinate each other and will provide you buckets and buckets of blueberries for many years to come.
Pruning and growing
It is important to keep blueberries watered during dry spells, yet it is also important to renew your mulch as often as it is necessary to maintain a two inch deep layer. After you establish the plants, just fertilize them every spring, by using a light application of organic fertilizer.
You won’t do pruning in the first three years. During the first 2 years, you should remove fruit buds and allow the bush to establish itself. Once you do this, pruning in late winter annually will help you get rid of old wood and stimulate it so that young fruitful branches can grow. When you remove some fruit buds, the ones remaining tend to grow sweeter and larger berries.
You must employ proper pruning techniques in order to keep production at its highest, plants at a more manageable height, and the berry size as large as it can be. You should cut out the oldest stems in late winter.
Perform regular soil tests
Since blueberry plants are especially picky about their soil, do a soil test every two or three years, and add sulfur if to lower the pH.
Keeping the birds away
Birds love blueberries, and sometimes they can grab them before you even noticed them growing. The only way to deter them is to seal the bushes with bird-proof netting when the berries start to ripen. Netting the plants will outsmart the birds, and if you choose this, make sure to be extremely careful to gather it tightly around the base of each one. Some gardeners place an owl decoy around blueberry bushes and this protects them, though it seems to me a little risky.
The best part, harvesting! You can harvest blueberries anywhere from late May through mid-August, depending on the climate. The fruit reaches its flavor and aroma after several days when it turns blue all the way around. White and green berries won’t ripen once they’re picked. The longer they stay on the bush, the sweeter the berries are.
If you want the sweetest blueberries, tickle the bunches of berries. Only the dead, ripe will fall off into your hand. Pick them twice a week while they’re ripe. After this, put them in a bucket and continue to harvest. Taste away through the picking process.
There’s really no secret when it comes to harvesting blueberries. Beyond the actually picking, there probably isn’t an easier fruit to prepare and serve. There’s no need to core, peel, pit or cut it – and, you can freeze them, can them or dry them and store for the long term if you can’t use them all right away for pies, cobblers, snacks, and toppings, smoothies or fruit salads.
Preventing diseases, pests, and other issues
As we mentioned above, the biggest issue blueberries face are birds, which can harvest lots more than their share, yet the netting is effective for deterring them. Some gardeners encase their entire blueberry growing area in a nettled cage. If you have a long blueberry garden, you should consider using a bird deterrent and send out a bird in a distress call which is a pretty effective way in keeping bird’s away.
There are also some diseases to watch out for. For instance, various fungal diseases can affect blueberries, like leaf spot and powdery mildew. The best way to prevent them is to plant resistant varieties. It is also a good idea to make sure your plants have lots of space for proper air circulation and get plenty of full sun. Just clean up fallen debris and replace mulch every year.
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