Many home gardeners may not immediately think of growing blueberries in the backyard, but this delicious and nutritious fruit is an ideal addition to a home landscape and will provide weeks of mid-summer treats.
At the Nursery
To have a successful blueberry crop, typically more than one type of cultivated blueberry plant is needed growing in the yard. It is a good idea if the flowering time of these plants overlaps, so don’t go for a very early and very late season crop, but rather one of these and at least one that is a main-season variety. This way they can be adequately pollinated and provide a strong stand of fruit.
Blueberries prefer a fairly acid soil which is luckily very common in this area. Surprisingly, some gardens may even need to amend the soil with an acid fertilizer, such as Mir acid or Hollytone. Blueberry plants do prefer some initial preparation on the gardener's part with a weed-free and mulched base and require a decent amount of water during their fruiting season.
Young blueberry plants usually need three years of growth before fruiting to any great amount, so there is an investment of time, however many nurseries now sell adult plants that have been grown to maturity and are ready for fruit production.
After the fruiting season, blueberry bushes turn a vibrant red in the fall, with colorful foliage and even bright red branches after the leaves disappear, holding their color through the winter holidays.
In the late winter, blueberry bushes need a quick pruning to remove dead or damaged branches. Ideally, pruning creates an open plant with plenty of airflow and mostly vertical branches.
Deflecting Garden Visitors
There are plenty of pests to watch for with blueberry plants, but if caught in time they will do little harm. When leaves first bud out, winter moth caterpillars will find this a tasty home and can be treated with organic sprays. As the berries grow and ripen, they will become a favorite of many colorful birds. Feel free to share, but they will get most of the fruit unless a bird netting is placed over the plant. It is usually quite effective at deterring most birds, and relatively cheap and reusable. It only needs to be in place as berries begin to ripen until right after harvest, then it can be removed to absorb the beauty of the plant back into the garden.
The blueberry plant is not as common a choice among home gardeners as conventional vegetables, but with just a little time investment, a small blueberry patch can provide many weeks of this delicious fruit for the entire family to enjoy. They also provide a great visual enhancement to the landscape, even as fall turns to winter when most of the gardens are typically at rest.
Information for this column was contributed by Volante Farms, 292 Forest St., Needham, 781-444-2351, www.volantefarms.wordpress.com.