Wednesday, May 23, 2012
A cure for the summertime blues
Blueberry bushes are attractive shrubs with abundant pink-tinged, white blooms in spring, shiny foliage and stunning fall color. If you have a well-drained, full-sun location for foundation shrubs or privacy hedge, consider using blueberry plants. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are even blueberries ideal for planting in containers. As an added bonus, your family can enjoy loads of luscious fruit.
Like any orchard plant, blueberry bushes have challenges, particularly keeping wild creatures from getting all that juicy fruit before you do. The most important step is well-drained soil, best accomplished in raised beds. The reward is an attractive landscape plant that also provides a plentiful food supply.
Here’s a radical approach to successfully growing blueberries and strawberries in your yard: Rather than digging holes and planting them, set the plants on top of the ground and build a raised bed around them. Then fill the bed completely with Pine Magic mulch and keep the mulch moist until the root systems grow out into the mulch. This won’t take long, and you’ll have a bumper crop of blueberries.
This technique is easy to do and it works for two reasons. The first is that blueberries love well-drained acid soil, and the second is that blueberries just hate hard, gooey clay soil. We come from southern New Jersey where there is a huge blueberry industry. South Jersey has well-drained, sandy acid, soil. You can pour a bucket of water on the soil in a Jersey blueberry field and it will immediately soak in and disappear. If your soil doesn’t drain this well, blueberries will sit and sulk.
Raised beds allow excess water to simply drain off by gravity rather than being trapped in a hole around plant roots. Pine Magic is very similar to the potting soil that nurseries use for growing blueberries in containers. It holds just the right moisture and the rest just drains away, allowing roots to breathe. The fluffy texture of the mulch encourages new feeder roots to quickly grow, and the acidity is perfect for blueberries. Adding a few inches of pine mulch every spring prevents weeds, making your bed maintenance free.
We recommend Espoma “Holly Tone” fertilizer for blueberries. “Holly Tone” is the perfect blueberry food, providing additional acid and trace minerals vital to healthy blossoms and fruit.
For excellent quality blueberry plants (“instant results” sizes, not “sticks-in-a-bag”), visit GoodSeed Farm Country Garden Center in Peebles, Ohio (www.goodseedfarm.com). You’ll find all the essentials for growing blueberries, including Pine Magic, Holly Tone organic fertilizer, Peat moss, bird netting and other home orchard supplies. GoodSeed Farm has a good selection of favorite orchard plants along with more unusual offerings like Gooseberry, Currant, hardy Kiwi, crabapple, rhubarb, asparagus and strawberry plants.