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An Old-Fashioned Classic: Blueberries
Last fall, walking through the swath of brilliant red foliage at the Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm (in Bellevue, Wash.), I was charmed by the sight of so many, presumably old, blueberry bushesrows and rows of them. As a young girl I remember picking the delicious blueberries in the same field with my Girl Scout troop. I wonder if they are indeed the same bushes I picked from back then . . . they could be because a well-tended blueberry bush can live 75 years or more.
If you want to grow this old-fashioned classic, the newer hybrids and self-pollinating cultivars are adapted for the home gardener. Blueberries are desirable for their four-season landscape interest: Fall provides brilliantly colored foliage, red stems offer winter interest, flowers bloom in the spring, and sweet, nutritious blue fruit arrives in the summer. And, if you want to save money, now is the time to buy plants bareroot from your local garden center. Bareroot plants that don't sell now are potted up and given a considerably higher price tag later on.
The biggest trick with blueberries is they need a soil pH of 4.0 to 5.0. If you live east of the Cascades, where the soil is more alkaline, consider growing blueberry bushes in containers with amended acidic soil and conditions you can control. However, you can't control the length of the growing season, and blueberry bushes like a longer growing season (140 days) for the best fruit production. Those of you in alkaline country may have only two- or three-season landscape interest.
Some other things to consider before you plant a miniblueberry farm:
The following quick reference provides some information about a few cultivars that are available in the Pacific Northwest.
I hope I have sparked some enthusiasm for growing bareroot blueberry plants in your garden, but talk to a professional at your local garden center to discuss the best way to grow blueberries for your climate and soil.
The Growing Gardener is Gina Renee Lozier, an enthusiastic student of horticulture and overall nature lover.
The Growing Gardener copyright 2008-2013.