SEATTLE — Nothing tastes better than food grown in your own garden, and blueberries are a great fruit to plant. Not only are they a superfood, they can grow in whatever space you have available to you, even if you think your yard is too small. Ciscoe Morris gives us the tips we need to have a thriving blueberry patch in our own lawn.
Growing blueberries in a container
Blueberries have been found to have all sorts of health benefits. They also help you see better at night. The RAF pilots in England were required to eat a good portion of blueberries everyday during WWII and their improved night vision is thought to have helped them win the battle in the skies over England.
If you live in Western Washington, the acidic soil of the Pacific Northwest and the cool weather make it just right for growing delicious, good-for-you blueberries and even if you don't have much garden space, blueberries do great in containers, so you can enjoy a bumper crop if you have a sunny balcony or patio.
Plant your blueberry in a good sized pot. It should be at least half as big as a whiskey barrel. Make sure there are drainage holes in the pot.
Blueberries need acid soil, but you don't need to buy special acid soil to grow them in a pot in Western Washington. Use a good potting soil that does not have fertilizer added. Then mix a good organic Rhododendron food into the soil before you plant. The fertilizer will acidify the soil and feed your plant. Reapply the fertilizer by gently scratching it into the soil every 6 weeks until August. Next spring apply fertilizer in the first week of April and reapply every 6 weeks until August again.
Blueberries are self-fertile and don't need another blueberry near by for pollination. They will however, produce better if there is a second one near by, so if you have space for another, you'll get better harvests. My favorite blueberry for a container is 'Sunshine Blue'. This is a self pollinating ornamental blueberry that produces edible fruit! The new foliage is frosty green flushed with hues of blue and purple. Pink urn-shaped flowers in springtime mature to delicious blueberries over a long period in the summer. In colder areas some of the leaves will provide red autumn color while remaining semi-evergreen through the winter. Plant this ornamental blueberry in full sun to light shade. It will grow best in rich moist to well-drained soil. Make sure drainage is adequate as it will not tolerate waterlogged locations. Regular watering and fertilizing provides the best and most vigorous growth. Older twiggy and weak stems can be pruned out to encourage strong growth. Pruning is best done in winter.
Other favorites include: Bushel and Berry™ Pink Icing – With breathtaking spring and fall foliage and large, sweet berries mid-summer, this gem makes small spaces shine. Plus, these bushes are self-pollinating, so only one bush is needed to produce fruit.
Patriot Blueberry – The Patriot puts on a show each season – from striking white blooms in spring to warm, vivid foliage in fall. During summer, you’ll be busy munching on up to 20 pounds of blueberries!
Bushel and Berry™ Peach Sorbet – Full of charm, these compact blueberry plants are four-season showstoppers with stunning leaves ranging from peach to pink to orange to emerald green. Spring’s white, bell-shaped flowers will give way to an abundant summer crop of healthy, sweet blueberries mid-summer.
It's important to use bird netting to prevent our bird friends from getting all of the berries. Bird netting is inexpensive, and covering blueberries is easy. Cover your blueberry bushes as soon as the flowers fade. My robin friends Robby and Rebecca follow me around hoping I'll expose a fat worm, or blow a moth's cover while I'm working in the garden. Much as I like them, I draw the line at allowing them to eat my blueberries. There is flat out nothing better than blueberry pie a-la-mode (except maybe a Brussels sprout casserole). pen. Robins often eat blueberries just before they are ripe, and if you don't get your netting on in time, it could ruin a beautiful friendship.
Finally, there is a new pest attacking blueberry and other soft fruits. It's a fruit fly called the spotted wing drosophila. It's a fruit fly, but unlike the ones we find in our kitchens in fall, this one attacks fruit on the plant before it ripens. Research is finding that covering the fruit when it is about mid-ripe with mosquito netting prevents attack. Do a search on Spotted wing drosophila and you'll find sources to buy mosquito netting. Of course the key is to make sure it's securely fastened around the plant so that the fruit fly can't get in.
Finally, make sure to serve ice cream with your blueberry pie. It's important to eat from all levels of the food pyramid! Yum!