Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Find: Four Simple Tips for Growing Perfect Blueberries

There’s nothing like fresh-picked berries to add to a morning smoothie, fruit salad or evening dessert. For foodies and families wanting to grow their own blueberries, picking which variety and growing them doesn’t have to be hard.

We asked Amelie Brazelton Aust, a berry expert and second generation owner at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, about the secrets to blueberry success. “While I know a lot about the blueberry business, I do not have a green thumb like the rest of my family. However, blueberries are relatively simple and even I have great success with my blueberry plants at my home,” says Aust. “Simply follow these four simple tips to help your bushes flourish with berries season after season.”

Planting
The first secret to success is planting the right variety. BrazelBerries® blueberries are perfect for growing in patio pots, raised beds and directly in the garden. Home gardeners and cooks who grow BrazelBerries know these small edible fruit bushes are simple to grow, beautiful in the landscape and delicious to eat.

Once you have the blueberry bush, it’s important to plant it in the right place. Blueberries need at least six hours of sun each day. “It’s the sun that makes berries sweet and juicy, so plant in a very sunny spot,” says Aust. 

Next, consider the soil. “Blueberries love acidic soils,” says Aust. A pH of 4.5-5.5 is ideal. A simple soil test indicates acidity, which can easily be adjusted with amendments. Both soil kits and amendments are available at any local garden center.

Aust recommends giving the plant’s roots plenty of growing room when planting in a container. “Plant them in pots 16 inches or more in diameter and water deeply and regularly to make sure all of the soil within the pot is moist to the point that water is dripping from the pot’s bottom drainage holes.” 

Pruning
Cutting beautiful branches off any plant can be daunting.  Aust says, “The truth is that blueberries over-produce, and pruning helps it to put enough energy into producing the best plant and big, yummy fruit for the next season.” Pruning also gives the bush more space between its branches and allows air to flow freely through the plant, helping to prevent disease.

“It’s best to prune blueberries in late winter when the plants are still dormant,” says Aust, “but I’ve pruned mine in the spring too before flowering, and they’ve done great.” Remove all the stems that are damaged, old or dead. Aust says not to be afraid to take out up to a quarter or even a third of the bush, then trim it up to a neat and tidy look.

Fertilizing is recommended in early spring. “Add an acid fertilizer such as those for rhododendrons and azaleas,” Aust suggests. “I tend to throw on half a handful of slow-release fertilizer.  A high-nitrogen organic fertilizer such as blood meal or acidic cottonseed meal works great too.” She recommends a second fertilizer application in late spring to give the plants an extra burst of energy for fruit production. If you’re not sure which fertilizer to use, ask an expert at your local garden center.

Picking
With planting and pruning in the bag, the next step—picking—is the pay off. Be sure to watch your berries carefully and pick them before the birds do.

If you’re growing BrazelBerries, here’s what you can expect from each variety:

Peach Sorbet blueberry: Juicy, sweet blueberries appear in mid-summer on plants with stunning leaves ranging from peach to pink to orange to emerald green.
Jelly Bean blueberry: Large, flavorful, super-sweet blueberries reminiscent of homemade jelly in mid-summer with super sweet flavor like homemade blueberry jelly.
Blueberry Glaze blueberry: Bundles of small, almost black, and intensely flavored wild-like berries packed with antioxidants are ready for mid-summer.

Protecting

A little protection ensures the blueberry bush will thrive for another bountiful season. If birds are a problem, cover with bird netting in the spring to keep critters away. Birds are less likely to eat the fruit when the plants are in containers on the patio.

Winter weather poses the biggest risk to berry bushes. “In very cold regions, apply a deep layer of mulch around the base of the bush to protect the roots,” Aust says. “Blueberries in pots are even easier to protect from winter weather— if you are in a really cold area, just move the pots into an unheated garage or against a building and cover with thick mulch, burlap or a blanket.”

Following these tips will ensure success with your blueberries season after season.

For more information on all things berry, visit the BrazelBerries® Collection website at www.BrazelBerries.com.

No comments: