Growing blueberries

If it were up to me every part of my landscaping would be edible.  Though my homeowners association may disagree with me but blueberry bushes looks just as nice as any ornamental plant/bush when you visit the nursery with the obvious bonus of free food.

When selecting a blueberry bush, unless you are very patient spend about $10 a plant and get some more established ones (about 1/2 inch stem) You can get the two for $10 plants from your local Home Depot but you won’t be eating blueberries for a couple years.  With the larger plants you should pinch off the blossoms to get better growth for the first couple years but I opt to getting my reward now instead of later and enjoy the handful of berries the young plants can produce.

When it comes to plant selection there are a large number of species to choose from with varying fruit size and harvest timing.  I would recommend getting varieties that have varying maturity dates so you can enjoy those blueberries for a longer period of time.  When I got my first two plants I went with Toro and Berkeley.  The Berkeley is a very popular bush given it produces average size berries great for muffins/pancakes/cereal or the occasional snack with a mid-late harvest.  The Toro on the other hand produces large (almost grape size) berries which are great for jams and snacks though bit of a mouthful for muffins.  If you are curious of other varieties here is a great resource.

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I have heard differing opinions on whether you need to have different species to successfully produce fruit after a little research I found this article which explains that blueberries are capable of pollinating with a single species, though studies have shown that having more varieties can produce larger and earlier fruits.  So if you have a favorite variety you can go crazy with the single plant though a little diversity seems to always be a good thing.

When it comes to pest control the biggest pest is birds.  You can control them by laying some netting on the plants, though in my personal opinion that just gets in the way of me getting my snacks so I opt for the lazy approach and just plant more plants and share with “neighbors”.  Worse case I end up with a backyard with some bushes that look much nicer than my current evergreens, and I always can take up bird watching.

One of the most important parts to being successful with your little blueberry plants is soil preparation.  The plants need to have an acidic soil and their roots like to remain moist, but not drowning in water.  Given my area has an abundance of clay in my backyard, I naturally do not have either of these requirements.  To give the plants a head start I dug a 1 foot wide/deep hole and filled it with peat moss and mixed with a few handfuls of compost.  Not only will this retain water well, but the peat moss is also naturally acidic and will be a nice haven for a large family of worms in the next few years to add some awesome natural fertilizer (worm castings)  Last I purchased I box of organic blueberry fertilizer which provides the primary and trace minerals as well as help keep the acidity of the soil up.  I simply followed the directions on the box and watered the plants when there was a couple of days without rain.

Now some of you might be thinking, “hey it is fall why are you talking about growing blueberries”  Well this is the “Cheap Vegetable Gardener, right now is a great time to visit your local nursery to pick up some of their “old overgrown” blueberry plants at bargain prices which you can plant now and enjoy some delicious berries next spring/summer.

Blackberry Picking Tip: Hands free berry picking

Blackberries

I love to pick blackberries, they grow literally like weeds in my area and very easy to find a trail with more berries than I ever could pick.  The fresh air is nice I am always looking for new ways to pick berries in less time.  This tip from my brother-in-law will be sure to help step your berry picking up a notch.

Simply take an old milk carton and cut a hole in the top.

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Then take your belt and loop it through the handle and now you have both hands free to pick those berries even faster.  Of course this would work for anything else that could be beneficial to have both hands free.

I also cut a small notch lower than the top and used the same container to rinse the berries are allow easy separation of stems, leaves and/or insects that decided to join my bucket during my rapid picking.

As always if you have a gardening tip you would like to share please feel free to let us know using the Contact link.

Why you should check on your grow box (especially if it is computerized)

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My day job is in software development, so of course it came to mind that software/hardware can fail while I was making my computerized grow box.  During its inception, I would check on it daily physically or remotely to make sure all was well.  After a couple weeks of this it was so stable that I started to not check quite as often.  Though in my mind there was never any question of if it would crash, it was when. Well that answer came tonight when I decided to check on my strawberries, cucumbers, and blueberry plant (trying to propagate a blueberry plant damaged in recent snow storm)

I noticed the lights were out and turned on the LCD display to see “Unable to find operating system.”  Before anyone screams “you should have used Linux”, the problem was completely hardware related caused by a failed hard drive (not even the one with the operating system).  Unfortunately this was the drive that had the SQL database, so hopefully I will be able to savage some of the data.  Once I got the machine to boot up I saw the temperature was down to 38 degrees (poor little cucumber plants) but fortunately in the time it took to write this post it warmed up to 47.3F 57.7F, so hopefully the cucumbers will feel better in the morning.

Tonight I am adding one more item to my software to do list, a Vista Gadget to monitor the health of the grow box to ensure it is up and running.  This was also a good time to ask the mental question, “When was the last time I backed up my code?”  Code now backed up and am wondering why I am breaking my cardinal rule of always having source control even with a single developer.

My greenberry bushes


Well hopefully in a another week I will have some nice blueberries. Blueberries need to cross polinate so early this spring I bought a Berkeley and a Toro, being a first year plant I should have pinched off the blossoms and let the plant use its energy for growth versus fruiting. Being impatent and wanting to harvest the two dozen berries I should get this year (unless the birds beat me to them) I let nature take its course. I helped them out by adding some organic fertilizer specific for blueberries with provides nutrients but also help increase the acidicy of the soil which blueberries thrive in. I was also careful to water frequently but not enough the drown their shallow roots but at the same time not letting them dry out.

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