Edible Landscaping

July Q & A

Question: I have wild high bush blueberry bushes growing in my yard in Massachusetts. They grow fine, but the berries are always small. Is there anyway I can grow bigger berries?

Answer: While the berry size on your blueberries is primarily determined by the variety, there are some things you can do to help increase the size of these wild blueberries. Keeping your berry plants well watered early in the growing season will help the berries size up well. Blueberries have shallow roots, so consider laying soaker hose or drip irrigation lines around the plants and mulching with sawdust, pine needles, or bark mulch to keep the soil moist. Keep the plant well fertilized. Each spring add compost and an acidifying fertilizer high in nitrogen such as ammonium sulfate. Add other nutrients only as needed based on a soil test.

Pruning can help promote bigger berries, too. Remove old canes that are bearing little fruit to the ground. Remove diseased, broken, or crossing canes and open up the bush, leaving at least 5 to 7 good sized canes growing from the base. In spring consider removing some of the young fruit, so the remaining fruits will size up larger.

Question: My peaches here in Indiana are growing great, but some of the leaves are curling and blistering. What's wrong?

Answer: It sounds like your peaches have a fungal disease called peach leaf curl. This disease overwinters on the bark of peaches and with cool rainy spring weather spores are released that infect the leaves. The symptoms are as you describe --- curling and blistering of the leaves. If severe, this disease can reduce tree vigor and fruit production.

Luckily, this disease is easy to control organically with a dormant season spray of lime sulfur fungicide. Apply it in autumn after the leaves have dropped or in early spring before the leaves emerge. Keep your tree healthy with regular waterings and clean up leaves and dropped fruits in the fall.

If you're planting more peach trees in the future, try varieties resistant to peach leaf curl such as 'Redhaven' and 'Frost'.

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