Question: I'm interested in growing blueberries in a container on my deck this summer in Virginia. How do I get started?
Answer: First, you'll need to select the right container. In general, the larger the better for shrubs and trees. A 18- to 24- inch diameter, plastic pot or a one-half whiskey wooden barrel would be best for blueberry bushes. While highbush varieties can grow in large containers, you'll have better luck with half-high varieties that only grow 2- to 4-feet tall, such as 'Northsky' and Northland'. Blueberries produce best when two different varieties are grown near to each other, so consider splurging for two.
Mix 2 parts potting soil used for acid loving plants, such as rhododendrons, with 1 part compost. If you can't find potting soil for acid loving plants, add sulfur to the potting mix to lower the pH to below 5.0. Plant the blueberry so the roots are just below the soil surface. Keep well watered, mulch with pine straw, and place the container where it will get at least 6 hours of sun a day. Fertilize in spring and early summer with an acidifying organic fertilizer used for hollies, rhododendrons, and azaleas.
Although blueberries are naturally hardy plants, protect yours in winter, even in Virginia. Place the container in an unheated garage or shed where the temperature will remain cool, but above freezing. If left outside, wrap the containers and plants with burlap, and keep the soil barely moist. You'll be harvesting fruits in a year or two.
Question: I always have problems getting my peas to germinate and grow in my Seattle garden. It seems I have to replant 2 or 3 times before they come up. What's wrong?
Answer: Although peas can sprout in soil as cool as 40 degrees F, they actually prefer 70 degree F soil to germinate their best. If your Seattle soils are too cool and wet in spring the seed may rot. You may want to pre-germinate your seeds indoors before planting. Here's what to do.
Build raised beds 2 weeks before you'll be planting your peas. The soil drains and warms up faster in a raised bed than on flat ground. Buy fresh seed instead of using left over seed from last year. The germination percentage will be higher. Soak the seeds in warm water the night before planting. This will start the germination process and reduce the amount of time your seeds will be sitting in the cool soil. The faster they germinate, the less likely it is they will rot. If you're just growing a small row and really want to ensure success, consider planting your peas indoors in pots and transplanting the young seedlings into the garden once they're a few weeks old.