In the Garden:
Middle South
March, 2013
Regional Report

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Home-grown blueberries are a tasty and nutritious treat.

Bragging About Blueberries

Blueberries are unmatched by other small home-grown fruits in the Middle South for their health benefits, as well as easy cultivation when soil conditions are made right. In fact, the list of noteworthy nutritional benefits is so long and varied it's hard to know where to start. Here's a handful of the most significant.

  • With only 80 calories per cup, virtually no fat, and high soluble dietary fiber, blueberries are a valuable component of standard diets and useful in food plans geared to weight modification.

  • Blueberries are one of the highest rated fruits for antioxidants, which help rid the body of free radicals and thus reduce the risk of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and degenerative conditions such as dementia.

  • Blueberries also contain minerals that lower blood pressure, increase metabolism, build strong bones, and aid the production of red blood cells; vitamins that promote a robust immune system; and acids that reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

    When choosing blueberry plants for the Middle South garden, select varieties of rabbiteye (Vaccinium ashei) or cultivars of Southern highbush (Vaccinium hybrids). In general, rabbiteye shrubs are the most adaptable, pest-tolerant, and productive, while the Southern highbush can offer better fruit quality in hot and dry weather. If you plant rabbiteye, select at least two varieties for cross-pollination. Southern highbush cultivars are self-fertile, but are often interplanted for earlier yield and larger fruits.

    The most important factor in cultivation of blueberry shrubs is soil preparation. Adequate pH, drainage, and nutrition are all vital for a successful patch.

    Ideally, choose a site where the natural soil pH is 6.0 or less and then adjust the pH close to 5.0 with wettable sulfur or aluminum sulfate. For exact recommendations, secure a soil test through your local Cooperative Extension Service.

    Finally, ensure good drainage and sufficient nutrients by amending the soil with acidic organic matter such as leaf mold, peat moss, or composted pine bark. Then, mulch the shrubs with pine bark or pine needles to control weeds and retain moisture.

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