Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Small Fruits & Berries

Small Fruits & Berries 101 (page 4 of 4)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Blueberries

Blueberries are really a new fruit, domesticated only within the last 75 years. They probably would have been tamed sooner if people had understood their need for an acid soil. Brought from the American wilds into gardens, the fruits almost always died because the soil had been limed. Blueberries demand a soil pH between 4.0 and 5.5. Correct the pH for blueberries with peat moss (mixed at least 50/50 with your native earth) and perhaps some soil sulfur, and the plants will do well over most of North America. The bushes have extremely shallow root systems, so the heavy peat blend need not be deeper than 12 inches. Blueberries need a steady supply of moisture; the water-retentive peat will help with that as well.

One blueberry bush is all you need. In its fourth season it will produce a pint or so of fruit. At maturity, when it's grown four to six feet tall, the right variety can produce up to 20 pints over two to three weeks. However, if you've room for three or four varieties, you can stretch the harvest to eight to 10 weeks, into the fall raspberry season. Although cross-pollination isn't essential, it will encourage larger fruit. Blueberries are extremely handsome shrubs, notable for their brilliant fall color and bright stems in winter. Some of the newer varieties are low and shrubby, 18 to 24 inches tall. Keep them away from masonry walls and foundations, where the soil can be excessively alkaline. But they're excellent among other ornamental shrubs (if the soil's suitable) or by themselves in an informal hedge. When a branch stops producing fat flower buds in fall, it's time to cut it out at ground level. That's all the pruning blueberries need.

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