Blueberry for me, finally

Every spring one of the first plants I see in almost every garden center is blueberries. Even Home Depot, with its sometimes neglected and rarely surprising garden department has a selection of blueberry varieties on its still mostly-empty plant racks. So every year I've considered planting blueberries. I'd research each of the varieties available, then get caught up in the details: which is best, how large would the bush get, where would I plant it, how would I keep critters from eating the berries, and so on.


Before I know it my head is spinning and I give up, and another year goes by without blueberries. Not this year. This year I didn't think too much, gave in to impulse -- if you can call it that -- and bought one of the nice plants one of the local nurseries had on display.

***


I chose the 'Northland' variety:


I'm not sure why I debated for so many years which would be the "best" variety. Any variety is better than none, right?

I'm pretty sure these are budding too early, so were probably grown somewhere a bit warmer or have been in a greenhouse:


One of the concerns with choosing the right variety was the earliness of the blooms. Too early and they can be zapped by a late freeze. I'm not worried about that though, because I've decided to plant this in a pot -- at least for a few years.

I'll just set it into this pot first to see if the size is right and if the pot complements the plant:


It looks good on both counts, so time to plant! A small square of screen covers the hole to prevent the soil from washing out and insects from getting in:

Yep, this is one of the pots I got on clearance last fall.

Blueberries need acidic soil so I'm going to add some sulphur to the potting mix to acidify it:


Another benefit of growing in a container: it's easier to control the soil pH.

So with this plant in a container I can: 1) move it into the garage if a late freeze threatens the tender foliage or blossoms, 2) easily amend the soil to acidify it, 3) try it in different spots of my yard to find out where it will suffer the least amount of critter damage.

Plus I get to enjoy a nice-looking new plant in a new pot -- an attractive combo!


I've read that 'Northland' is a self-fertile variety of blueberry, which means that you don't need another plant to cross-fertilize for fruit production. They do say that having a different variety that blooms at the same time will result in larger berries and a greater yield, but if I don't get another variety this year at least I've taken the first step and actually have a blueberry bush now.



Even if I get only a few small berries this summer, that will be more than I've ever harvested before, and that's pretty exciting!

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LisaJennings  – (March 19, 2011 at 8:09 AM)  

Blueberries are one of my favorite garden edibles! Just gotta keep those birds away! I used Holly Tone (Espoma product) to acidify mine and they seem to love it.

I never knew that having 2 varieties makes the berries larger.. and i have 2 by default: I got the scraps from our universities blueberry breeding program. I'll look for your update at harvest time!

Steve  – (March 19, 2011 at 8:23 AM)  

I grew a lot of blueberry plants from seed and got 13 (1gallon) ones for $2.25 each on a major discount. As far as the soil acidity, I've tested my soil, and it is around a 7.0ph, but blueberries seem to grow fine in it. I've also left a few over winter to freeze in the pots, and they still seem to be coming back anyways however the ones I kept under the tarp have better root development. Anyways I have half of them in the ground, and the rest in 5gallon nursery pots. I definitely have some flower buds this year so I'm hoping so get some fruit to try out.

anne  – (March 19, 2011 at 8:46 AM)  

This is too funny - I was buying a new shovel yesterday at Home Depot and ALMOST bought 2 different varieties of blueberry
plants! They were $6.98 each and I wanted to go home and do a little more research before buying. Although the ones I looked at said they were self-pollinating, the info still said having 2 varieties is better.

My parents have blueberry plants on the Cape that I surrounded in soft black mesh using stakes so the birds stay away. It actually works. I don't think I'd try it without the mesh here if I decide to try blueberries. For $14 (or even $6.98) it might be fun to see what happens.

anne  – (March 19, 2011 at 9:00 AM)  

I remembered another something else according to the info on the small plants I saw yesterday - the tag said to remove the flowers the first year (I researched online and it said the first 2 years) and that's what stopped me also. If I was really serious about growing blueberries (which I'm not) I would buy more established plants that would bear fruit this year.

Alan  – (March 19, 2011 at 9:09 AM)  

Anne: I'm not going to remove the flowers. I think that's to force more of the plant's energy into root and branch development for more fruit in the future, but I'm not in this for maximum production. I just want a few berries, and I want them this year! =)

anne  – (March 19, 2011 at 10:15 AM)  

exactly - I would want berries this year too.

Steve  – (March 19, 2011 at 10:53 AM)  

I don't think the production of a few berries will really set back the plant that much since you have the rest of the season for them to produce.

The only time I thing I plan on removing flower buds from is my 2ft tall asian pear tree grown 1 year ago from seed, and I'm impressed it is producing a flower bud on its 2nd season. This is a tiny tree won't really be able to support producing fruit, or is the stem strong enough to hold anything yet.

Lucy  – (March 19, 2011 at 12:36 PM)  

Blueberries or no blueberries - I could write a list of decisions which could come in this list.

Lucy

Donna  – (March 19, 2011 at 5:45 PM)  

I love blueberries and have planted them year after year to have the bunnies eat the young tender bushes to nubs...so I bought more and covered them..I hope to finally get some berries this year...they are great plants...

Alan  – (March 19, 2011 at 8:02 PM)  

I got a second variety today as I want to give these every chance to produce fruit. I'm just concerned now that since they've broken dormancy too soon (I think), there won't be any bees to pollinate them!

Also, they're on my deck so the bunnies and deer can't get them. =)

NellJean  – (March 19, 2011 at 10:00 PM)  

Yay for blueberries! Mine are in bloom.

HolleyGarden  – (March 20, 2011 at 12:09 PM)  

I've been eyeing the blueberry bushes at the garden centers for years, but have never bought one. I have an ever-expanding list of plants on my wish list, but I'm going to put this one on my short list.

Christine  – (March 20, 2011 at 4:59 PM)  

Aah ... blueberries! I like the plant in the pot. I think I might succumb and buy one too. Barbie has one in her garden, now I think I need one too.

Potted Farm  – (March 21, 2011 at 10:50 AM)  

Yay blueberries! I have 2 in pots right now. You may want to get a 2nd so you can have good cross-pollination.
My Home Depot must be different, because I've been shocked at the stuff they have out already. And most of it looks surprisingly healthy too! Only problem is the guy assigned to the section doesn't seem to know a strawberry from a spider plant. The advice he was giving someone on my last trip made me cringe.

Steve  – (March 22, 2011 at 11:09 AM)  

Home depot usually puts them on a major discount at the end of the year which is when I got 13 of them for around $2 a piece. I got lucky because I was the first one to run into the bargain.

Barbie  – (May 7, 2011 at 3:55 PM)  

Hi Alan, came across this post and I feel I have to add that I too have a blueberry plant but sadly have STILL not planted it. I have not found a special place for it and have to do some research. So thanks for this to get my act together to get the poor thing into a pot!!

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