Add blueberries as an edible crop in your garden
Blueberries are a popular and healthy fruit that you can actually grow at home throughout Kentucky. Unlike many edible crops, blueberry plants are a winter-hardy, fruiting shrub that can grow and remain productive for many years with proper care. Blueberries are pretty, and you can plant them like landscape plants.
The most important factor IS THE SOIL. They require a highly organic and well-drained soil with a soil pH of 4.5 to 5.2. Not as easy as it sounds, but obtainable with the right preparation. I think it is easiest to grow them at home in a raised planter where you can prepare and amend the soil specifically for the blueberries.
Watering is second most IMPORTANT. Blueberries are less efficient at absorbing moisture than most plants. They require regular watering during the growing season or about every 10 days without sufficient rainfall. If you don’t or can’t water the plants, they will suffer and produce fewer blueberries.
The third most important FACTOR IS FERTILIZATION. It is important to fertilize blueberries on a set schedule. Fertilize in February when plants are dormant, again in the spring when the plants are in flower and fertilize for the third time about six weeks after flowering or about two to three weeks before the fruit ripen and can be harvested.
One last important detail: PLANT AT LEAST TWO VARIETIES so that they will cross pollinate and those two (or more) varieties need to flower at the same time. There are early-season blueberries like Duke and Spartan; mid-season blueberries like Ozarkblue and Bluecrop; and late-season varieties like Darrow and Elliott.
Beautiful spring flowers, tasty and nutritious summer fruits and beautiful red fall color will round out the advantages of adding the blueberry to your home landscape.
SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.