For years we’ve been trying to grow blueberries, but we’ve had scant results. Despite giving them plenty of water–blueberry plants require at least an inch or two of water a week–the berries have always been few and tiny. That’s why my eyes almost popped out of my head when I visited our neighborhood friends Sally and Sandi yesterday.
Before my eyes were several blueberry bushes, sagging with plump, ripening fruit. Seething green (or blue?) with jealousy, I grabbed the biggest, fattest blueberry I could find, and ate it. At least it made me feel better.
Naturally I wanted to know what their secret was. Comparing and contrasting their bushes with ours, I discovered three factors that seems to have contributed towards their more bountiful harvest.
First, their blueberry orchard sits at the bottom of a sloped hill, an area of the yard that gets a lot of drainage. In fact, it is the perfect location for a rain garden.
Sandi told me that they don’t water their plants very often, and I can see why. Permaculture at work!
There are also no large trees near their yard, which meant that the plants weren’t visited by those pesky cankerworms this spring. These worms chewed huge holes in the leaves of our blueberry plants, which I know must have stressed them out. Next year we’ll be banding the trees in our yard to repel the cankerworm invasion.
What might be helping them the most, however, is something called soil acidifier, which is available at most garden centers. Sandi told me that she applies the soil acidifier at the base of the plant, careful not to get any on the leaves.
As you might know, blueberries love acidic soil, which is one of the reasons they thrive in the North Carolina mountains. Now I’m convinced that we might have the winning formula for blueberry production.
Why all this fuss about blueberries? For one thing, they are a healthy dessert alternative; one cup of blueberries has 80 calories. They are a true super food, containing antioxidants, Vitamin C and fiber. They seem to promote cardiovascular and brain health, and might help prevent certain types of cancers. Research studies have shown that they reduce brain damage in rats. And of course they are tasty!
For more on blueberries, check out the U.S. Highbush Bluberry Council’s website.
Nice work Sally and Sandi!