Getting Started: Growing Blueberries at Home in the High Desert

 

Growing blueberries in the high desert

Berries you can eat fresh, bake into pies, freeze, dry or can that grow on an attractive spring flowering plant that features rich fall color? We must be talking about blueberries.

As the healthy trend of growing food at home gains momentum blueberries have become one of the best sellers in our nurseries. And, why not? With a little effort you can grow pounds of healthy, wholesome fruit on plants that may live up to fifty years. And, as you know, blueberries provide “health” benefits galore … good and good for you!

Where should you plant them? Blueberries need plenty of sun and they like to be sited away from other plants that might compete for food and water. Allowing room for good air circulation is also important as this helps keep leaves free of disease. It’s a good idea to plant more than one variety and to plant them fairly close together. This will help encourage the plants to produce more and larger berries. Growing them in the same area also makes it easier to harvest berries and protect them from birds that will sometimes harvest one hundred percent of your crop if protective measures are not taken. (Your best bet for bird protection? Lightweight netting that can be placed directly over plants or used to cover frames constructed to fit over plants. We can show you how to do it.) We like to plant blueberries as a hedge and we love them as container plants. A half wine barrel is the perfect home for an easy to reach “berry machine” and a small group of containers allows you to get lots of fruit from a small space.

What kind of soil do they like? Blueberries are acid lovers, meaning they like a soil with a low pH. So, extra care should be taken at planting time to amend the soil with Dr. Earth Acid Lovers planting mix (in the yellow bag). Planting them in a group allows you to properly amend the entire planting area. The absolute easiest way to provide blueberries with perfect soil is to plant them in a raised bed or container filled with pure Dr. Earth Acid Lovers planting mix. Soil should hold moisture but also drain well. Quality organic mulch, like our Soil Building Compost, should be used at a depth of 2-3 inches on top of the soil to protect the shallow, fibrous roots from drought injury.

What else do new plants need? At planting time, after thoroughly watering your plants, we recommend that you prune all branches back by about thirty to forty percent through the removal of older wood while keeping the nice new whips (longer growth coming from the base of the plant); this will encourage vigorous new growth. You should also remove any flower buds at planting time. You’ll need to be patient. Producing flowers and fruit will hinder growth of new plants. Limiting fruit production for the first couple of years will pay off with big harvests as your plants mature. Feed your new plants with Dr. Earth Organic 4 fertilizer; perfectly formulated for blueberries. Use it every two months during the growing season to maintain healthy soil and encourage strong roots. You’ll want to maintain a regular watering schedule irrigating frequently enough to keep the soil uniformly moist. Try to avoid overhead watering which can promote disease and keep the area around your new blueberry plants free of weeds and other plants that will compete for moisture and nutrients.

Providing for the few specific needs of blueberries is worth some extra effort. After all, a well-grown, mature blueberry plant can produce more than ten pounds of fruit in a single season! Getting your plants off to a good start will provide you with a berry bonanza for many years to come. We will have High Desert-hardy varieties in stock all spring and summer and we have plenty of passionate teammates equipped with expert knowledge ready to answer your questions. We’re ready to help you get started growing a bumper crop. Come into any of our three stores and let us walk you through it!

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2013 at 6:29 pm and is filed under Children and Gardening, Gardening, Gardening with Gail, Organic & Green. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.