Blueberries in the garden!?

On our trip to Costco this past weekend I kept seeing people with these great looking plants, one shrub in particular with little white bell shaped flowers – and I just couldn’t figure out what it was off the top of my head.  I’ve been told that Costco has some great deals on plants and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and varieties of plants in the garden center.  I didn’t purchase anything as I haven’t even planted the plants in containers I already have, but I had to figure out what the plant was that I saw in everyone’s’ carts.  Then I saw it – a Blueberry shrub – and I got to thinking, could I plant blueberries in my garden?  And you know what – I can – and you probably can too as I have found out they are a fruit that is pretty easy to grow with a low chill requirement!

These Blueberries are almost ready!

These Blueberries are almost ready!

For best growth and fruit production basic requirements to grow blueberries are a sunny garden with well-draining soil.  The most important requirement for blueberries to grow is acidic soil.  You can test your soil if you’re unsure of its current pH level and easily amend the soil with compost and fertilizers that are approved for acid loving plants (typically called out for Camellias and Azaleas).  It is important to not use a fertilizer with nitrogen in a nitrate form as it will be harmful to the shrubs.  After planting, water the Blueberry plant regularly to develop a deep, extensive root system.  They like to have consistently moist soil.  Blueberries are self-pollinators, so they don’t need another plant to pollinate, which means you can a consider planting one in a container if you only have a small sunny spot.  Of course, using a pollinizer like “Sunshine Blue” will yield a larger fruit harvest.  And typically it is recommended you plant 2 shrubs for each blueberry-loving family member.  Space the shrubs about 2 ½ feet apart to create a hedge.

Patience is another requirement when growing blueberries in the garden.  It can take about 2 years for branches to produce fruit.  A typical blueberry plant can grow 3 – 4 feet tall and wide so have amble space for the compact and rounded shrub.  Maintaining good ventilation in and around the plant helps keep the plant healthy and disease free.  Always remove dead and dying branches to promote new ones that will bear more fruit.  Typical harvest season is July to September.  By fall the green leaves turn wonderful shades of red, purple and orange, these showy ornamental traits are welcome in any garden!  Southern Highbush Blueberry varietals are commonly found in nurseries in this area and are great producers in our Bay Area Region.

I’m pretty jealous of all the people who did purchase a blueberry plant this past weekend because they are well on their way to having a plethora of blueberries at their fingertips and some wonderful fall color later this year.  I may just need to go back this weekend and pick up a couple to get my edible garden going!