Luscious Blueberries from your Garden

    • Spring flowers and vegetables can be started from seeds now on your window sill. Try pansies and snapdragons, broccoli, cabbage and lettuces.
    • Spray fruit trees with a dormant oil spray. Spray from the bottom up, including the undersides of limbs and the ground around the tree, to prevent early spring insect infestations.
    • Lilacs and wisteria have beautiful spring flowers. They come in a variety of colors and can be planted now from bare-root plants.
    • Asparagus, whose delectable spears are even sweeter when home-grown, are available now for planting. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.
    • If you’re short on space in your orchard, you can plant 2 or 3 varieties of the same fruit in one large hole. This will allow cross-pollination among apples, pears, plums, cherries and Asian pears.

    Luscious Blueberries from your Garden

    Blueberries can be grown in many parts of the United States, however different types of blueberries are better for different climates. Northern Highbush and Southern Highbush blueberries do best in the Willits area.

    Northern Highbush blueberries grow 4 to 6 feet tall and have clusters of white bell-shaped flowers in spring, rich green foliage that turns deep red in the fall, and abundant crops of sweet blue berries in midsummer. They are the best known and the largest, sweetest and juiciest blueberries you can grow. These varieties, however, are native to Canada, Michigan and other northern climes. They prefer cool summers, where they have the best fruit quality, but are worth growing in our area in partial shade. They require more than 1,000 chill hours for bud-break.

    Southern Highbush blueberries have an earlier ripening season and grow 5 to 8 feet tall by 5 feet wide. They are all self-pollinating, although the yields and the berries will be larger if two varieties are planted together. Southern Highbush are specifically hybridized for superior fruit, soil adaptability, heat tolerance and low winter chilling.

    These varieties are suitable for areas from Florida to California because of their low chill requirement and heat tolerance. This makes them particularly suitable for coastal areas of California as well as the inland valleys. They grow in full sun or partial shade, and are grown commercially in the Central Valley. Attractive blue-green foliage remains evergreen in mild winters or turns yellow-orange before falling in cold climates.

    Blueberries need mostly sun and rich, acid soil that is high in organic matter. A pH of 4.8 to 5.0 is ideal. When planting, add lots of peat moss, equal to 50% of the planting hole soil. Dig a wide hole and add a couple of cups of soil sulfur per plant.

    They don’t like strong nitrogen fertilizer, but you should feed them after they are established with regular light applications every six weeks, beginning in April and ending in July or August. Use an acid plant food with at least 10 percent nitrogen. Make the first feeding as soon as growth starts in the spring. Spread the fertilizer around the plants 6 to 12 inches away from their crowns, and water it in.

    Remove all blossoms the first two years and allow only a small crop to mature the third season. This will help the plants establish faster.

    Blueberry roots are shallow and should not be disturbed. Mulch the plants with 4 to 6 inches of sawdust or compost, but keep it away from the base of the plant. This will keep down weeds and retain moisture. Keep replenishing the mulch all summer. Plants should be kept moist all through the growing season.

    A wonderful feature of many varieties is their outstanding fall color: hot, luminous reds, pinks, and oranges that really light up with fall rains. It’s nice to plant them where you can enjoy their colorful foliage. Blueberries are very nutritious and are a wonderful addition to your diet as well as your garden.

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