July is considered prime blueberry season around the country. This is when blueberries are at their peak; dark blue/purple, glossy and firm on the outside and juicy and sweet, with just a hint of tartness, on the inside. Blueberries are delicious, great to cook with and good for you. The top 5 health benefits of blueberries are:
1. Blueberries are higher in antioxidants than any other fruit.
2. Blueberries neutralize free radicals; this helps fight certain diseases and helps keep skin youthful-looking.
3. Blueberries are food for the brain.
4. Blueberries help prevent heart disease.
5. Blueberries help prevent some types of cancer.
On top of all of this, blueberries are easy to grow. They are one of the few fruits that actually like clay, rocky soil or poor soil. A fruit that is good for us, can be used in many recipes, tastes great and will grow almost anywhere – what more can be asked of a fruit bush?
Planting a Blueberry Bush – Blueberry bushes should be purchased and planted in the spring. Plant them in a spot that has full sun exposure for as long as possible. Blueberry bushes need acidic soil so make sure the soil’s pH is between 4.0 to 4.5. If it is not then you need to add some acidity to the soil. If planting more than one, then space the bushes around six feet apart from each other. Blueberries do not mind being a little squished so if you do not have six feet then four will do. If possible, plant the bushes into a mixture of the soil in your garden and composted soil. Adding lots of mulch around the blueberry bushes will help keep the soil moist as well as eliminating weeds.
Watering Your Blueberry Bush – Keep the blueberry bushes well watered in the first several weeks. This helps the roots grow big and strong which not only helps the blueberry bush grow fruit, but helps the bush make it through winter as well. Consider investing in a rain barrel if you do not already have one. After a few rains your water will be free. This helps those with a well also because everything can be watered without draining the well.
Fertilizing Your Blueberry Bush – Blueberry bushes should be fertilized in the spring and in the summer. Compost tea is great for produce whether the bushes are organic or not. Compost tea provides lots of nutrition (assuming your compost is nutritious) to produce, it does so without the use of chemicals and it is cheap. Chances are you are already composting anyway (and if you are not then it is easy to get started) so the best fertilizer in the world might be right in your backyard.
Birds – We are not the only one to love blueberries. If you do not wish to share your blueberries with birds then consider purchasing bird netting. It will not harm the birds and you will reap the bounty of blueberries, not the birds. On the other hand, if you do not mind planting a few more bushes than originally planned, then you and the birds can share the blueberries and everyone will be happy.
Pruning Your Blueberry Bush – This is one of those dilemmas like being caught between a rock and a hard place. Pruning blueberry bushed (in winter) will ensure that next years bushes are healthy and strong. On the other hand, they will produce less blueberries. What to do? Trim dead branches, go easy on the new growth and enjoy bigger (and a little less) blueberries next year.