I am, without a doubt, the biggest promoter of blueberries. This is especially true at times of year because when are available bare root and at their lowest price in most nurseries. I recommend that you purchase them from nurseries because the “BIG BOX STORES” will carry only packaged material that has not been properly cared for.
One of the highlights of my life is when Dave Farrow, my radio show producer, brings back boxes of blueberries from his friends in Oregon. I covet them as if they were trophies for athletic prowess. That isn’t quite the case, but it does get the point across that I love blueberries.
What is surprising to me is that very few people share my excitement about this purple orbs that changes the color of not only your teeth, but your tongue as well. Not only is the fruit to be desired, they make wonderful landscape subjects in your yard. They have white “Lily of the Valley” blooms in the early spring followed by pale green leaves. When Dave shares his bounty of blue with me, I make pancakes, muffins, and cereal toppings until they disappear. Their fall color is a bounty of yellow, reds, pinks, and orange.
Here I have to share a story with you because I never knew that there are high growing bushes and low growing bushes. Bev and I were in Maine and a dear friend of ours, Arlee, was showing us around this unspoiled countryside. In this one area she warned us not to step on the blueberries. I looked around and didn’t see a blueberry in sight. She pointed to the ground and told me that where I was walking were blueberries as far as I could see. What I saw was a tight growing groundcover. I was told that those are low bush varieties of blueberries. She informed me that a lot of people don’t like to pick them because they have to bend over a lot to harvest them. What this proved to is me that I shall never learn everything there is to know about anything concerning gardening.
In the landscape it is important to find the proper location for your plants. They are best grown where there is no root competition with mature trees and shrubs. They require four to five hours of morning sun. They will not do as well in full sun. They will also require a pH of around 5.5 to 6.5. They respond to acid type soils, so a lot of peat moss, or azalea planting mix would be ideal to work into the soil. Use three parts of the mix with one part of the soil. If they are available bare root make sure that you plant them no deeper than the soil line of the plant. If you are purchasing them from containers, you should plant so that the soil in the container is slightly above ground level. Mounding the soil will insure that they will have proper drainage but in no case should you pile soil over the root ball. It is a good idea to add shredded cedar bark over the roots of the plant.
There are certain varieties that do best in the Bay Area and Northern California. For best production you will need two different varieties. I have my favorites such as Blueray, Early Blue, Berkeley, and Elliott. It is always a good idea to consult with your local nurseryman before purchasing these plants because he or she may have some different experience.
These plants have a soft green foliage that turns several different colors in the fall. All but one are deciduous. They can combine well with beds of azaleas and camellias. Ferns can grow near them without competing with their root systems. They respond to the same fertilizers. Pruning requirements are simple. Just clean up the dead limbs and flower stems in January. You may have to put out some snail bait in the spring. I recommend Sluggo™ as the most earth friendly material.
My oldest grandson, Nick Tanem, and I planted some blueberries at my home in San Rafael and we both were looking forward for a treat of blue. Everything was perfect as far as the pH of the soil was concerned. Unfortunately, the roots of the oak trees completely swallowed up the roots of the plants and we had little or no crop. To make up for this I purchased a package of fresh berries from the Boardwalk market in Belvedere and we shared what might have been.