Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blueberries in the Home Garden

As I was taking photos of the blueberries and muffins H said to me:
normal families don't have to wait until the photoshoot is over to taste test.
Understood, but I think it was worth the wait.

originally compiled for Bill Martin's Nurseryland:
Blueberries are categorized in the same genus as cranberries, Vaccinium, in the section Cyanocuccus. Bushes are long-lived, with a lifespan similar to fruit trees, and boast ornamental value with their delicate bell-shaped flowers in spring and fiery foliage in autumn.

Low-bush blueberries or half-high blueberries are better suited to colder regions of Ontario, like Thunder Bay, and benefit from a good snow cover for insulation throughout the winter.

Blueberries prefer full sun, although the plants will tolerate partial shade; though in shade the bushes produce fewer blossoms and fruit production will decline.

Blueberries prefer acidic, well drained, loose soils rich in organic matter. Blueberries grow best at a pH of 4.2 to 5.0. You can reduce your soil pH by mixing in acidic sphagnum peat moss or by mixing in compost made from pine needles, oak leaves and/or bark, and work nutrient-rich compost into the top few inches of soil.

Iron deficiency is common when the soil pH is too high. A simple way to diagnose an iron deficiency is by examining the leaves of your blueberry bush.  Young leaves are a lighter green than older leaves and often have a slight reddish tint. When deficient in iron, young leaves become pale yellow and stunted, and plant growth is poor.

Blueberries have a very fine root system, susceptible to suffocation if saturated. Organic matter improves soil aeration and drainage while retaining moisture and nutrients. Avoid planting in low-lying locations as they may be poorly drained and prone to frost.

When planting, spread out the roots and cover them with soil, firming the soil around the roots being careful not to cause breakage. Do not let the fine roots dry out in the process; water the bushes thoroughly after planting. Blueberries respond well to trickle or drip irrigation.

Blueberries like phosphorus and potassium, but not potash.

Birds find blueberry fruit very attractive, so netting and movable garden ornaments can be used to deter them.

Often harvested too early, blueberries should be allowed to turn completely blue. Leave them on the bushes for 3 to 7 days to develop their full flavor and sugar content.

Blueberries are versatile, delicious fresh or frozen, baked in pies and muffins, served in salads, or eaten with ice cream. They are easily stored, canned, and made into jams & preserves.
Blueberries have a diverse range of micronutrients, with high levels of essential dietary minerals such as manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber. They contain anthocyanins, antioxidant pigments, and various phytochemicals, known for countless health benefits.

Northwestern Ontario Hardy Blueberries:

Northblue - was developed at the University of Minnesota to withstand harsh winters. It is a low-growing, self-pollinating, small blueberry bush, perfect for the home garden. Fruit is dark blue & large, with sweet flavor. It has glossy, dark-green leaves that turn bright red in the fall.

Northcountry - is another from the University of Minnesota breeding program. A half-high bush (45 to 60 cm) that produces sweet, light-blue blueberries.

Northland - is a hardy low-bush cultivar known to be high producing in long clusters in mid-season. Berries are medium in size, dark blue, and have excellent flavour.

Patriot - is a small but very productive blueberry bush that is both hardy and vigorous. The fruit clusters are tight, with large, medium blue, firm berries with great flavour.

Chippewa  - is an extremely hardy arctic blueberry plant that grows to a height of 3 feet. Fruit are medium to large and high producing. Berries are favoured for their firmness, attractive color and delicious flavour.

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