Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why Aren't You Growing Blueberries?

Blueberry season is finishing up at my house. We've really enjoyed having the fresh berries this year and the bushes were loaded with them. As I was picking enough to make a second batch of jam, I thought to myself - why doesn't everyone in the south grow blueberries for themselves?

Blueberry fruit ripens gradually, giving you weeks of berries

If you tell me you don't have enough sun to do it, I will understand. Blueberries do need about 6 hours of sun (either morning or afternoon) to set blooms. But that would be your only excuse! All the other reasons you can think of won't work:

  • clay soil (nope, they're fine with that)
  • lazy gardener, don't want to spray for bugs (nope, pests are not a problem)
  • want ornamental plants only (nope, they are good looking and have great fall color)
  • hate fresh fruit (oh, well perhaps you have me on that)
The flowers are beautiful in early spring

I have five bushes now. Two were planted in 2004 and the other 3 in 2008. Before you plant some, here are some things you need to know:

  • blueberries are native shrubs (Vaccinium spp.) that are pollinated by native bees
  • nurserymen have cultivated these natives into berry producing machines
  • UGA has created a home blueberry growing publication that is very helpful for gardeners throughout the state
  • blueberries benefit from cross-pollination so you need to get at least two different names
  • be aware that there are early, mid and late season blooming ones - so pick ones that work together (two early ones or two mid-season ones, etc.)
  • they love being mulched and lightly fertilized by compost
My first blueberry cultivars were 'Tifblue' and something else (lost that tag). The second set are 'Climax' and 'Premier'; if you look at the UGA chart you'll see that I've mixed early and mid-season ones to extend my berry season. I probably get six weeks of berries this way. I must say that 'Climax' is by far the best of the group. The berries are large and juicy, and the flowers drop cleanly from the berry. They go easily from bush to eating! I love to eat them warm from the bush (and since I don't use any pesticides they are deliciously ready).

Jam !

This was my first year attempting to cook with them. My brother suggested using them to make jam while we were picking a large amount. We combined fruit and sugar in a 2:1 ratio (2 cups of fruit to one cup of sugar) and cooked it for 45 minutes. It was delicious and easy!

I continue to eat a few ripe ones each time I pass the bushes, but I suppose the birds will get the last few berries. Soon the butterflies will lay eggs on the leaves and caterpillars will appear - it often happens in late summer. The birds will eat those too. The remaining leaves will turn bright red in the fall, pretty enough to rival any of those foreign burning bushes!

So think about having some blueberry bushes. You'll like them and the bees and birds will too!


  1. We tried blueberries, we planted 5 bushes in two different locations. Despite what I thought should have been plenty of fertilizer and water, two are already dead and the other three look like hell. I wish I knew what we were missing. Maybe they were just poor quality nursery stock, but I've never had results like that before.

    1. Julie, you might want to check the ph level of your soil. Blueberries like very acid soil, so they may not do well in soil that is more to the liking of other plants.

      I don't grow cultivated blueberries, because the wild blueberries that abound in Maine are hard to beat. Commercial growers mostly just buy land where the blueberries are already established and then protect their growing conditions (and their harvest). Although I have some growing on my property, I never get to eat them because the wild turkeys always come through and clean the out just before they're fully ripe. So each year in August, I buy 25-30 pounds from a commercial grower and freeze them to enjoy all year round. -jean

    2. I used to go up to Maine and pick (rake) those wild blueberries... It's about that time up there!

      In my Jeffersonville Georgia garden, I had a stand of wild highbush blueberries that I had to compete with the birds for... those tiny jewels made delicious pancakes!

      In my current sand-hill garden... I've planted them (blueberries), and had them die due to drought, I've planted them again... I have one bush (sorta) it died to the root, and has sent out tentative new growth...

      I have a ton of farkle-berries... I'm not sure how to eat those...

      I have another blueberry looking bush... It produces some sour fruit that even the birds don't want... the berries are falling off, laying on the ground...

  2. Love blueberries but our yard is not suitable to grow them. The rabbits browse them heavily. Like Jean, I grew up where wild ones were abundant and miss the availability of those. I'm glad you're having success with them Ellen, enjoy your harvest.

  3. Congratulations on a wonderful crop. I'm sure you will enjoy your berries in the months ahead.