Blueberries have truly earned their superfood status. They are high in fiber, low on the glycemic index (so they won’t spike up the blood sugar levels) and have a ton of vitamins and minerals. Also, of all the berries, blueberries are the highest in antioxidants, active compounds which lower disease risk and help to slow down the aging process. However, any trip to the grocery store quickly reveals that blueberries can be pretty pricey!
There is a great solution to this, however: blueberries can be easily grown at home and, if there is a bumper crop, can be frozen for year-round use in pancakes, muffins, parfaits and the like. Below is a basic blueberry guide to get things started off!
Choosing the Type of Blueberry Bush to Plant
This might come as a surprise to someone who does not have a lot of gardening experience, but there are actually quite a few different kinds of blueberry bush to choose from! It is best to make the selection based on the climate that the bush will need to grow in. Northern highbush or Saskatoon bushes grow best in colder climates, while rabbiteye blueberry bushes do well in the south.
Preparing Soil, Planting and Watering
As any gardener knows, starting out with the right soil for anything in the garden is one of the most important steps. Blueberry bushes prefer an acid soil with an pH of around 4-5, so if the soil tests alkaline (these testing kits are available at any outdoor center), acidic material like peat moss, pine needles or fallen oak leaves will need to be added.
Once the hole in which the blueberry bush will be planted has been dug, it is best to add in some organic material to nurture it and help it grow. Do not dig a hole that is deeper than the pot that the blueberry bush came in. Mulch them thickly around with material like pine needles, which will help with soil pH but also prevent weeds from growing up around or between the bushes.
How often the bushes will need to be watered will depending upon the soil, exposure, weather patterns and many other variables. Simply keep checking the soil around the blueberries and water often enough to keep it moist without saturating it.
Keep it Enclosed
As the blueberries grow and ripen, humans are not the only interested customers for these delicious fruits! Cut down on competition by growing the bushes in an enclosure, such as a chicken wire fence which can keep out other critters who would love to lunch on the blueberries!
If the soil, watering pattern, mulching and fertilizing is done well, there should be no problem with harvesting buckets of blueberries in the summer (and again, they freeze well for use during the cold months, too). Harvesting at home not only saves a lot of money at the store, the home-grown berries are so delicious that they will spoil growers from buying store-bought ones again!
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