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Volume 16, Issue 7 - February 14 - February 20, 2008

Plan Your Berry Picking Now

Include blueberries in your 2008 garden

A small berry packs a big nutritional punch. Scientists have identified blueberries as the fruit with the most anti-oxidants. As a landscape plant, blueberry bushes not only provide fresh fruit but also have attractive flowers and fall foliage. This year, consider adding high bush blueberry plants to your landscape. They require the same growing soil conditions as azaleas and rhododendrons but need full sun to produce the best and the greatest amount of fruit.

Blueberry plants require an acid soil with a pH between 5.0 and 5.5 and with plenty of organic matter. If your soil has marginal drainage, prepare a planting mound about five feet by five feet and eight to 12 inches high. Amend the soil with liberal amounts of compost or crushed pine fines. Avoid using peat moss because it will absorb too much water. Blueberry plants are very shallow rooted and will stagnate if planted too deep, so be sure that the roots are spread evenly and covered with no more than one inch of soil.

Here in Southern Maryland, we are fortunate to be able to grow both southern and northern varieties of blueberries. During the past 12 years, I have tested some of the northern varieties for heat tolerance. Varieties that have repeatedly performed well include Herbert, Atlantic, Berkley, Chandler, Early Blueray, Elizabeth, Early Blue and Jersey.

I recommend that you avoid planting the low-growing, ground-cover varieties in this area. They have not performed well, primarily due to lack of summer heat tolerance. Some southern varieties that perform well include Cliriat, Premier and Hanna’s Choice.

To guarantee a crop every year, plant at least two varieties in close proximity to assure cross pollination. You will also discover that robins, brown thrushes and mocking birds like to eat your blueberry crop. Keep your berries safe by covering the plants with bird netting when the first berries start to show color. Rabbits count blueberry stems among their favorite winter foods. Protect the stems by surrounding blueberry bushes loosely with a ring of 18- to 24-inch-tall chicken wire.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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