Thursday, May 8, 2014


They are nature's little powerhouses. And they are delicious!

It's easy to find research supporting the health benefits of blueberries. They are packed with vitamin C and fiber. They are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. They reportedly improve heart health, reduce cancer risk, reduce UTI's, and improve brain function.

On top of that, they are beautiful. The plants are attractive all year and are great for potted plants on a patio, planted in beds near camellias and azaleas, or as a hedge.  

I recently harvested my first little handful of the season. Oh what a treat. I had been watching my little cancer warriors as they matured on the bush for what seemed like forever. Here in our hot climate it takes some care to get them to grow. Mine will never be the luscious plants that thrive up north.

I have such fond memories of camping in Oregon as a child. We wandered off-road and picked blueberries which seemed to grow everywhere. I remember my mom making jam in the camper as my brother and I ran around looking for slugs and such, desert rats enjoying the rain.

Here is what I learned about growing blueberries.

There are 3 different types of blueberries; northern highbush, southern highbush and rabbit eye. Blueberries require a certain number of cold days each winter in order to produce. Northern varieties will not get enough cold days to produce here in Southern California. Most nurseries will carry the cultivars that grow best in your area.

To produce the best fruit, blueberries must cross-pollinate between varieties. For this reason, buy at least 2 different varieties. It is best to plant them near each other in the garden. Some plants produce early in the season, and some later. I have one of each type. This prolongs the harvest.

Unlike most other things in my garden, blueberries like acidic soil, preferring a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. That's why mine are grown in barrels. Ask your nurseryman what type of potting soil to use, usually one made for rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas. This type of potting soil will already be acidic. Adding peat moss or mulching with saw dust (from untreated lumber) will also acidify the soil. Fertilize with acidic fertilizer.

Blueberries like moist well drained soil, avoid soggy soil. Don't plant them too deeply, this can lead to rot. They prefer sun. Because they have shallow roots, they love a good mulch which keeps the surface moist. Avoid cultivating around their shallow roots.

Here's to good health!

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