I used to dislike blueberries, having only tasted bland, mushy supermarket blueberries, then I tasted them fresh from the garden, they’re so much better fresh! In my new garden I’ve planted 5 blueberry bushes (you should plant at least two different varieties for cross-pollination).
I’m growing Blue Crop, Blue Ray, Reka and Duke – all highbush blueberries which produce large fruit on shrubs that will eventually reach 5’-6’ tall and about half as wide. Blueberries grow very well in our acidic soil and temperate climate, and are not unattractive shrubs, with lovely bright red leaves in the fall, so I have planted them here and there around the back yard, in the veggie garden as well as the ornamental beds.
If you want to grow your own blueberries make sure you have acidic soil (or ask at your local garden centre for something that will acidify your soil), choose a sunny, open spot in your garden, and mulch your blueberry bushes to help retain moisture in the heat of summer. Blueberries are shallow-rooted plants and dislike drought or overly enthusiastic cultivating around their roots.
Last year my bushes bloomed well for the first time and I was looking forward to a decent crop of blueberries, but disaster struck! This is where proximity to greenspace can be a problem – I have a very healthy population of birds who all enjoy blueberries as much as I do! In fact they are happy to eat them when they are half-ripe, rather than waiting for them to fully ripen.
I figured out pretty quickly what the problem was, and netted the blueberry bushes to keep the birds off, but the berries just kept disappearing. I thought that maybe the birds were eating the fruit through the netting, but even fruit from the centre of the bushes was disappearing as soon as they started to turn blue!
Then I caught one of the little so and so’s in the act – I hadn’t securely pegged the netting down all the way around the plants and the birds were going in under the netting and stripping the semi-ripe fruit from the inside! @#%&!
The season was pretty much done by the time I figured this out, I think I got about two cups of berries all told – such a disappointment. So this year I am determined to protect my crop – so the people get to eat blueberries, rather than the birds.
If I had planted my blueberries all together in a row I could have built a framework over the whole shebang – which would have been relatively easy, but no, they are scattered all over the place, so I had to figure out how to protect each one separately.
I jotted down my idea for a temporary, portable “blueberry box” and coerced the dh into yet another (small) construction project. We had a bunch of 1×1 stakes left from other projects, and these provide the basic structure – reinforced at the corners.
After he built them I attached plastic netting to three sides and the top with my trusty staple gun, then cut another piece for the door and stapled it at the top. Along the bottom edge of the “door” I wove a bamboo stake through the netting. Three small nails in the bottom edge of the frame serve to hold the bamboo stake in place to close the door – works like a charm! When I want to pick berries I will just unhook the bamboo stake and set it up on top of the box to access the berries.
I can’t imagine any way that the birds can get in there unless they take to tunneling under the box – if they do that I give up! I’m looking forward to getting more than a few blueberries this season.
We have built two of these boxes and I plan to move them around to various bushes as they ripen at different times – if the design works well we can build more next year – or make changes as needed for the next set.