Inspired by the conversation I had at lunch today: To those in the South Bay who want to grow blueberries, I have all kinds of advice and tips. I could bore you with acidic soil stories and protective bird netting so that your mind would wander and your ears might bleed. Instead I will tell you exactly how to grow the most wonderful blueberries ever. Go to Summer Winds Nursery and buy an established bush in a 10 gallon pot (approximately $45) next spring. Buy a nice ceramic pot to put it in (another $45) with some acidic potting soil–such as an azalea mix–($6) and water daily, but not to the point of soggy exaggeration. That $100 investment will give you all the blueberries you need for your morning breakfast during blueberry season. If you have kids, get a couple plants.
I’ve done my research. I’ve bought high bushes and low bushes, bare root and potted bushes, and varieties that bloom in March and some that bloom in May. I have more than 10 blueberry bushes in the yard to prove it. (Not counting the several I’ve given away.) My husband even built a designated blueberry raised bed where I had the earliest blooming plants in order to the latest blooming plants. Huge learning curve. The Summer Winds plants continue to be our best source of blueberries.
Location matters. I was under the erroneous impression that blueberries could stand plenty of shade. They grow well on the East Coast, right? So that must mean they will do well in partial shade, right? Wrong. Blueberries like sun, so the north side of an east/west fence would be a great place to plant, right? Wrong. The fence gives too much shade, especially in the winter months.
If you’re blueberry driven for the berries alone, plant them in containers where you will see them. You want to make sure the irrigation to the container doesn’t clog. You will want to rotate the pot if it looks like one side needs more or less sun. You will want to watch the hummingbirds visit the abundant, white springtime flowers. And you will want to see that birds aren’t getting to them once the berries emerge. We continue to have berries on a few bushes in late July.
I enjoy watching my kid, with our dog at her side, picking and eating blueberries right off the bush. Yes, the dog will eat them, too, if I’m not vigilant.
With the ultimate desire of mine to have a completely edible back yard, I planted several Home Depot bare root* blueberry plants around our apple trees to fill in the space with edible shrubs. I don’t think of them as blueberry plants yet, as they are young and don’t produce high yields of fruit. They may never be big producers, but I don’t mind. I have my potted blueberries (and a few surprise successes in other parts of the yard) to satisfy me.
The coolest surprise about blueberry bushes is the gorgeous red foliage they sport in the fall. I had no idea that they would be so beautiful.
*Bare root plants are plants that are sold with no dirt around the roots. Bare root plants are available most often in January and February. It looks as if you’re buying a stick, and that you’re not getting your money’s worth. The opposite is true, however. It’s best to buy bare root plants as you have fewer problems with root girdling than if you were to buy the same plant in a pot. Pots are more likely to dry out, which often leads to a hydrophobic root ball. Because the pot and dirt are the bulk of the weight, bare root plants also are a better choice for environmentally-conscious consumers as they are cheaper to transport.
In addition to berries, you can also plant bare root fruit trees, asparagus, artichokes, rhubarb, grapes, roses, strawberries, and iris in January and February. Learn how to plant bare root plants on our UC website (PDF).
Bran Flax Blueberry Muffins
(This recipe is on the Bob’s Red Mill Golden Flaxseed Meal package–but I’ve changed it a little)
1 1/2 cup unbleached white flour, 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Flaxseed Meal, 3/4 cup oat bran, 1 cup brown sugar (or honey exchange), 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, (1 1/2 cup shredded carrots, 2 shredded apples, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 cup chopped nuts), 3/4 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together dry ingredients. Stir in any and/or all of the parenthetical ingredients OR a can of blueberries (because of the juice in the can and because I’d never put my own berries in muffins. They’re too good to do that to). Combine milk and beaten eggs into dry ingredients. Bake in muffin tins for 15-20 minutes.
The carrot/apple muffins printed on the flaxseed meal bag are terrific, too. But I had a specific request for blueberry muffins the other day. Besides, the carrot/apple version necessitates my excavating (and then cleaning) the food processor. Silicone muffin cups work fabulously, and come in purple and pink as an added bonus.
Keep flaxseed meal in frig. If it smells fishy, don’t use it!