Attention Blueberry Lovers: It’s time to plan ahead!

Posted on: March 20, 2013

Attention Blueberry Lovers: It’s time to plan ahead!

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough blueberries. If you are thinking, “Hey! I could grow blueberries, they’re easy,” you’d be right!

Blueberry cluster Portland Landscape Design

Purchasing a large blueberry plant means you are buying time.

So now’s the time to take a minute to plan ahead for next season’s blueberry goodness.

Spartan blueberries are my absolute favorite for flavor. In the old days (10 years ago), when my client Diane in NE Portland,  ordered a Spartan blueberry, she got a little stick with roots on the end. She is a plucky gardener, but this was very discouraging, especially when someone stepped on the poor Spartan before it was big enough to defend itself.

Making the Tradeoff: Price Versus Instant Gratification

Buying a big plant is buying time. It’s easy to buy blueberry plants that are at least 30 inches tall and wide. Using Spartan blueberries as an example, you can spend about 40 percent more  for a one-or-two-year-old plant, but you’ll get that fruity deliciousness three years sooner.

Choosing the Right Variety

From March through July, Portland’s full-service nurseries offer plenty of nice, big plants and many varieties. Try these tips for the ultimate blueberry experience:

  • Don’t rush your choice. I can’t say enough about taking your time when selecting an edible. There are so many varieties to choose from, that it’s just plain smart to take your time. You are buying more than food, more than an  ornamental plant. You are buying memories as well as pleasure at the moment of harvest. My criteria for selecting a blueberry variety: totally delicious taste, convenient harvest time, plant sizes and shapes that are right for my garden, and gorgeous fall leaf color. Are you ready to pick out your favorite blueberry variety? If not, maybe this year will be about sampling berries at farmers markets and then buying your plant in the early fall.  What fun that will be!
  • Protect your plants. You won’t be the only one wanting blueberries. Birds and your dog will steal as much fruit as they can get away with. Be sure to leave lower branches for your dog to nibble on. If you use nets, check them often, or you will find little bird corpses tangled in the netting.
  • Think about the timing of the harvest. If you are always gone in July, select varieties that ripen in August.
  •  Buy companion varieties to maximize your crop. Remember to buy two
    different varieties that ripen at the same time. They flower at the same time, and the bumble bees can cross-pollinate the bushes to give you a better crop. Bumble bees vibrate the pollen off their feet and bodies from one flower to another and that is how they cross pollinate.  It’s primarily bumble bees that cross-pollinate blueberry plants.

    Dragon Fly visits blueberry plant in Lori's garden

    Dragonfly on green blueberry cluster-another great reason to shun pesticides in your garden. Photo from my client Lori Aveling.

    Don’t use pesticides on any plants because they harm and kill the bees.  Blueberry plants don’t have many pest problems.

  • Consider the newer evergreen varieties for the front yard. For example, ‘Sunshine Blue is a variety that local edibles expert Vern Nelson and I really like. ‘Sunshine Blue’ is evergreen, so the leaves stay on the bush year round and it’s small, say 3 by 3 feet. This way, you can have edibles in the front yard without going totally  “Urban Homestead”. (Portland has many new landscapes that are  completely given over to growing edibles. It’s an exciting, fun idea but not for everyone.)

Next time: More about blueberries, specifically a chart of never-fail varieties.