Blackberry And Blueberry Planting Information

Learn to grow blueberries and blackberries that you can harvest and eat - instructions from the first preparation of the soil to the harvesting.

Blackberries and blueberries are excellent sources of iron and vitamin C. They are eaten fresh and baked into pies, cobblers, and other desserts. Blackberry jellies and jams are favorites with many people. Blueberries are delightful with cream. So how about growing some of your own?

Blackberries are abundant in eastern North America and along the Pacific Coast. They also abound in Western Europe and the British Isles. The bushes are often prickly, although there are some modern varieties, such as the "Chester," that are thornless. Blueberry stems are semi-erect or trailing, with leaves that are course and toothed. The flowers form in clusters and may be white, pink, or red. Black or reddish-purple fruit will replace the flower clusters.

Blueberry bushes can be seen growing on the hillsides of North Britain and Northern Europe. They are also indigenous to Asia. In North America, the shrubs grow best in the acidic soil found in Maine, New Jersey, Michigan, and North Carolina. The European version of the bush is also known as a bilberry bush, or whortleberry shrub. It is low-trailing and is often found growing wild in the woods. The berries are dark blue in color and approximately one centimeter in diameter. The chief difference between the European bilberry and the United States blueberry is the contrast in the flowering pattern, and hence in the bearing of fruit. While the blueberries of the United States form in clusters known as "racemes," the bilberry of Europe is singly borne.

Blackberry and blueberry bushes should be planted after the last frost and in early spring. For blueberries, acidic soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.0 is essential. The soil must also be rich in humus. Highly acidic fertilizers that might be used include soybean or cottonseed meal and ammonium sulfate. Mulches should also be acidic, utilizing pine needles, wood chips, and sawdust. Blackberries, on the other hand, should be protected with ground cover made of conifer branches or dried mulch and only when severe frost is expected.

While blueberries are generally freestanding, growing only about a foot above the ground, blackberry bushes make vines that can be trained to grow along trellises or archways. The "Navajo" blackberry bush is self-supporting and does not require a trellis or fan espalier. Both blueberry and blackberry bushes should be pruned annually after final harvest. Bushes that are thinned before spring growth will be more productive.

Harvest times for blueberries can be extended by varying the types of bushes that are planted. Certain varieties may be started early in the season, to be followed by midseason bushes, and even late-season plants. Early bushes are the "Earliblue," the "Ivanhoe," and "Northland." Mid-season plants include the "Bluecrop," "Blueray," "Collins," and the "Stanley." Bushes that may be planted late in the summer include the "Delite," "Dixi," and "Menditoo."

Blackberry bushes may be proliferated by bending stems back to the ground during the growing season so that additional roots are generated where the stem comes in contact with the soil. The new plant can be trained to grow in another direction or may be attached to a different part of the trellis, leaving the new roots in tact. Another method used is to move the rooted plant to another location, thus transplanting it. In contrast, blueberry productivity is best stimulated by exposing existing bushes to the sun and giving them plenty of water, thus increasing the bearing of original plants rather than transplanting new ones. Blueberry bushes require two gallons of water every week during the growing season.

It is no secret that birds love berries. To deter birds, aluminum pie plates or foil may be hung in the branches and vines so that the wind makes them swing. Stationary objects are useful for a while, but birds become familiar with those and often ignore them in time. In the event that the birds are getting more of the crop than you are, cover the ripening crop with netting. Most hardware stores carry the appropriate type.

Harvest berries when they are ripe. Remember that fruit ripens best in its natural habitat, and that is "on the bush." Both blackberry and blueberry bushes are long-term bearers, provided that disease is controlled, the excess branches are pinched back, and the plants are mulched during frost.

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