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Growing Blueberries Naturally

 
pollinator
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I’m trying to find some Blue Ridge blueberries, Vaccinium Pallidum. They sound like they  prefer much dryer sites than most. The only Nursery that I’ve found selling them has terrible reviews.

Oikos Tree Crops sells seeds for a blueberry that likes dryer sites.
 
gardener
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Here's a video I made about why I don't prune my blueberries. The more fruit buds you keep, the more blueberries you will have!



The more you prune, the less blueberries you will have, so why prune?

It also saves a lot of work!

Some people say that you have to prune to get big or healthy fruit, but that hasn't been the case for me. As long as the bush is in healthy soil with access to lots of moisture, it will produce tons of healthy blueberries of good size!

It's also really common for people to say to prune for shape, but blueberries and other plants will self prune in shaded areas, and focus more growth on sunny areas.

I may prune if the limb is already completely dead or if it has been badly damaged like being torn from a deer bite. Other than something like that, I let the bush grow like it wants to, and even this very minimal pruning doesn't need to be done most of time. The dead limb will fall off naturally and heal over, and most of the time a damaged wound will also heal fine, with the branch dying back to a live bud and the damaged part will fall off. Sometimes a damaged limb may not heal back ideally by itself if it is very jagged or peeled off, but it can be cut back to a healthy part of the limb with a clean cut so it can heal easier.
 
pollinator
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Steve Thorn wrote:Here's a video I made about why I don't prune my blueberries. The more fruit buds you keep, the more blueberries you will have!



This is very helpful, Steve. Thanks for posting. And I was delighted you pointed out the Preying Mantis egg sac. I'm just learning about these, and I kept wondering if that's what I was seeing; then you confirmed it!

 
Steve Thorn
gardener
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Thanks Diane!

Yeah I feel like I've found hidden treasure when I find praying mantis eggs!
 
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I don't prune my blueberry bushes. I only trim off limbs to root cuttings. I save my used coffee grounds & tea bags and sprinkle that around the base of the bush. I also sprinkle crumbled eggs shells.
 
Steve Thorn
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The blueberries are already starting to bloom. This picture below was from a few days ago near the end of January and is the earliest I think I've ever seen them start to bloom. It should be interesting to see how they do this year. The blueberry blooms have seemed very tough before, so I think they will probably be fine.
20200130_035943.jpg
First blueberry flower of the year in January
First blueberry flower of the year in January
 
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I thought this looked interesting  https://oikostreecrops.com/products/seeds-ecos/fruit-nut-seeds/dryland-blueberry-seed/ .  Oikos claims it grows in dry conditions/ non acidic conditions.  I haven't tried to grow this, but I would like to no if anyone has.
 
Steve Thorn
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First blueberry of the year!

Had another one, but I dropped it and lost it.
First-blueberry-of-2020-.jpg
First blueberry of 2020!
First blueberry of 2020!
 
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I planted some blueberry bushes about 2 months ago. They were blooming when I bought them, and were pollinated. I got probably 100 tiny blueberries between the three of them, but the blueberries aren't growing any. Is there something I'm doing wrong? Thanks for the help I'm brand new to growing plants. I did plant them in holes three times the size of the root ball, and mixed the soil 50/50 with peat moss.
 
Steve Thorn
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Hey John, welcome to Permies!

I bet they are just going through some transplant shock, and will be fine.

I know it may be hard to do, but I would remove the small blueberries, or maybe just keep a maximum of 10 blueberries per plant. I always have a hard time removing potential fruit, but it'll be worth it when you get to hopefully enjoy 100 or more blueberries next year!

I usually just plant my blueberries in native soil, and they thrive in a wetter spot with a good natural leaf mulch.

Best of luck with your blueberries!
 
Steve Thorn
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The first handful of my blueberry harvest is always a little sour for me. A tad sour, but still with amazing flavor and sweetness too!

So eager to get a taste of the fresh blueberries, I always pick a few a little too early.
First-handful-harvest-of-blueberries-this-year-A-little-pink-but-still-super-tasty-.jpg
First handful harvest of blueberries this year! A little pink, but still super tasty!
First handful harvest of blueberries this year! A little pink, but still super tasty!
 
pollinator
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I've been eating our first couple blueberries these last 10 days or so. Same as you Steve, always pick a few too early but I just can't wait.

Also went and checked out the new salal berry patch I'm hoping to forage out this year and its coming in nicely
 
Steve Thorn
gardener
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I love that blueberries ripen at different times.

It extends the harvest and means more blueberries for a longer period of time!
Ripening-blueberrries-.jpg
Ripening blueberrries!
Ripening blueberrries!
 
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The family cabin in NE Wisconsin has had wild blueberry plants living and producing since long before my parents bought the land in the 1970s. Berries were harvested this year and they are tasty but small, tiny almost. The soil is sandy and the blueberry plants are in among the wintergreen and winter fern and surrounded by red oak although all the oaks are succumbing to blight. I was wondering if there is something we could add to the soil to make the blueberry plants a little happier? Also, is there a way to coax the blueberries to spread? Would it be a bad idea to add a few plants of a different variety? The land is as it has always been with all the natural processes intact. I'd like to begin to modify things to create a food forest but I most certainly do not want to damage what has been surviving on its own all these years.
 
Steve Thorn
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Mary Haasch wrote:The family cabin in NE Wisconsin has had wild blueberry plants living and producing since long before my parents bought the land in the 1970s. Berries were harvested this year and they are tasty but small, tiny almost. The soil is sandy and the blueberry plants are in among the wintergreen and winter fern and surrounded by red oak although all the oaks are succumbing to blight. I was wondering if there is something we could add to the soil to make the blueberry plants a little happier?



Hey Mary!

My blueberries love a light leaf mulch. It's free and can also be very convenient if you are already removing the leaves from a grassy or other area in the Fall. The leaf mulch will both help hold more moisture in the soil, provide beneficial compounds and minerals, and will break down into a super fertile soil full of organic matter. This should create an ideal spot for the blueberries to thrive.

It's very common for a lot of places to recommend specific acidic mulches or amendments, but personally I've found them unnecessary.

Also, is there a way to coax the blueberries to spread?



Building super healthy soil like mentioned above combined with not disturbing the soil and letting some wild plants grow up naturally around the blueberries most of the time, as long as they aren't severely competing with the blueberries, seems to really encourage the blueberries to spread. It sounds like you may have some good wild plants growing nearby that you mentioned above. If you have to remove some wild plants from around them, it can be best to cut them back instead of pulling them out, as pulling them out may damage the blueberry plant suckers forming underground, which will become the new vigorous shoots.

Would it be a bad idea to add a few plants of a different variety? The land is as it has always been with all the natural processes intact. I'd like to begin to modify things to create a food forest but I most certainly do not want to damage what has been surviving on its own all these years.



Yeah, I think that's a great idea to add in some additional plants to create a food forest, especially since it sounds like the oaks may be on their way out. I've been planting blueberries near my fruit trees recently, and they all seem to be really thriving. You could plant fruit trees on the northern side of the blueberries, with some grape vines growing up along the fruit trees too if you wanted. Some other berry bushes could work really well alongside the blueberries also.



Great questions Mary, I hope you have many bountiful blueberry harvests in the future!
 
Mary Haasch
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Steve that was wonderful advice and much appreciated. It may take a while to have any progress to get back to you but I'll try to remember to let you know how things go.
 
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I have a wild blueberry plant that get 12 to 18 inches tall. As children we called them Gooseberry, because we never saw a mininture Bluse berry.
I have tame  Rabbiteye berry & two other that was given to me, without names. I watered & weeded them for 24 months, after that 17 years or so, they have grown wild with no help from me.
I cut down tall weeds as they ripen, I think you can grow them with 5.0 to 6.0 ph & full sun. I never used compost or water them.
 
Steve Thorn
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I love this time of year, being outside and enjoying the food forest. There's no need to go inside for a snack, since it's right there for the picking!
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Steve Thorn
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Finally had some blueberries make it inside instead of being eaten on the way!
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Joe Grand
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My blue berries are peaking, well two plants are all green, which is good it will prolong the harvest.
 
Steve Thorn
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I love all of colors of blueberries in varying shades of ripeness!
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Steve Thorn
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This is a vigorous shoot growing on a blueberry. It is light green and kind of looks like a flower. Regular new growth branch shoots are also usually light green, but they look like a normal branch.

These vigorous new shoots usually grow straight up and can put on a lot of growth really fast, and can help rapidly expand the size of the blueberry bush. They don't need to be cut back. On a healthy bush, they will send out lots of lateral shoots the next year, which will be the future fruiting branches, that will produce lots of blueberries the next year.
20200623_194155.jpg
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Joe Grand
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I picked 2 gallon today before the rain came down.
 
Steve Thorn
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Joe Grand wrote:I picked 2 gallon today before the rain came down.



Wow, that's a lot of blueberries!
 
Joe Grand
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"These vigorous new shoots usually grow straight up and can put on a lot of growth really fast, and can help rapidly expand the size of the blueberry bush. They don't need to be cut back. On a healthy bush, they will send out lots of lateral shoots the next year, which will be the future fruiting branches, that will produce lots of blueberries the next year."

I have a few new growth from two year ago that are at six feet,six inches high, because they grew out of a fourfeet, six inch limbs. I will be trimming them back to 48 inches, this fall & rooting the cuttings.
I am going to be careful not to remove all the new grow, I want berries next year. I am now getting a lot of sucker off my rabbit eye bushes, too.
 
Steve Thorn
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The blueberries have been really starting to produce a lot the last week or so!
20200623_203130.jpg
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Steve Thorn
gardener
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I'm going to try to freeze some blueberries and see how they turn out.
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Joe Grand
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DW is giving all my Blueberries away, good thing there are more to pick.
 
pollinator
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Freezing has worked out really well for me in the past. You can enjoy them for months afterwards 🙂
 
Steve Thorn
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Really good to hear Chris!

I'm excited that by preserving them like this, to hopefully be able to enjoy the ever increasing quantity of blueberries with each new year!
 
Steve Thorn
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This small blueberry bush transplanted here this past spring has grown well and has two vigorous shoots coming up, putting on some size for next year!
20200627_175525.jpg
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Joe Grand
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That reminds me. I got like 20 or 30 sucker from my ribbiteye BB to transplant, this Fall.
I have gaven some away, but still a lot lift & in 3-5  year I will have to do it again.
I give up on transplanting my red raspberry plants, I just mow the lanes between the row every Spring & Summer.
I have some  Blackberries, but not like the raspberry plants.
 
Steve Thorn
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I've been freezing a lot of the harvest this year, as the blueberry bushes are really starting to produce a lot more than we can eat fresh.

After being frozen on a cookie sheet, like in the photo above, they can be dumped into another storage container to be stored in the freezer, and the blueberries won't stick together.

So far they seem to retain very good quality after being thawed out, and are good eaten out of hand. I also like to eat them after rinsing a handful under running water for a few seconds, for a blueberry icey type treat.

I plan to use a lot of these frozen blueberries to hopefully make a lot of blueberry crisps and blueberry muffins, my two favorite recipes at the moment, along with giving a few new recipes a try.
 
Steve Thorn
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This blueberry bush is one of the largest, and has been pumping out a ton of blueberries this year, and is still producing!
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