Wednesday , August 23 2017

Blueberries




  • The Blueberry, one of the most perfect fruits!
     

    Common Name: Blueberries
    Scientific Name: Species in the Vaccinium genus and the Cyanococcus section
    Family: Ericaceae (the Heather family)

    There are so many species and varieties of blueberries available
    Here is a patented variety of Southern Highbush Blueberry named Jewel.
     

    Common Species:

    • Lowbush/Wild Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
    • Rabbiteye/Southern Black Blueberry (Vaccinium ashei or Vaccinium virgatum)
    • Northern/Alpine Blueberry (Vaccinium boreale)
    • Highbush Blueberry (Northern) (Vaccinium corymbosum)
    • Highbush Blueberry (Southern) (Vaccinium darrowii)
    • Creeping Blueberry (Vaccinium crassifolium)
    • Velvet Leaf/Canadian Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides)
     
    Kids love to help pick blueberries – a great way to get kids in Nature
     

    Description:
    The Blueberry is one of the most well known fruit around the world. It is highly nutritious, highly flavorful, and used in a variety of ways. Primarily used for its fruit, there are blueberries that can be grown in almost any Temperate Climate around the world. A little work is needed to get their acidic soil needs met, but after that we are left with a moderately long-lived, productive plant needing very little maintenance. Blueberries are on my list of mandatory plants in the Forest Garden.

    Vaccinium corymbosum
     

    History:
    Native to North America, blueberries were used my Native Americans for thousands of years before Europeans took this plant around the world. The first cultivated blueberries (Highbush Blueberries) were introduced in Europe in the 1930’s.

    Trivia:

    • The Bilberry, aka “European Blueberry” (Vaccinium myrtillus) is closely related to the North American blueberry species, but it is not in the Cyanococcus section of the Vaccinium genus, so they are not true blueberries. Bilberries have red flesh unlike the white or light green flesh of true blueberries.
    • “Huckleberry” refers to a plant that is either a true huckleberry in the Gaylussacia or Vaccinium genus like the Blue Huckleberry (G. frondosa) or Red Huckleberry (V. parvifolium). The name “Huckleberry” is often a local name given to plants, typically in the Appalacia area of Eastern North America, that are really true blueberries.
    • “Half-High” Blueberries are a cross between Highbush and Lowbush types. They are very tolerant of cold weather, but reportedly are not too flavorful.
     
    Blueberry Tart… enough said!
     

    USING THIS PLANT
    Primary Uses:

    • Fresh Fruit
    • Cooked Fruit
    • Baked Goods, Pies, Tarts, Pancakes (!), etc.
    • Preserves, Jams, Jellies, etc.
    • Dried
    • Frozen (place washed and dried fruit in a single layer on a wax-paper lined baking sheet and place into the freezer for 20-30 minutes before placing in a container – this will keep the berries from freezing together into one large chunk)
    • Juiced
    • Used as primary or flavoring agent in beers, wine, liquors, cordials, etc.



    The Creeping Blueberry (Vaccinium crassifolium) is a great, evergreen ground cover
     

    Secondary Uses:

    • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
    • Wildlife food source
    • Hummingbird plant
    • Ground cover plant (mainly the Lowbush Blueberry in cooler climates and the Creeping Blueberry in warmer climates)
    • Edible Hedging
    • Tea Plant – dried fruit and leaves
    • Dye Plant – purple, from fruit and leaves


    Yield: 3-8 quarts (3.5-9 liters) or 8-15 lbs (3.5-6.8 kg) per mature plant
    Harvesting: Late Summer – Early Autumn (July – September). The best fruits are ones that fall from the branch with a little shake. Most blueberries in grocery stores were harvested once the fruit turned blue (and sometimes not even quite blue!). Blueberries to not “ripen” after picked, so harvest the berries when they have been blue for a few days.
    Storage: Fresh fruits will keep for 1, maybe 2, weeks in a cool, humid location

    Lowbush/Wild Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) is a small, cooler weather shrub
     

    DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
    USDA Hardiness Zone:

    • Lowbush/Wild Blueberry: 2-7 (Deciduous)
    • Rabbiteye Blueberry: 7-9 (Deciduous)
    • Highbush Blueberry (Northern): 2-8 (Deciduous)
    • Highbush Blueberry (Southern): 5-10 (Deciduous)
    • Creeping Blueberry: 6-9 (Evergreen)



    AHS Heat Zone:

    • Lowbush/Wild Blueberry: 8-1
    • Rabbiteye Blueberry: 7-9, said to “love the heat”
    • Highbush Blueberry (Northern): 7-1
    • Highbush Blueberry (Southern): No reliable information available
    • Creeping Blueberry: No reliable information available



    Chill Requirement:

    • Lowbush/Wild Blueberry: 1,000-1,200 hours
    • Rabbiteye Blueberry: 350-700 hours
    • Highbush Blueberry (Northern): 800-1,000 hours
    • Highbush Blueberry (Southern): 150-800 hours
    • Creeping Blueberry: No reliable information available

     

    Blueberry bushes in Autumn… beautiful
     

    Plant Type: Small Shrub (including prostrate forms) to Large Shrub
    Leaf Type: Most are Deciduous, few are Evergreen
    Forest Garden Use: Shrub Layer, Groundcover/Creeper Layer
    Cultivars/Varieties: Wide variety of species and varieties available – there will be at least one type well suited to your location. Most blueberries available for purchase are hybrids of multiple species.

    Pollination: Most are Self-Fertile; however, Blueberries will produce significantly more fruit if another cultivar/variety is in the immediate area. Pollinated by bees and other insects.
    Flowering: Late Spring-Early Summer (May-June)

    Life Span:
    Years to Begin Bearing: 3-5 years
    Years to Mature Bearing: 6-8 years
    Years of Useful Life: Average 10-15 years, but some plants have been productive for over 50 years

    Blueberry flowers attract beneficial insects, like this Mason Bee
     

    PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
    Size:

    • Lowbush/Wild Blueberry: 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) tall and 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) wide
    • Rabbiteye/Southern Black Blueberry: 6-18 feet (1.8-5.4 meters) tall and wide
    • Highbush Blueberry (Northern): 6-12 feet (1.8-3.6 meters) tall and wide
    • Highbush Blueberry (Southern): 3 feet (0.9 meters) tall and wide
    • Creeping Blueberry: 3-6 inches (7.5-15 cm) tall and spread up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide



    Roots: Relatively shallow and flat. Most have a suckering or stoloniferous growth habit… sending up new plants from underground roots or putting down roots from creeping stems.
    Growth Rate: Slow

    Blueberries can be used as an edible hedge
    Rabbiteye Blueberry (Vaccinium ashei or Vaccinium virgatum)
     

    GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
    Light: Prefers full sun
    Shade: Tolerates medium shade, but reducing sunlight also reduces yields
    Moisture: Dry to moist soils, depending on the species/variety
    pH: prefers more acidic soil (3.5-5.5)

    Special Considerations for Growing:

    • The acidic soil the blueberries love can help be maintained with pine needle mulch if available
    • Blueberries can be early-, mid-, or late-season cropping which provides a longer harvesting season
    • Does not tolerate juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives).  Consider using another plant as a buffer between your blueberries and walnuts.



    Propagation: From seed. Up to 90 days of cold stratification may be required. Cuttings are possible but take some skill – softwood cuttings in Summer. Division of suckers are easier and can be taken in Spring or Autumn.

    Maintenance:

    • Minimal. 
    • Cut back the “twiggy” branches at planting to encourage good initial root development. 
    • Prune after 3 years or so to open up the plant; blueberries can develop into less productive, thicket-like shrubs if left un-pruned. 
    • Yearly pruning of older woody growth will encourage new growth and larger berries. Remember that berries grow on wood that is one year or older, so don’t get too carried away every year.
    • Netting may be required to protect the harvest from the birds
    • If the leaves start to yellow, then the plant likely needs more acid.


    Concerns:
    None.

    Source

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