Blueberry Bushes

I have foggy memories of my mother’s bleeding heart in our back yard when I was little, before my parents took down the white picket fence and let us roam free. Mother’s Day weekend my Honey and I were looking for one to give to her, who was en route for a visit.  We were in Battle Creek to deliver a hanging basket to his mother, so we went to Horrock’s, a wonderful market space and a sparkling gem for Cereal City.

As we approached the store, a sign called to me: Small fruits, 50% off. WHAT?!!! My adrenaline started pumping and my mouth started moving before I even realized what I was talking about and my Honey was quickly convinced that we needed a blueberry bush. Or maybe he just relented as he saw the glee light up my face? My fingers did the walking as I researched which varieties would be best for our area – were there impulse purchases by the suburban gardener before widespread smartphone use?

We bought a healthy-looking Chandler and went about our business. He was driving which afforded me the opportunity to dig deeper into blueberry cultivation via my 3G network. First issue: I actually need two plants of differing varieties for proper pollination. Okay, easily solved. Second issue: I need acidic soil. How do I make acidic soil? From all accounts online, it takes years of amendment and careful testing to make. I had one, soon to be two (we went back after lunch and I picked up a Darrow), plants that needed to go into the ground ASAP.

The next day I took my parents to Wenke’s Greenhouse in search of acidic potting soil. Though it is a lovely gardening center they did not carry specific acidity potting soil. However, walking past the peat moss I saw that it is naturally acidic. I lugged a bag over my shoulder and walked out with a plan. I took at 3/4 inch drill bit to the bottom of two large plastic storage totes, make drainage holes in the center and near each corner. Dad suggested I place flat stones near the holes, overlapping so the soil didn’t just exit the container. We raked out the pile of debris from dirt sifting; after carefully sorting out trash (glass, etc) we had a bed of small rocks for the bins to increase drainage as well. On top of the “slate rock” in the bins Dad and I shoveled in layers of goodies: sifted dirt, organic azalea food, unsifted compost, peat moss, topped with a blend of sifted compost, more peat moss and vermiculite. I planted one plant in each container and mulched with a some straw (a bale was also purchased at Horrock’s). I picked off the berries and blossoms that were forming because some website stated I should the first year or two while the plant is getting established. I’ve read it a few places, about strawberries too; the rule of thumb for perennials is that they will grow stronger root systems if they are not concentrating their efforts on fruit production. Since I’ve also read that blueberries will last 10 years or so (or 50?!) I am invested in good root systems.

Initially after planting the leaves of the plants went orangey-red. I panicked a little but allowed time to do it’s thing. Since that first week, the leaves have bounced back to a healthy dark green and they both have many new leaves. I don’t know if it was transplant shock, or the cold snap after Mother’s Day, or just a thing the plants do after the berries and buds are picked (did it want to go dormant?). Maybe it was a combination of all theories. Things seem to be doing A-Ok. IMG_0920

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