I know somewhere there must be someone who
doesn’t like blueberries. I’ve never met this unfortunate soul, however.
Whether used fresh over ice cream or cereal, or cooked in whole-grain
muffins, I love blueberries in my food. Besides tasting so good,
blueberries provide a number of health and nutrition related benefits.
Another great thing about blueberries is the fact that smallholders can
successfully cultivate and produce blueberries in almost every part of the
more than any other fruit or berry, freeze very well, so a summer crop of
blueberries will continue to serve the family table for months and months
from the freezer.
If it appears that I
am personally very high on my little round blueberries, that’s right, I
am. I figure that blueberries must be close to the perfect fruit for home
Another great thing
about the little round blueberry is that it has proven to be, regardless
of where we lived, our most reliable cash crop. Both in the Ozarks of
Missouri and Arkansas where we raised our family or down here on the Gulf Coast where we now reside,
blueberries have reliably brought some very welcome cash income.
When I planted my most recent berry patch, I just wanted some berries for
home use. Well, I got that and much more. From just a few dozen
blueberry plants, I have picked several hundred dollars worth of cash-crop
blueberries in the past five years. Every year I sell every single
berry that I don’t want to eat.
should be on every small farmer’s list of cash crops to be explored.
Let’s look at this delicious, profitable bush-berry.
In the US, there
three types of blueberries for the smallholder to consider. There are
low-bush, high-bush, and rabbit-eye blueberries which grow naturally in
different parts of the country, and these native plants have been the
origins of the multitude of hybridized and perfected commercial
grown for home and commercial production are of the high-bush type because
of the larger size of the fruit and the easier growth habits of the
Small farmers should
do a bit of study before running to the catalog and ordering a few acres’
worth of blueberries. It really does make a difference where in the
world a growing area is located. Homeowners should work closely with
local university extension agents when selecting specific types of
blueberries. For instance, when I lived in the Ozarks, “Blueray” and
a few other varieties did well. However, down here in the deep
South, other varieties such as "Climax” do much better. It really is
necessary to study up on plant varieties before planting a patch.
Probably the first
thing potential blueberry growers should consider is the actual planting
location. Blueberries do NOT like to stand in water. Even though they
were, in their native states, common in swampy areas, their very shallow
roots allow wild plants to keep their roots from being constantly water
soaked. Blueberry growers must make sure the growing area has good water
drainage or the plants just will not survive, much less produce.
Also, blueberry crops
are lost every year because of late frosts which take the blooms. In
the mid-west, late blooming varieties would be good choices to avoid those
killer April frosts. If the blueberry patch can be located on a hillside
so that cold, late spring air can slide off downhill to the valleys, so
much the better.
The home grower will
absolutely want to have good soil testing done. Blueberries love acidic
soil, but just about any existing soil can be amended to make blueberry
plants happy. Again, a little talk with the local extension agent can be
a good use of time.
Production of Berry Crops
is not an overnight process. In fact, five years between planting
and decent berry production is not unusual. However, the grower can not
just slam the bushes in holes and walk off and wait until the plants
produce. Careful control of weeds and irrigation development is necessary
to bring blueberries into earliest production.
Depending on the
area, some sort of irrigation system may be necessary. In the Ozarks
where soil runs thin and dries out very quickly, we found a drip
irrigation system using water from a nearby stock pond to be the best way
to gain optimum berry production.
require support when they mature, but spacing of plants can make weed
control by mowing easier—or much more difficult. Homeowners should try
to leave enough space between plants and rows to get some sort of mowing
machine around plants. `
Also, mulch in the
form of leaves and peat can be very beneficial to blueberry growth.
Hardwood leaves such as oak and even pine needles will help create a more
acidic soil around the blueberry bushes, which is just what they
A thing I really
appreciate about my blueberries is the length of their production.
Properly maintained, a blueberry patch can produce profitable crops for
many years. It is not uncommon to receive very heavy berry production for
ten years or much more.
As mentioned earlier,
blueberry plants are acid lovers, and they appreciate fairly heavy
fertilizing with low pH fertilizers. Be careful to not over nitrogen
blueberries—this can do more harm than good. Again, good advice
can come from local extension agents. The state of Missouri, in
particular, does a very good job of getting good, useful information for
It comes down to
this. Make the plants happy, and they will produce heavy crops for a long
time with really minimal care and work on the part of the grower. This is
my kind of fruit production!
Any potential berry
grower must early on decide just how much time and space can be devoted to
a berry patch. If space and personal time is abundant, a grower may
choose to plant several acres of blueberry bushes which will, fairly
quickly, develop into a full-time job—at least during growing and
picking seasons. If time and space are limited—as in my present
situation—a couple dozen bushes planted in odd corners of the yard may
be the extent of the blueberry growing.