A Tribute to
Our Blueberries
Blueberries require two things: an acid soil and a way to foil the birds.
For good pollination, plant at least two varieties together.

Heavy pruning will give larger berries but a smaller and more early maturing crop.

 
They live a long time.

In many parts of the country the names huckleberry and blueberry are used interchangeably. Huckleberries have 10 definite stones and are gritty, much less suitable for cultivation than the small-seeded blueberry.

Until 1909 there were no garden varieties of blueberries. Dr. F. V. Coville of the United Sates Department of Agriculture started work on the cultivated fruit and found that the key to their culture was acid soil.
 
Ping relaxes after a day of chasing voles out of the berries.
 
 
 
 
 

Canning Jars Filled with Blueberries
  .  
 

Our Blueberries

We grow seven varieties of blueberries and find the crop to be reliable and relatively maintenance-free in our Zone 5B growing area. That does not mean that we can neglect their annual pruning in late fall or keeping the ground consistently watered in a dry spell. And, yes, we cage them to keep away the birds, ground squirrels (AKA chipmunks), skunks, raccoons, deer and other crepuscular foragers. Otherwise, its pick, pick, pick from July Fourth to the end of August. We can blueberry juice, dry berries in a dehydrator to use in place of raisins — a New England tradition — and freeze the smallest and best-tasting Herberts for Blueberry Buckle, an heirloom recipe derived from an Alaskan treat.



Berkeleys & Cheerios

Varieties We Grow:

Atlantic
• Mid- to late-season variety. Because of its habit of developing flavor after turning blue, the only way to know when the berries are ready to be picked is to nibble a few.

Berkeley • Bears sizable berries in big, loose clusters. Their taste develops as quickly as they turn blue, unlike Atlantic, which needs to mature on the bush to develop, so when they're blue, they're ready to pick and eat.

Bluecrop • Our most dependable and prolific producer, which is probably why we ended up with five plants. The berries reach an unbelievable size, many thumb-sized, and have a nice distribution on the branches, unlike Blueray, which grows in grape-like clusters.

Blueray • We've almost culled this several times, if it wasn't for its abundant production. Clusters need to be "thinned" to enable the remaining berries to grow and ripen. They are actually square from being squashed together. We sort out these first-picked "pinks" and use them to cook up an early-season cobbler.

Herbert • It is the smallest and most flavorful berry, resembling the wild "huckleberries" that grow on Spruce. Tedious to pick and susceptible to drying up if adequate water is not provided, they nevertheless remain our favorite eating and freezing berry.

Jersey • This is a late-season variety that is one of the oldest and most widely grown. The berries are dark blue, medium in size and very sweet.

Nelson • Nelson ripens late mid-season along with Berkeley. The fruit is large, firm and light blue with good flavor. We eat these along with Berkeley but turn the other jumbos into juice or use them in baking adventures.

Ivanhoe We grew this variety for several years and finally cut it down, heartbreaking as it was to destroy a full-grown bush. The berries, though prolific, tasted watery and even after giving it several seasons to get better, it never did.




One section of blueberry cages


We tried everything from inflatable owls to draping netting over the bushes before designing these cages covered with bird netting and pinned at the bottom with wires to keep our harvest to ourselves.

The birds faithfully patrol the orchard and while we appreciate their bug eating habits, we know from experience that a flock of Cedar Waxwings can demolish our entire crop in one afternoon's visit. So when the robins start plucking the green berries, we know it's time to set up the cages.




 

The blueberry is a highly specialized crop. It has exacting soil and climate needs. The initial cost of establishing blueberries is high because the first crops occur 5 to 7 years after planting.

Berries are not picked the first two years. Picking can begin in the fourth year and 4 to 6 pints can be expected to be harvested from each bush in the fifth year with 8 to 10 quarts per plant after the bushes are eight years old.

Good drainage is important. Water remaining on the surface for more than a day will harm the roots as they are very close to the surface and need plenty of aeration. Cultivate no deeper than 2 to 3 inches and only often enough to keep the weeds in check.


In Loving Memory
Maggie Hooton
September 3, 1942
December 2, 2010





Art tasting from a Herbert blueberry bush.


Bears like blueberries, too and I'm sure if he (or she) had a mind to barge through our netting, he or she could.

The orchard and berries are surrounded by an electric fence as it's been the only way to keep deer out of the apples.

It's sometimes difficult to remember that we are the intruders and that the animals we try to keep out are the natives.

Why shouldn't they help themselves to these delicious treats?


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