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All About Blueberries

Blueberries are delicious fresh, baked, juiced, frozen, blended and dried. They are also one of the healthiest foods you can eat! Blueberries contain more than 14mg of Vitamin C and .8 mg of Vitamin E per cup, and according to data from the USDA Research Centre for Aging, blueberries are one of the fruits with the highest antioxidant activity. Blueberries also contain compounds which promote urinary tract health by preventing infections. These compounds stop bacteria from sticking to the cells that line the walls of the urinary tract, according to researchers at Rutgers University. The pectin content within the fiber of blueberries has also been proven to lower blood cholesterol. No matter how you choose to enjoy them, blueberries should be an important part of your diet!

Planting Blueberries
Blueberries prefer an acidic and loamy position in sun to light shade. They need consistent moisture, but will not tolerate standing water. You may need to build up the blueberry bed with peat or mulch if you have poor drainage. Peat moss, and composted hemlock and fir, are good soil conditioners for the home garden. Avoid manures, they will make the soil alkaline. Take care when cultivating around the roots as they are easily damaged.

Small Space Gardening
Blueberries can live happily on a patio in a container so long as the water requirements are met and some afternoon heat and sun protection can be provided. You can find partially self fertile varieties such as Northsky among others. However, your yield can be dramatically increased if you add another variety that will bloom at the same time. Dwarf or lowbush types can happily live together in a large enough planter with enough room for a bee attracting ground cover such as Sweet Alyssum. In the winter ensure the pots are pulled close to the house or insulated with tarps or other material to prevent them from freezing. Remember, the roots are very susceptible to the freeze-thaw cycle that our winters are famous for when they are exposed in planters.

Pollination and Fruiting
Most blueberries will produce fruit on their own but plant additional variety for better cross pollination and larger yield.

Blueberries will have two growth spurts. In the spring they will flower on ends of previous season’s growth and these flowers, if pollinated, will become the first crop of blueberries. The second bloom will occur on the ends of the new shoots growing from the base of the plant. These will become your second crop of blueberries.

Encourage pollinating insects such as orchard bees, honey bees, bumble bees, horn faced bees and others by creating insect habitats and by avoiding pesticides. Remember, no bees = no blueberries!

Fertilizing
Late winter and spring, you can apply peat, leaf mould, pine needles, organic liquid fertilizer for acid-loving plants, or a mix of sulphate of ammonia, sulphate of potash and bonemeal. You can check with Art's for the recommended rates of application.

Pruning
For the first 2 or 3 years, remove only dead or damaged branches. After that, remove a few of the older branches each year and replace with some of the new canes. Thin out some of the weaker twigs.

Harvest
Blueberry season goes from July to September in the Pacific Northwest. The fruit on each variety ripens over a 2-5 week period.

Storage
Blueberries can be kept in the fridge for 2-5 days and can also be frozen for later use. One of the best ways to freeze blueberries is to place them on waxed paper on a cookie sheet until frozen, and then pop them into freezer bags.

Article written by Laurelle @ The Urban Fruitery

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