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Add Blueberries to Your Landscape

Triangle Gardener podcast logoFall is the best time to plant blueberries and the new compact varieties perform well in small spaces. A group of special correspondents join the show and reveal what it’s like to grow blueberries down under. Check out the script below for behind the scenes pictures. Thanks to Garden Destinations for making this story possible. Garden Destinations logo

 

 


JENKINS

I remember picking blueberries in my grandfather’s garden. Their branches towered over me and they tasted so sweet. I’m sure I ate more than I picked. But those memories kept me from adding blueberries to my landscape. Happy times. So why have I shied away from them?

Working on this story I learned that sweeping changes are revealed in the smallest of things …..  and that kids know what’s really important

I’m Lise Jenkins and this is the Triangle Gardener show.  We are your guide to enjoyable gardening in North Carolina. Support from Garden Destinations made this story possible and  you can find them at GardenDestinations.com

JENKINS

North Carolina farmers grow a lot of blueberries. With over 7,000 acres of blueberry farms our state is the #6 producer in our country and last year our farmers harvested over 330,000 pounds of blueberries. And while that sounds like a lot, that same year American farmers sold over 550 million pounds. That’s a lot of blueberries. 

Clearly we love ‘em, but I don’t know many gardeners who grow them. Like me many homeowners don’t have the space to accommodate the familiar highbush and rabbiteye varieties.  But that’s changing. 

HARDGROVE

Normally we also grow larger rabbiteyes and other tall large blueberries, but in recent years we’ve had a request, a demand actually, for smaller edibles.  Blueberries and other plants for container growing or raised beds or just smaller lawns. Yard sizes are getting smaller.   

JENKINS

That’s Reid Hardgrove. He’s a sales representative for McCorkle Nurseries in Dearing, GA. Reid has worked in the green industry for over 20 years and it’s his job to know what gardeners want; so I trust his assessment of American gardening. Reid experiences first hand what news organizations are reporting. As American homes get larger and our yards are getting smaller. 

According to the Census Bureau our population is aging and we are moving out of rural areas into cities and towns. In 2016 we tipped from the majority of our population living in rural areas to now the majority are living in cities. 

I’ve learned that big, national trends like an aging population living in cities in with smaller yards are played out in the size of a blueberry bush. Reid introduced me to some of the newest varieties of compact edibles that can be grown in containers. 

HARDGROVE

Three or four different varieties that come to mind when you talk about container gardening with edibles would be first, ‘Baby Cakes’ blackberry. It’s from the Bushel and Berry collection. It’s a self pollinator, very compact with a medium size fruit in early summer.  A second one that we are really proud of is ‘Cutie Pie’ blueberry which is from Gardener’s Confidence collection. It’s also a self pollinator, 3-4’ wide.  It has a petite, dark blue berry in the early summer. One other that we are really proud of is the ‘Blue Suede’ blueberry and that’s one of our first blueberries introduced into the Gardener’s Confidence collection some years ago. It’s a self pollinator and yes, it can get up to 4-5’ but is still great for container gardening or raised beds. It has large sweet blueberries.

JENKINS

I have to confess, I have a small garden and I’ve tried one of these dwarfs. They’re great plants.

HARDGROVE

More people are wanting their plants to pull double duty. Not only do they want their plants to be aesthetically pleasing and give them beautiful fall color or nice shrub structure, but they also want something that will give them food. These new varieties as well as some old standbys can be put into the landscape and give them what they’re looking for.

JENKINS

So what are people looking for? It turns out we want desert. Now, here’s where my story takes a bit of a detour. Well, actually it’s a ten thousand mile detour.

KEELY

Hi, I’m Keely. I’m 10 and I’m from Australia. Today I’m going to be talking to you about brilliant blueberries. Everybody loves spending a Saturday night on the couch watching a movie on the couch with Mom and Dad eating blueberry pie. Add some ice cream and you’ve got a perfect dessert.

JENKINS

Keely and her classmates are in Mr. Bowman’s fourth grade class outside of Melbourne, Australia. And they’re podcasters. They report on the things that matter to them —toys, animals and plants. 

And it turns out they subscribe to this show. So when Mr. Bowman contacted me about some of the episodes the kids had created I asked him if his students would like to tell us about growing blueberries down under.  

They did.

Turns out growing blueberries in Australia isn’t all that different from growing blueberries here in North Carolina. 

ADAM

Hi, my name is Adam and I’m 9 yrs old and I live in Australia. Today I’ll be talking about blueberries.  Most people know about blueberries and if you’re one of those people who don’t know about blueberries then listen up because I’ll be teaching you things about blueberries. First thing, when you buy the plant it does not need to have leaves. 

JENKINS

Adam’s right. As our weather cools down plants begin to go dormant and that can be a great time to plant. Around here our soils don’t freeze so their roots will keep growing without having to expend energy on the plant’s top growth.  

Our next correspondent echos Reid’s point about growing blueberries in containers. She also tells us why blueberries are perfect to grow here in North Carolina.

LILY

Hi my name is Lily, I’m 9 years old and I come from Australia.  Today I’m going to be talking about brilliant blueberries. Growing blueberries in a pot is the smartest way to grow them, that’s why I’m going to tell you how. First you need to check the pH of the soil. It can’t be alkaline, it needs to be acidic.

JENKINS

Why fight the acidic soil we typically find in our region? Blueberries want soil with a pH between 4.0 to 5.3.  They tend to have shallow roots so mix a lot of organic matter into the top 4-6” of your planting beds. If you are planting into containers incorporate native soil and check the pH.  

Our last correspondent warns of us about something I’ve struggled with too.

KUSHAGRA

Hi my name is Kushagra and I’m in year 4 and I’m 10 yrs old and I’m from Australia. I’m going to explain to you why spectacular blueberries are the best. Wouldn’t you want to have the most lovable blueberries ice cream in town? You can. Now you can have it at home. If you want to know how, keep listening.  Before you make that yummy blueberry ice cream you have to know the 3 dangerous Ps. Which are the pH to grow, as well as the naughty possums, and the plum pigeon. 

First of all the pH should be 4.5-5.5 to grow healthy blueberries. Secondly the possums are a big interruption to your healthy blueberry bush because they can completely demolish the bush. Lastly you better be aware of those plum pigeons and many other birds because they can eat the blueberries and the brand new buds.

JENKINS

Back in my garden it seems the birds haven’t yet discovered my dwarf blueberries. I’m wondering if they hesitate to get down so low to the ground. What makes these berries a little harder to pick might also keep them out of sight of the birds.

I’ve been able to tuck five different compact varieties into my front planting beds. They look like regular bedding plants so my neighbors don’t know I’m growing food right out front. Well, they may have their suspicions when they see me nibbling away. 

So grow what you love. Turns out that we all love blueberries.

These kids know their stuff and I’m thrilled that they were able to share their stories with you.  I’ve added pictures of the kids in their classroom studio on our website, TriangleGardener.com.

I want to say a special thanks to Mr. Bowman’s podcasters for contributing to this episode and to Garden Destinations for their continued support of our show.

I’m Lise Jenkins and this is the Triangle Gardener show.  

We’ve decided to try something new for next season. It seems that we are facing insurmountable issues —rising temperatures, habitat loss and other serious environmental problems. I feel like it’s beyond the scope of anything I can fix. But the experts I’ve been interviewing for next season are changing my mind. They’re showing me that my garden does matter and how I manage it can make a difference. I’m really excited about what’s coming and I hope you’ll come back when we return. 

Until then you can find this and other episodes of our podcast on our website TriangleGardener.com, iTunes, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts. We’ll be back soon. Thanks for listening.