I’m dreaming of free blueberries

2 04 2009

img_1608These may look pitiful now but I’m hoping that within a few years these three blueberry bushes will produce enough to keep my  blueberry-loving family supplied for a year.

My husband and I have talked for years about growing our own blueberries but were scared off by the information we read about the soil needing to be just right — not to mention the recurrent droughts we have here in the Piedmont of North Carolina.

Last year, after we had an irrigation system installed, we decided maybe the time was right to try our hand at blueberry farming. We chose a sunny spot on the side of our home that borders a stone walkway leading from the front to the backyard.

This is probably the appropriate time to note that I am using the pronoun “we” here rather loosely. My dreaming, my suggesting. His research, his digging, his sweat. You get the picture, I’m sure.

Our first round of soil testing — free of charge, by the way — came from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Click here for more information on the free services offered.

Then we added aluminum sulfate and peat moss to lower the pH of the soil. A second soil test showed we were in the correct range so the plants will go in the ground this weekend, weather permitting.

After researching what types of blueberry bushes to get, we settled on two Rabbiteye and one Southern Highbush. You need at least two types, we learned, for cross pollination to increase the yield and quality of the fruit.

From these two types, we chose three different varieties, which will bear fruit at varying times in the blueberry growing season. This will spread the wealth, so to speak, and won’t inundate us with fruit once the bushes grow larger.

After consulting with a strawberry and blueberry farmer we know, as well as a North Carolina master gardener, we decided to purchase the bushes from Finch’s Blueberry Nursery just outside Bailey in eastern North Carolina. Click here to check out the website.

img_1610We initially thought we would have to pick all the blooms off this year to encourage growth of the plant, but the folks at Finch’s said that was only necessary with bare-root plants. Since these have been growing in pots for three years, Finch’s said we could allow the plants to bear fruit this year.

That was music to my ears. We may only get a couple of bowlfuls this season but they will be oh-so-sweet.

So far, our start-up costs on this little adventure in agriculture have been minimal. The plants were just $12 each. The soil prep materials cost us just under $20. The soil testing was free. So for an initial investment of $56, we should have berries for years to come.

Now if we can just keep the birds away.

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14 05 2009
An update on our blueberry crop « Free to be Frugal

[…] bushes were looking spindly and rather pitiful as they awaited planting. You can read the full post here and see photos of just how pitiful the three bushes looked. While that original post was […]

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