Have you considered growing blueberries? They are a bit of work but once you establish a routine with them, they are a lot of fun to grow! There are a few things you need to know.
Blueberries require very acidic soil.
Soil acidity/alkalinity is measured by pH. For most plants, the ideal soil pH is 6.5. For blueberries, it is 4.5-5.5! A soil test is necessary before planting blueberries to see where your pH is at initially, and you will probably need to amend your soil with sulfur to bring the pH down at first (your soil test will provide details). After that you can test your soil each year to make sure you are staying in range, or you can use a fertilizer that is specific to blueberries, like this one, according to package directions.
Blueberries need to be fertilized twice a year.
They need to be fertilized first when the buds begin to swell and again at half rate when they bloom. I fertilized the blueberries at Old Trail Farm on 4/9/20, when the buds looked like this
If you look closely, you can see the ring of fertilizer around the base of the bushes in the background. I use cottonseed meal because it is a natural fertilizer approved for use in certified organic operations, such as Old Trail Farm, and because it also acidifies the soil (a twofer!).
Blueberries need to be weeded and mulched around their base.
Blueberries, like all plants, need to be weeded and mulched around their base to keep the weeds from competing for nutrients and water, and to retain moisture and moderate soil temperatures. There is a pine grove at Old Trail Farm that produces plenty of pine needles, which are a perfect mulch for blueberries because they can also help keep the soil pH low as they break down.
Blueberries need to be pruned.
Blueberries need to be pruned in late winter or very early spring, while they are still dormant (before the buds begin to swell). There is an art to pruning blueberries, but that’s a topic for another day! When you are pruning, fertilizing, and mulching your blueberries in the spring, always be on the lookout for these weird blobs.
No, this isn’t an alien pod, it’s a praying mantis ootheca (pronounced oo-uh-THEE-ka), or egg sack. Baby praying mantises will emerge once the weather warms up and if you are fortunate enough to spot them, they are adorable! More about oothecas and a baby mantis pic here.
Have a gardening question? To submit a question to “Victory Garden Gurus,” email Ginnette at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ginnette Simko is Countryside’s Farm Manager. Maggie Rivera is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Educator at OSU-E, Cuyahoga County. She will also provide you an answer to your gardening questions in our next advice column. You can also consult OSU’s Ask an Expert online!