Growing up in New England my father had 8 mature northern highbush blueberry bushes. They were each about 5-6 feet tall and in the summer months we would picked about a gallon of blueberries every couple days. We ate them like candy all throughout those warm months. I moved to southern California after college and quickly realized that buying blueberries in those quantities at the grocery store was extremely expensive and really not feasible. It was then that I said to myself that I would plant a bunch of blueberry bushes if I ever owned my own house. A decade later I finally had my chance.
What to plant? Where to plant? How many do I really want?
My backyard has a brick raised bed garden which is about 12 foot deep by 16 feet wide. We also have a 2.5 by 45 foot planting bed along side a concrete wall which gets about 6-8 hours of sun each day. Both are perfect spots for blueberries. I started off slow by planting five bushes along the wall in the garden – two Pink Lemonade Blueberries and three Star Blueberries. The hope was that once the bushes matured they would soften the look of the harsh concrete wall and of course give us yummy fruit during summer months. In our growing zone (9-10) the bushes do not loose all the leaves in the winter so we would have green in that area all year long.
The plants have done well in the garden, but I wanted more than just a few handfuls of berries a year. I just couldn’t wait until they fully matured, so I did some investigation and found a variety called “Bountiful Blue” which not only didn’t shed it’s leaves at all in the winter (instead turning a lovely red), but also was a heavy berry producer. They are supposed to grow well in pots, so I placed them outside our french doors in blue pots. When planting blueberries in pots make sure to add in a lot of peat moss to whatever other medium you are using. It will help with drainage and is also acidic, which Blueberries love!
Although they are far from mature, we are already getting about a thousand berries per season from these two plants; and since they are right outside of our door it is easy to pick any moment of the day.
A year later – with a toddler now in the house and eating all of our backyard berries it was time to think about more bushes…. yes more! Our long planted bed – mentioned above – was now full of lovely young fruit tress (that story is for another post). This left a good amount of space between each tree where you could only see the “lovely” concrete wall. I needed to get some greenery into those spaces. After some online searches I came upon O’Neal Blueberries. I liked it because it is a highbush variety that should reach 5-6 feet tall, which is perfect to hide some of that wall. Also, it is said to be one of the sweetest Southern blueberries. I bought 4 plants to perfectly fill up space between trees. Once planted, I noticed that the berries were fairly large and the taste sure was lovely. Can’t wait until this grows taller and provides more berries.
So now after 5 years of home ownership and constantly rethinking what edibles should be growing in my yard I now have 11 blueberry bushes of various sizes, shapes and tastes. Let’s see if I can stop myself from buying anymore in the future!