Growing Blueberries and Foodscaping Your Garden Gardening | 10 July 2015 Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Here’s how to figure out if you should grow blueberries: ask yourself, “Do I like eating the most delicious berry ever? Do I have some sunny space in my yard or a large planter?” If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” you should probably grow blueberries. (Like most edible gardening, deciding what to grow can be pretty simple–if you like it, grow it.) In his book, Foodscaping: Practical and Innovative Ways to Create an Edible Landscape, author Charlie Nardozzi invites readers to combine decorative plants with edibles, blending beds of flowers, herbs, and vegetables in beautiful and delicious arrangements (including an intriguing partnership of growing blueberries alongside peppers). While blueberries need an acidic soil, other plants, such as this pepper, still can thrive around them if not planted too close. You can also use plants, such as this white agave, in containers to accent the blueberry bush. Photo credit: Troy Marden / Foodscaping The Blueberry Plant I formally nominate blueberries as “The Most Perfect Foodscaping Shrub.” This plant can be a low-growing groundcover or up to a 12-foot-tall foundation plant. It produces white flowers in spring, delicious blue or pink (!) berries in summer, and has brilliant red fall foliage color. Even the stems are red and contrast well with snow in winter. The fruits are a popular raw snack (they often never make it into the house from my yard), but they also can be used to make muffins, breads, and desserts as well as frozen for use in shakes and pies. How to Use Blueberries in Foodscaping Blueberries are hardy in zones 3 to 9, depending on the type. Plant lowbush blueberries in a rock garden, along walkways, or as a groundcover in front of an acid-loving shrub or tall flower. Plant half-high and highbush blueberries as foundation plants, in an island with other medium-sized, acid-loving shrubs, or as a hedge. Attractive Blueberry Varieties It’s best to plant early-, mid-, and late-season varieties to extend the harvest window. In warm areas, look for southern highbush or rabbiteye blueberry varieties, such as ‘Tifblue’, ‘Sunshine Blue’, and ‘Southblue’. These are hardy to zone 7 and can grow from 6 to 12 feet tall. Northern growers can grow highbush varieties, such as ‘Patriot’, ‘Jersey’, and ‘Bluecrop’. These grow up to 6 feet tall. Half-high varieties that grow 2 to 4 feet tall include ‘Northland’ and ‘North Sky’. ‘Tophat’ is a 2-foot-tall selection that grows well in containers. ‘Pink Lemonade’ is a newer highbush variety with pink fruits. Good Companions for Blueberries Blueberries like acidic soil, so they’ll grow well with other plants that appreciate this soil type, such as small-leafed rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and heather. Bee balm, currants, and gooseberries can withstand slightly acidic soils and grow near blueberries as well. Blueberries (above) are hardy in most landscapes and even can grow in containers if protected in cold climates. Photo credit: Troy Marden / Foodscaping Planting Blueberries Plant blueberry plants in spring after all danger of frost has passed in a full-sun location on well-drained, moist, acidic soil. Based on a soil test, treat the soil with sulfur to lower the pH to below 5.0 before planting. Blueberry roots are shallow and require good amounts of moisture to grow well. Growing Blueberries Mulch the plants with sawdust, chopped leaves, shredded bark, or pine needles to maintain proper soil moisture levels (moist, well-drained) and prevent weeds. Blueberries have shallow roots so can dry out quickly, resulting in smaller berries. Add sulfur to acidify the soil in spring, and fertilize in spring and early summer with an acidifying fertilizer for blueberries. Protect young plants with a fence to prevent rabbits and voles from chewing the branches and trunk. Cover mature plants with bird netting as the berries ripen. Prune shrubs only after seven years to remove old, broken, diseased, or damaged branches. Move container-grown blueberries to a protected location, such as an unheated garage or basement, in winter. Harvesting Blueberries Harvest blueberries once they turn completely blue or pink. Harvesting too early results in tart-tasting fruits. Hang a bucket around your neck so you can use both hands when picking. ——————————————————————————— Foodscaping Buy from an Online Retailer About Foodscaping: Keep your lawn and eat it too – Foodscaping will show you how to grow food without giving up your view. Foodscaping is what it sounds like – a combination of landscaping and food. This gardening resource is chock-full of real-world examples, photos, and advice so that even an “average Joe” homeowner and gardener can grow food without sacrificing either their lawn or their home’s appearance to do so. While “edible” and “ornamental” aren’t always synonymous, they can be combined, with the right plants, placement, and advice from author and edible gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie’s ideas allow you to add food plants wherever you like. Incorporating food-bearing plants as hedgerows and barriers or in small spaces, containers, window boxes and many more ideas allow you to expand the types of plants you can use and even extend your growing season! For example, blueberry bushes provide not just fruit, but also wonderful fall color. Arbors and pergolas are perfect supports for edible plants and even simplify harvest. Squash and cabbage have attractive, interesting leaf textures, so they can be a part of the ornamental garden. Foodscaping also goes beyond mere plant selection. The basics of gardening, planting, pruning, dealing with pests, watering, feeding, and harvesting are all covered in detail, ensuring your success in creating a beautiful, edible landscape for your home. About the Author: Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, speaker, and radio and television personality. He brings expert gardening information to home gardeners through radio, television, lectures, the Internet, and the printed page. Charlie delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun, and accessible to everyone. Charlie has his own radio and television shows, is a well-known public speaker, and is the author of Cool Springs Press’ Northeast Fruit & Vegetable Gardening (2012), Vegetable Gardener’s Journal and Magnet Gift Set(2014), New England Getting Started Garden Guide, and the upcoming Foodscaping (2015). Learn more about Charlie on his website, Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. 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