In the Garden: Growing Blueberries

    In the Garden: Growing Blueberries
    Photo: REUTERS

    This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

    Blueberries are generally grown in northern climates with cool winters and mild summers. But some newer varieties do well in very cool or very warm climates.

    The major kinds of blueberry plants are highbush, half-high, lowbush and rabbiteye. Highbush plants can grow almost two meters tall.

    Rabbiteye plants like warmer temperatures. Some of these bushes grow three meters tall.

    Blueberry plants do best in soil that is acidic.

    Plant expert Steve Renquist at Oregon State University says blueberry plants can grow well in containers. He says dwarf varieties are a good choice. These plants are often less than half a meter tall.

    STEVE RENQUIST: "Blueberry plants have a pretty shallow root system. It is not particularly vigorous. And so that is why they do well in pots, because of the light soil mixture. But they also require, then, fairly frequent watering because they are going to dry out a little faster. With any plant, a pot dries out faster, the pot does, than any plant that is in the soil."

    If you consider growing blueberries at home, you might think about placing some shorter plants in pots. Steve Renquist says potted blueberries should be watered almost every day if temperatures are twenty-one degrees Celsius and above. He says potted blueberry plants should also be given fertilizer.

    Blueberry plants do not need a lot of pruning. Instead, just a little thinning is needed, or as Steve Renquist puts it, "a stem here and a stem there."

    STEVE RENQUIST: "We've had a number of them growing in our master gardener locations both in the ground and in pots. And we notice that we need to reinvigorate and repot them about every four or five years."

    Blueberries are sold fresh, frozen and processed, and used in baked goods and other foods. Major production states include Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida on the East Coast; Michigan in the Midwest; and Oregon, Washington and California on the West Coast.

    Maine produces wild blueberries, but most commercial growers in other states use cultivated highbush plants. The North American harvest runs from the middle of April through early October.

    The US Highbush Blueberry Council points out that the blueberry is one of the few fruits native to North America. The United States and Canada are the world's largest producers and consumers of blueberries. But South America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe have also developed highbush blueberry industries. And demand is growing in other markets as well, especially Japan.

    And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. For more gardening advice, go to I'm Karen Leggett.