Freshly picked Maine blueberries. Summer doesn't get much sweeter than that.
This past weekend, we stumbled across a whole hedgefull of them, right in our backyard!
In life, you must keep your eyes wide open, because you can miss things right in front of you, if you aren't paying close enough attention. We have walked our property many, many, many times. We have scanned it, let the dogs run through it, free ranged it, raked it, and mowed it - but in the last year, not once had we ever noticed the three mature high-bush blueberry hedges lining the back fence in our yard. Not to mention the thrushes of wild raspberries and strawberries sprawling all over the ground below the hedges.
After stumbling upon some young daylilly bulbs in our sideyard, we began scanning the perimeter elsewhere in the yard to see if there were any more. We'd been trying to fill the front garden beds with flowers, but let's be honest, perennials are stinkin' expensive. Finding free ones was a pretty sweet surprise. The blueberries however, were the icing on the cake. I swear, we have given so much to this house and property, so this felt like a little "thank you" - like it was giving back.
We had wanted to add fruit to our already overflowing vegetable garden, but hadn't quite gotten to that part of our "want-to-do" list, yet. I don't think either of us realized that two raised beds would not be enough space for the number of edibles we wanted to grow/experiment with.
The plans for the afternoon we originally had were cancelled in favor of clearing out the overgrown branches, and accessing the pale green berries that are getting ready to ripen, for a mid-summer harvest. We picked a handful of early bloomers and that was all the encouragement we needed (yum!). In order to yeild the most berries possible, this year and in future seasons, we will have to do some serious pruning and build a trellis or two, for the creeping raspberries to climb on to better reach the sun's rays. Paths between and around the bushes would also be necessary in order to pick all that is available. Naturally, this lead to me wanting to make the space into something special, so we began work on a branch-built arbor for the pathway entrance. I can just see our little girl playing make-believe under the arbor in a matter of time.
Here are some tips on blueberry cultivation as we begin our initial research:
Blueberry bushes are cousins of azaleas and rhododendrons. All of which, are akin to acidic soil. To add acidity to your soil, consider purchasing azalea fertilizer, or compost. You can get compost from most landscaping companies, or create your own at home depending on how much time you have (years!). Spent coffee grounds and eggshells can also be added to the planting soil for greater nutrients.
To keep the bushes well hydrated, mulch 2-4 inches over the roots. You can also use your grass clippings after mowing the lawn to do this!
Most importantly is pruning - make sure to remove any low growth (on high-bush varieties) at the base, and cut out any dead wood or discolored branches. This will increase the berry production for picking in late July to mid-August.
If you have any tips of your own, please leave us a comment - we'd appreciate any insight!
Will share some updated photos of the berry patch and the branch arbor once we have it cleaned up! Fingers crossed we can pick enough to make some jam!