Blueberry Season


Blueberry season is here in Northern California. I have been growing southern highbush blueberries in the ground in our backyard for about three years now. I am growing the varieties Misty, O’Neal, Southmoon, Jubilee, and Sunshine. The above picture is our O’Neal bush.

Our blueberries have produced berries every year and have grown relatively well. They haven’t grown very fast or very large. They are only about two feet tall and about as wide. That puzzles me, because I have read that these varieties are supposed to reach 6 feet tall, except Sunshine which is a compact variety. I am not sure how long it would take to reach their full height or even if they are capable of doing so in our climate.

I don’t seem to be having a problem with soil pH, even though our soil tested at a pH of about 6.5. Blueberries are supposed to prefer a soil pH of about 5.5. The leaves of all 6 of our bushes look green and healthy, and the blueberries are very tasty. Each bush usually gets 50-100 berries. I have given them a sulfur additive once or twice a year and an occasional treatment of acidic water soluble fertilizer.

The main problem I have had with blueberries is birds eating the berries. The birds have eaten our berries as soon as they begin to turn blue. I have seen birds eating or attempting to eat the berries several times a day.

I have covered each of our bushes with bird netting to try to stop them. At first, the netting didn’t work very well. The birds just crawled under the netting or picked the berries right through the netting. They ate a significant percentage of the berries even with the bird netting covering the bushes. About a week ago, I added extra netting, tucked the netting tightly under each bush, and held the netting to the ground with large rocks. This configuration seems to be working well at keeping them from eating the berries.

The problem is that the berries are hard to pick now. Each time I want to pick the berries I have to go through the trouble of removing the netting from each bush and then recovering each bush well enough so that the birds can’t get in after I am finished.

I am already thinking about devising a better system that perhaps I could implement by next year. It would be much easier to have a wooden frame covered with chicken wire around each bush that could be easily removed and replaced to facilitate harvesting. Maybe I will have them built by next summer.

June 07 2009 10:08 pm | Blueberries