We associate blueberries with the Southwest, snow-covered swamps with cranberries, lingonberries, and invisible blueberries darkened by waxy coatings peeking out from beneath them. Blueberry fruit trees have been cultivated for less than a century, with F.V. Coville (Frederick Vernon Coville) first starting the wild selection process in 1906, and the 15 selected varieties were put into commercial cultivation in 1937.
By the 1980s, the United States had selected and bred more than 100 excellent varieties adapted to the climatic conditions of various regions, forming the main economic production areas in Maine, Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, Minnesota, and Oregon. Following the United States, countries in South America, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Italy, England, Poland, Australia, Bulgaria, New Zealand, and Japan have entered commercial cultivation.
What is it about this berry that has won the hearts of gardeners so quickly that it is becoming a boom in our horticultural world? In two sentences describing its main biological characteristics, everything becomes clear. Every dacha, every garden needs such berries, and this article namely gives an overview of how to plant blueberry bushes, as well as the related growing techniques, care, and harvest.
Blueberries have the strongest anti-allergy properties, which is not unimportant in the context of the growing allergy addiction of the population.
They are effective in improving immunity to most diseases.
Blueberries are essential for the elderly as a preventive and therapeutic agent for aging. The berries slow down cellular aging, prolong brain activity, maintain memory and motor coordination. Blueberries are classified as a dietary product. They help strengthen the walls of blood vessels and have a therapeutic effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Have the ability to enhance the effect of medications taken by diabetics and contain oxidants.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT BLUEBERRIES
Blueberry is also known as Vaccinium uliginosum – a typical deciduous shrub species known in the native flora systematics as bog blueberry, bog, stunted. The plant belongs to the heath family. It has a very large number of folk synonyms, including blueberry, bog bilberry, bog blueberry, northern bilberry or western blueberry, most of which do not correspond to its properties (e.g. anesthetic effect on the body).
Vaccinium uliginosum is native to the cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, the lower elevations of the Arctic, and the Pyrenees, the Alps and the higher elevations south of the Caucasus in Europe, the Mongolian Mountains, northern China, the Korean Peninsula, and central Japan in Asia and the Sierra Nevada in California and the Rocky Mountains in Utah in North America.
A BRIEF BIOLOGICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE BLUEBERRY
For the novice gardener wishing to own this wonderful berry, it is vital to know its characteristics and external markings, which is especially important when buying “by hand” or from an unknown seller.
Blueberry is a semi-shrub or shrub that grows to 20-40inch (0.5-1m) tall. The numerous branch shoots, which become woody with age, form a continuous carpet. Shoots emerge from its root neck. Annual growth, foliage, and fruit decrease with age.
The root system of blueberry is reticulate and occupies the upper 6-8inch (15-20 cm) layer of the soil. Its roots have no suckering hairs, so in order to grow and develop properly, the plant needs to live in symbiosis with a specific mycorrhizal root through which it absorbs nutrients from the soil.
The leaves of blueberry are small – up to 1inch (2.5 cm), oblong, and obovate. They are arranged in alternating order. They are bluish in color. The leaves turn red and fall off in the fall, leaving gray berries on the bare branches.
The blueberry flowers are white with a pinkish tinge. The inflorescences merge into a pitcher shape and hang low. The flowers bloom from the end of May to the first decade of June. The flowers are arranged in clusters of 5-12 flowers and resemble small bunches of grapes when ripe, hence the name of the berry as well as blue grapes. Its inflorescence is usually located at the top of the shoot.
Blueberry fruit is a dark blueberry that turns blue when fully ripe due to a waxy coating. They can be round or slightly elongated. They take a long time to ripen between July and September and are harvested in several stages. Blueberries stay on the branch for 10 to 12 days, after which they begin to drop rapidly. The bushes can remain in one place and grow gradually for up to 100 years. They are frost-resistant and can withstand long periods of frost.
BLUEBERRY CULTIVATION TECHNIQUES
The advantage of cultivating blueberries is that it requires little protection against pests and diseases. Its requirements (which are sometimes difficult to meet) are another peculiarity. Blueberries grow only on acidic soils, pH = 3.5-5.0. There is another interesting peculiarity. Blueberry does not tolerate root inundation, but it grows quietly when groundwater stands 12-20inch (30-50cm) above the root system. There is another peculiarity. The culture is not tolerant of soils where other cultures have been grown for a long time, especially soils where organic matter has been applied for a long time. It is better to use waste areas that have not been used by other crops for a long time. This peculiarity is related to the development of the mycorrhizal roots of blueberries.
SITE SELECTION AND PLANTING PERIOD
Depending on the weather conditions in the region, 2- to 3-year-old blueberry seedlings can be planted in spring or autumn. In northern regions, it is preferable to plant seedlings in the spring in order to protect them from frost. The above-ground part of the culture can be completely frozen at -13°F to -4°F (-25 to -20°C).
Under natural conditions, blueberries conquer a sunny spot without constant wind. The site should also provide the right conditions. If grown in a place with insufficient light, the berries become crumbly and sour.
SOIL FOR BLUEBERRIES
Under natural conditions, blueberries grow in sandy and swampy areas with a sufficiently high organic content and in elevated bogs (which are more acidic).
To create suitable conditions for blueberries on their own plots, especially in areas with neutral acid soils, it is necessary to artificially acidify the soil in the root zone. This is easy to do in areas with peat bogs and more difficult in areas without conditions suitable for peat bog formation. How to proceed?
Prepare a sufficiently large planting hole of 24x24x20-30inch (60x60x50-80 cm) for blueberries. At the bottom, a good, high drainage system should be arranged. In areas with peat bogs, prepare a 1:1 soil mixture with topsoil peat. You can add to the peat conifer sawdust, sulfur, not more than 60 grams per pit, and sand. It is recommended to check the acidity of the soil mixture with litmus paper or indicator strips.
If the soil is loose and heavy, a bucket of completely decomposed mulch can be added as a loosener. Mature compost can be used for this purpose. Mix the mixture thoroughly and fill in the hole. Loosen the inner edge of the hole. To avoid the formation of a dense “sphere” between the soil mixture and the walls of the planting hole over time, this will prevent enough water and air from reaching the roots of the plants. The soil mixture in the planting hole will rest/mature for 1-2 months before the blueberry seedlings can be planted. No mineral fertilizers will be applied during planting.
If peat bogs are not available, they can be created artificially. Mix the soil with organic matter, coniferous sawdust, or pine needles. It is best to use used needles and sand as a loosening agent. Dilute 60-70 grams of oxalic or citric acid per 2.5 Gal (10 liters) of water. They can be replaced by 9% vinegar, 100 ml, or the same amount of malic acid. The acidity of the solution should not exceed 3.5-4.0%. The pit should be filled with the soil mixture, and a bucket of acid solution should be poured in. Check the acidity of the resulting soil mixture with an indicator or litmus paper. If necessary, add the acid solution. Do not use mineral fertilizers. The soil is left to mature.
PLANTING BLUEBERRY SEEDLINGS
Blueberries can easily spread as they occupy new territories. Therefore, bushes should be planted 30-60inch (0.8-1.5m) apart. Given that the roots need mycorrhizae for the culture to properly take root in the new location, seedlings should be bought in containers with closed root systems. When purchasing, be sure to test the containers containing the blueberry seedlings to see if they are newly planted. True container seedlings sit tightly in their containers. Freshly planted ones may have no mycorrhizal roots and therefore will not root, especially in artificially acidic soil.
Before planting, soak blueber