In the Garden: It's blueberry season

There's no fool like an old fool, especially if the "fool" is a 16th century summer dessert of fruit, whipped cream, sugar, and even rose water.

And what better summer berry than your own homegrown blueberries?

Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum), are so named because the large, dark berries grow on bushes that grow six to eight feet high. There are thankfully dwarf blueberries such as the variety "Tophat" that can be grown in a large tub or planter.

Blueberries are partially self fertile but for bigger crops plant more than one variety. For a continuous crop try mixing early varieties such as "Patriot" with a mid season berry such as "Bluecrop" or "Blueray" followed by a later blueberry such as "Elliott" or "Jersey." You can order them at local nurseries or bay mail form places such as Raintree (www. raintreenursery.com) or Miller's (www. millernurseries.com).

Blueberries only real demand is that they must have soil that is very acidic, with a pH between 4 and 5.5. You can make your soil more acidic by adding leaves especially oak leaves, pine needles, and peat moss. You can also add the mineral sulfur the fall before you plant your blueberries. For best results always have your soil tested.

Plant blueberry bushes in a wide shallow hole, about two feet deep about six feet apart. For good drainage and acidity fill the hole with a mix of soil, peat moss, and sand. Cover the ground with a three-inch layer of organic mulch such as straw, pine needles, or leaves.

Mulch will smother weeds and help keep the roots cool and moist. Most of a blueberry's root system lies within a few inches of the soil surface so be careful if you hoe or weed around them.

Even though blueberries do not like rich soil, you may need to fertilize them if your soil is especially poor. Use organic fertilizer such as soybean meal or alfalfa meal, at the rate of 1/4 to 2 cups scattered around each plant.

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