I love blueberries and buy them year round - fresh, canned or frozen - but have never grown them.
I intend to remedy this in the spring with a container planting right outside the back door.
Blueberries need an acidic soil. Because our area soil is not naturally low in pH, it is necessary to use additives such as those marketed for azaleas. I always keep that on hand to maintain the blue coloring in my hydrangea.
Blood meal, cottonseed meal and peat moss also are effective in lowering the pH to the necessary 4.0-5.0 mark.
The best way to manage the soil is to fill a container, and I plan to use the large pot that used to be my water pot. It has no drainage at the moment, but if I leave the plastic container in the ground to experience the expected freeze and thaw cycles, it probably will crack and create its own drainage system.
There are three main types of blueberry bushes, although hybrids with the advantages of each are being developed. Highbush is the most suitable for our zone, rather than lowbush or rabbiteye.
Blueberries need a climate with cold winters, mild summers and some humidity with adequate rainfall.
The bushes are shallow rooted, and it is recommended to plant two different varieties for cross pollination, although the highbush is supposed to be self-pollinating. This would also give a longer fruiting season.
Use a couple of inches of mulch to keep the soil moist.
Much like buying asparagus plants, it is good to look for 2- or 3-year-old plants because they do not bear fruit until the third season and take another few years until the harvest is plentiful.
I would like to hear from people who grow blueberries successfully in Seneca County and have advice to share.
Here are a couple of tips for the kitchen.
The skins may be tough, so put the berries in a pan with a little water and bring them slowly to the boil, then rinse and dry before use. And to prevent the berries from falling to the bottom of the pan or muffin papers, be sure they are dry and sprinkle with a little flour.
Rinsing also prevents that off-putting gray color that sometimes spoils the look of the muffins.
Here is a recipe I like. It can be baked in a loaf pan, cake tins or muffin cups. I don't know the source of the recipe; I have used and adapted it over the years and it is not written down.
I like it because I always have the ingredients on hand and do not have to run to the store for buttermilk or yogurt or the like.
Cream together a stick of softened butter and a cup of sugar. Add 2 eggs and half a cup of milk. Mix in a cup of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and some lemon flavoring.
This can be grated lemon zest or dried or fresh leaves of lemon balm and a few drops of lemon juice.
Stir in up to 2 cups of rinsed blueberries. You can top the batter with a mixture of brown sugar and butter for a crunchy topping, and then bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. This yields 12 muffins.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.