“They’re so easy to freeze,” explained Deborah. “I spread them one deep on a rimmed cookie sheet, discarding any leaves, stems, or wrinkled berries. I put the cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours. When the berries are frozen, I measure them into plastic bags, one cup per bag. A pie takes five cups—five bags—so it’s easy.”
The three blueberries plants came with the property when Patton and Akers bought the historic, 1855 farmhouse seven years ago, so Deborah doesn’t know the specific varieties. “The first plant starts bearing in June, followed by the second plant. The third bears from mid-July through mid-September,” she said.
“Blueberries take a relatively low level of care,” Deborah said. “Jim has fertilized them once or twice with a low-pH azalea fertilizer. We get so many berries we really haven’t bothered to monitor the pH of the soil. We don’t need to spray for disease or insect pests. We should do annual renewal pruning resulting in 5 or 6 main stalks, but we’ve had so many berries we haven’t even done that.”
They also water with a soaker hose in dry weather. “Not enough water—smaller berries. More water—larger berries,” Deborah continued. “We put down sheets of newspaper and hardwood mulch to keep weeds under control.”
Critter problems? “Catbirds love blueberries, and a mockingbird thinks he owns the place,” she answered. To keep the birds out, they’ve surrounded the three plants with a structure made from 1” PVC pipe and covered with black bird netting they purchased at a farm-supply store.
“We cannot just throw the netting over our plants because they are too tall,” she said. “So we built the PVC cage. The upright pipes just slip into holes Jim drilled with an auger he bought at a local hardware store. All the PVC sections are connected with PVC connectors. We didn’t glue it all together because we take it down when we stop picking in September. It’s also important to close the bottom of the netting well or birds will sneak in under it.”
Bushes 1 and 2 have just about ended production for 2010. Bush 3 is covered with bunches of berries beginning to ripen.
“We eat them,” she said. “You wouldn’t believe how many blueberry recipes I have. We give some away. But the surplus goes into our freezer, and I bake somewhere between 20 and 40 pies each year and give them away as thank-you’s.” Eat your heart out, Hallmark Cards.
Secret of a great blueberry pie?
“Lemon zest and juice,” Deborah explained. “You’ve got to add some lemon.”
And, of course, you’ve got to freeze those extra summertime blues.
Additional information: If you want to learn more about blueberries and other small fruits, CLICK HERE to go to the University of Maryland Extension’s HGIC Publication 68, “Getting Started with Small Fruit.” The 4-page publication includes background information plus lists of varieties and a comment about each.
See recipe below in comments!