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Monday, May 12 2014 00:27

Gardening: Planting BrazelBerries at Rock Father HQ, and the 4 Ps of Growing Blueberries...

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This year, we're trying some new things here in the Gardens of Rock Father HQ.  This being our fifth full season here at the homestead, I'm always on the lookout for things we can do differently, plants we've never tried, and some general fun and learning adventures that the girls and I can share in together. One from this past week involves some edibles - specifically Raspberries and Blueberries, neither of which have ever been grown here in the past. The folks at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery in Oregon shipped us a few varieties from their BrazelBerries collection to try out - varieties that should do well here in Northern Illinois.

BrazelBerries are interesting in that they've been designed to have ornamental qualities, which means they look fantastic, while being easy to grow in containers for home gardeners. We received the Blueberry Glaze and Jelly Bean blueberries, along with a pair of Raspberry Shortcake plants. For this project, Addie and I selected a quartet of new square planters, and got them all ready to go (or grow) on our back deck.

Planting Berries!

With our adventure just getting started, the folks at Fall Creek provided what they call "The 4 Ps of Growing Delicious Blueberries," and I'm going to share those with you as well, as we'll be following them on our berry adventure this summer...

"While I know a lot about the blueberry business, I do not have a green thumb like the rest of my family. However, blueberries are relatively simple and even I have great success with my blueberry plants at my home. Simply following these four simple tips help bushes flourish with berries season after season."Amelie Brazelton Aust, Fall Creek Farm & Nursery
Planting

The first secret to success is planting the right variety. BrazelBerries® blueberries are perfect for growing in patio pots, raised beds and directly in the garden.

BRAZELBERRIES-Peach-Sorbet-Home gardeners and cooks who grow BrazelBerries know these small edible fruit bushes are simple to grow, beautiful in the landscape and delicious to eat.

Once you have the blueberry bush, it's important to plant it in the right place. Blueberries need at least six hours of sun each day. "It's the sun that makes berries sweet and juicy, so plant in a very sunny spot," says Aust.

Next, consider the soil. "Blueberries love acidic soils," says Aust. A pH of 4.5-5.5 is ideal. A simple soil test indicates acidity, which can easily be adjusted with amendments. Both soil kits and amendments are available at any local garden center.

Aust recommends giving the plant's roots plenty of growing room when planting in a container. "Plant them in pots 16 inches or more in diameter and water deeply and regularly to make sure all of the soil within the pot is moist to the point that water is dripping from the pot's bottom drainage holes."

Pruning

Cutting beautiful branches off any plant can be daunting. Aust says, "The truth is that blueberries over-produce, and pruning helps it to put enough energy into producing the best plant and big, yummy fruit for the next season." Pruning also gives the bush more space between its branches and allows air to flow freely through the plant, helping to prevent disease.

"It's best to prune blueberries in late winter when the plants are still dormant," says Aust, "but I've pruned mine in the spring too before flowering, and they've done great." Remove all the stems that are damaged, old or dead. Aust says not to be afraid to take out up to a quarter or even a third of the bush, then trim it up to a neat and tidy look.

Fertilizing is recommended in early spring. "Add an acid fertilizer such as those for rhododendrons and azaleas," Aust suggests. "I tend to throw on half a handful of slow-release fertilizer. A high-nitrogen organic fertilizer such as blood meal or acidic cottonseed meal works great too." She recommends a second fertilizer application in late spring to give the plants an extra burst of energy for fruit production. If you're not sure which fertilizer to use, ask an expert at your local garden center.

fall creek bucket of berriePicking

With planting and pruning in the bag, the next step-picking-is the pay off. Be sure to watch your berries carefully and pick them before the birds do.
Here's what you can expect from each BrazelBerries variety:

Peach Sorbet blueberry: Juicy, sweet blueberries appear in mid-summer on plants with stunning leaves ranging from peach to pink to orange to emerald green.

Jelly Bean blueberry: Large, flavorful, super-sweet blueberries reminiscent of homemade jelly in mid-summer with super sweet flavor like homemade blueberry jelly.

Blueberry Glaze blueberry: Bundles of small, almost black, and intensely flavored wild-like berries packed with antioxidants are ready for mid-summer.

Protecting

A little protection provided by the home gardener ensures the blueberry bush will thrive for another bountiful season. If birds are a problem, cover with bird netting in the spring to keep critters away. Birds are less likely to eat the fruit when the plants are in containers on the patio.

Winter weather poses the biggest risk to berry bushes. "In very cold regions, apply a deep layer of mulch around the base of the bush to protect the roots," Aust says. "Blueberries in pots are even easier to protect from winter weather- if you are in a really cold area, just move the pots into an unheated garage or against a building and cover with thick mulch, burlap or a blanket."

Both Peach Sorbet and Blueberry Glaze are hardy to USDA Zone 5, while Jelly Bean withstands the slightly colder conditions of USDA Zone 4.

Spring's sudden cold snaps endanger emerging growth, as well. Again, Aust suggests covering blueberry bushes with burlap or blankets when the forecast calls for frost once buds and flowers are emerging. "Spring's warm days can be deceptive," Aust says. "Keep an eye on the weather, and before night falls, cover and protect that tender new growth."

Following these tips will ensure success with your blueberries season after season.

For more information on all things berry, visit the BrazelBerries® Collection website at www.BrazelBerries.com.

And, for updates on how our berries are doing here at Rock Father HQ, be sure to follow me on Instagram!

James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, a writer for the Netflix #StreamTeam, and serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. Current special projects include promotional campaigns for PJ Masks (eOne/Disney Junior) and Beat Bugs (Netflix). 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for Napalm Records' PRODUCT OF HATE.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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