Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for June 11, 2018
Blueberries are in season in south Louisiana mainly during the month of June. Some varieties can mature in late May and others will last into July, but the bulk of the crop is ready for harvest now.
Out of all of the fruit crops that we can grow in Louisiana, blueberries are one of the easiest. Blueberries like our native acid soils and there are few pests and diseases that cause problems.
In our health conscience society, blueberries rank very high on the list of healthy foods. They are a good source of fiber, packed with antioxidants, high in vitamin C, K and B6, calcium, iron, zinc and potassium. Benefits include boosting the immune system, preventing hair loss, improving bone density and improving brain function and memory, to name a few. All of these health benefits from including fresh fruit in your diet that you can grow in your own backyard.
There are lots of ways to use blueberries. Blueberry pancakes can start your day off or put some fresh berries in with your morning oatmeal, cereal or yogurt. Of course they make great pies, jellies, jams, cobblers and toppings for those of us who have a sweet tooth.
If you are just getting started with growing blueberries, drainage is your first consideration. They like a well-drained area that has both good internal and external drainage. That usually means putting blueberries up on a row or turtle back. You could also incorporate blueberries into an existing landscape bed that gets full sun.
In a standard orchard planting, blueberries rows are 12 feet apart and plants are spaced out every 6 feet within the row. If you are interested in making a hedge, plants can be planted at a spacing of 4 feet.
You want to plant rabbit-eye type blueberries and you will need at least two different varieties to get good cross-pollination. If you pay attention to your variety maturity dates you can extend your harvest over a 6 to 8 week period.
The varieties that I recommend would include Climax which is the leading pollinator variety. It is dark blue and medium in size with 80% of the fruit getting ripe at one time and ready for harvest in late May. Premier has large high quality fruit that stores well and ripens in late May also. Brightwell has large firm fruit that is ready in early June. Tifblue is the most popular and widely grown variety. It has very large high quality fruit that is ready to harvest in mid-June and the bushes tend to stay medium in size. Powderblue is an excellent pollinator for Tifblue and produces large high quality fruit that is ripe in late June.
I have noticed some blueberry bushes that are becoming blueberry trees. You should not be picking blueberries from atop a ladder. If your bushes are too large and tall then right after harvest is the best time to prune. Berries grow on the previous years’ wood so you want to prune right after harvest and you will grow more wood this summer for berry production next spring.
Do not shear the tops of blueberry bushes. Remove canes that are too tall by cutting them off at the soil line. This will reduce height and keep the bushes young as they are constantly putting out more root sprouts. Try to cut the bush back to 10 canes were possible.
Blueberries freeze easily. Wash and dry berries thoroughly before freezing in freezer bags. This will allow you to enjoy blueberries year round by taking out just what you need.