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Got Blueberries?

You can hardly do better than a blueberry for a multi-season, multi-use shrub! Flowers in spring start out with pinkish buds and open to white bells, and then provide you and the birds with crops of beautiful, tasty blue treats in summer. (Or pink! There’s a new pink-fruited blueberry out now, called Pink Lemonade.) Foliage is seldom bothered by insects or disease, and gives you great burgundy, red, orange and/or yellow fall color. Bare stems in winter can be blushed orange and yellow on young bark.

Give blueberries full sun if you want to maximize your harvest; in the wild you can find them in open woods where they receive partial shade, though they don’t fruit as heavily. Soil should be well-drained and fairly acidic, which you can achieve with adding sulfur to your soil and monitoring the pH with a simple test kit. Aim for around 5.0 or even slightly lower. Blueberries are better equipped to handle wet conditions if in strongly acidic conditions, as this suppresses disease. Holly-Tone makes a great all-purpose fertilizer, and no regular trimming is needed. Both Highbush and Lowbush species of blueberry are native to the mid-Atlantic. If you have deer, you might need to net the plants to prevent browsing, but that will save more berries from the birds for you to enjoy.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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