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Pink Champagne Blueberries in my Small Kitchen Garden

Briggs Plant Propagators in Elma, Washington provided attendees of the Garden Writers Association Symposium with bagged Pink Champagne blueberry plants. I’ve planted mine near my fruit trees in hopes of improving the blueberry crop in my small kitchen garden.

In late August, I abandoned my small kitchen garden for a week and attended the GWA Symposium in Cincinnati. I’m glad that I did for a lot of reasons, one of which is that I returned with several Pink Champagne Blueberry plants courtesy of Briggs Plant Propagators in the state of Washington.

I finally planted the blueberries in late October. Why did it take me so long? Rain. Rain and PH.

Blueberry Plants Prefer Acid

As I’ve reported in nearly every post this year: In central Pennsylvania, if you weren’t gardening in the rain, you weren’t gardening. We had so much rain that several towns in my area made the national news. But I wasn’t out in the rain for gardening or for any other activity.

While I waited for the rain to subside, I managed to test the soil’s acidity. According to a home test kit (that I’ve since been told is highly unreliable), my yard has neutral PH. That’s not too bad for blueberries, but they prefer acidic soil, so I treated the soil with an organic acidifier.
Instructions for the acidifier were to spread some of the material on the soil and that it would take five or more weeks to lower the PH one full point. So, I dug holes for the blueberry plants, loosened the soil in the holes, and sprinkled the prescribed amount of acidifier in each hole. Then I waited.

Captions under the photos in this blog post tell the rest of the story. Happily, we had a few rainless days and I set the blueberry plants in the holes. I watered heavily that day, and I erected small fences to keep out rodents and deer. The plants look terrific; they’ve started to develop fall colors, and I expect they’ll drop leaves in the next week or so.

When I plant a perennial, I dig a hole dramatically larger than the root ball requires. This lets me work compost into the soil, or, if I’m planting in a lawn, it lets me recycle the sod into fertilizer. I piled the sod along one side of the hole, and heaped the soil on the other side. Then, I laid the sod into the hole grass-side-down. It will break down as the blueberry plant’s roots reach it, providing an abundance of nourishment in the plant’s first season.

You can’t see a “how to plant _______” sequence often enough! OK, you can, really. There are so many “how to plant” videos and articles on the Internet, it’s easy to get your fill. I won’t be offended if you pass on the planting, but have a look at the final set of photos; they show how to protect your seedlings from foraging animals. Here’s the basic planting sequence: gently squeeze the nursery pot several times and tip it down until the root ball comes free and slides out. Then, especially for heavily root-bound plants, loosen the root ball across its bottom. I don’t butterfly the roots as some do—just gently pull them apart across the middle so the roots loosen up. Finally, I set the slightly softened root ball into the middle of the prepared hole.

I pulled the soil into the hole and filled around the blueberry plant’s roots. I filled the hole so that the soil was exactly even with the surface of the soil that was in the pot. Sometimes, you need to adjust the plant by lifting it and adding soil beneath the root ball. It’s very important that you don’t let soil rest against the exposed stems of the plant. After filling the hole with soil, I ran the hose… I used enough water to saturate the soil all the way through the sod in the bottom of the hole. In retrospect, it would have been better to set up the fence before watering the plant.

My blueberries need only a modest fence. Using 24-inch chicken wire, I figured to make a cylinder about a foot and a half across. Remember high school trigonometry? To calculate the distance around a circle, multiply the circle’s diameter times PI. So, to get a 1.5 foot circle, multiply 1.5 times PI (which I approximated as 3); you need about 4.5 feet of chicken wire. I cut the wire, drove a stake about 8 inches away from the plant (completely missing the root ball), curved the chicken wire into a cylinder, and stapled it to the stake. The bottom of the cylinder rests on the soil, and I can use a tent stake to pin it down later if the need arises.

Disclosure

GWA is the Garden Writers Association, a group of people who write for magazines, newspapers, television, radio, gardening-related businesses, and the Internet. You might guess that GWA members are important to companies who sell products and services to gardeners or who create products for the gardening industry. You’d be right. The GWA Symposium draws tool manufacturers, nursery suppliers, plant breeders, and other concerns who wish to get the attention of writers. Those writers, in turn, might report on the products and services, bringing them to the attention of readers, viewers, and listeners.

I received products mentioned in the accompanying article to use for free because I’m a member of GWA. The experiences and any opinions I report are purely my own.

 

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