Growing Backyard Blueberries

One of my favorite childhood memories is driving the two hours from Eugene to Portland, Oregon, to visit both sets of my grandparents, who lived just blocks apart. We’d stay at my Grandma Mai’s house in the St. John’s district, where they had an extra room. The house where “teasy” grandpa always had a joke and a thermos of fresh coffee on the table, and my grandmother would send us out to their overgrown backyard garden to pick fresh blueberries.  Stepping over Aspen, the outdoor cat, we would bring in our harvest, wash them, and eat them from a bowl in the center of the kitchen table. They were the sweetest blueberries I’ve ever tasted.

Later, my first summer job was in a blueberry field outside Portland, working with two other 15 year old girls, soon to be life-long friends, sorting and packaging buckets of freshly picked blue fruit, listening to tape cassettes on a boom-box, shielded from the sun by a plastic tarp.

Blueberry garden of eaden

According to HGTV’s Website, “Blueberries are typically grown in humid, northern climates that have winter chills, mild summers,” (Hello, Portland, Oregon!) “and low-pH or acidic soils, conditions that limit their range.” They love full sun, as well!  “But many new varieties are available for lower chill areas, very warm areas, as well as coastal areas. The blueberry now has an enormous range.”

If you don’t live in this blueberry-idyllic climate, try container planting, to control the soil. “Acidity is critical,” growing guru Ed Laivo says. “A mix of peat, bark and an acid soil mix will help to provide everything the blueberry plant needs immediately after you plant it.”

What berries will grow in your backyard? If you live in California, check out the University of California’s Garden Web to determine what will flourish in your region. The Farmer’s Almanac claims the blueberry is the easiest fruit to grow, and gives tips your region. When it comes to attackers, the biggest threat is the bird, picking away at your bounty as it ripens.  The Almanac recommends bird netting, or, as my grandparents obviously knew, a kitty like Aspen will keep their feathered friends from eating your crop.

The Pioneer Woman has a scrumptious recipe for a salad with grilled chicken, feta, fresh corn, and blueberries. What is your favorite way to add a little blue to your summer? Leave a comment here, or tweet: @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely

The Pioneer Woman chicken feta and blueberry salad

Photo credits: Blueberries – Garden of Eaden; Salad – Pioneer Woman