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How to grow and prepare blueberries

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Courtesy of Linda Weiss

(Read caption) When you're looking for ways to use summer's bounty of ripe blueberries, recipes such as Blueberry-Lime Napoleon are cool and spectacular solutions.

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Blueberries are extremists, says Anne, the gardener. They need intensely acid soil, a pH of 4.0 to 5.0. Add sunshine and a steady supply of water to the roots and you will produce a bumper crop of those tasty berries.

Acid soil necessary

To acidify soil that is too “sweet” (alkaline), use agricultural sulphur according to label directions. After you plant the blueberry bushes, use acid-producing organic mulches such as pine, oak, or hemlock leaves/needles at least two inches thick. You can also use a fertilizer formulated for acid plants.

You can prune blueberry bushes into ornamental shapes so they will even fit into a street-side garden. They have little bell-shaped blossoms in the spring, which turn into plump berries, first a kind of pink and then the rich blue.

You will know when the berries are ripe because they will easily spill into your hand when you gently tug on the clusters.

Northern and Southern blueberries

Gardeners in the North can grow the Northern highbush varieties that withstand the cold and snowy winters. If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll want to seek out the Southern highbush and rabbiteye blueberries, which tolerate heat and humidity.

Some of the newer varieties don’t require a pollinator to produce fruit, but you will have a larger crop if you plant two different cultivars. For cross-pollination, be sure to purchase two that bloom at the same time.

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