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Today is December 3, 2021

Plant blueberries now, enjoy berries for years

By Susan Collins-Smith

Plant blueberries now, enjoy berries for years

Blueberries are rock stars in the kitchen. Not only are they delicious, they also are high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins.

For easy access to fresh blueberries, consider planting a few bushes in the backyard. Now is the perfect time.

“You can plant blueberries anytime between November and February, but the ideal time is before the end of December,” said Eric Stafne, Mississippi State University Extension Service fruit and nut specialist. “Planting earlier gives the plants time to establish roots before spring and get a good start. Just keep in mind it usually takes two to three years to get a harvestable amount of fruit.”

Choose bushes that are at least 18 to 24 inches tall to ensure the plant has an adequate root system. Be careful not to plant them too deeply. The root ball should be just below the surface.

Trim off any dead twigs and remove any berries. This cleanup helps reduce stress on the plant.

“Transplanting is a shock to the plant, so you want to make sure you reduce the stress on the plant as much as possible,” Stafne said.

Rabbiteye and Southern Highbush blueberry varieties both grow well in Mississippi. Rabbiteye varieties are native to Mississippi and have been improved to grow quickly and produce large amounts of berries. Fruit ripens in June and July. These bushes require cross-pollination to produce fruit, so you’ll want to plant at least two varieties close to one another. Southern Highbush varieties produce fruit during May. Several varieties of each kind produce a range of bush sizes and fruit types.

Blueberry plants are evergreen with a pretty, pink bloom in the spring, which makes them excellent landscape additions. They can be planted successfully with acid-loving ornamental landscape plants, such as azaleas, camellias, and gardenias. Blueberries prefer a moist, well-drained soil enhanced with organic matter.

Blueberries have shallow root systems and can’t compete well with weeds, so mulching with pine bark, pine needles, grass clippings, or leaves is recommended. Do not use barnyard manure. Mulching with pine products can help acidify the soil as well.

There is no need to fertilize rabbiteye bushes the first year.

Keep the plants well-watered to help establish the root system. Consistent watering is especially important once a fertilizer schedule is begun, otherwise, the plant won’t take up those nutrients.

Natasha Haynes, Extension family and consumer sciences agent and Food Factor host, said there are lots of dishes these powerhouse berries can be used in, including cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, and desserts.

 

Susan Collins-Smith is a writer for the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

 

BLUEBERRY BAKED OATMEAL

INGREDIENTS

2 cups dry oatmeal (old fashioned or quick)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups nonfat milk

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 egg

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the oatmeal, brown sugar, blueberries, baking powder, and cinnamon (and walnuts if you choose to add them).

In a medium bowl, combine the milk, applesauce, egg, and oil. Mix well with a fork or whisk.

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well.

Pour into a greased, 8-inch, square baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.

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