Seed Swaps

Planting Blueberries

26 Feb 2012
Cloudy 15°C / 59°F

I spent much of this weekend preparing to plant blueberries:

  • Cut a 30-foot row into rain-softened mulch-covered cardboard placed there to kill grass almost 5 months ago.
  • Removed Bermuda grass and grass roots (many still alive after 5 months!) & underground bamboo runners & tree roots & a buried 2.5′ × 3′ cement plank.
  • Discovered 2 tree stumps, which necessitated adjusting my plans of where the blueberries were going to go.
  • Mixed 3 pounds of sulfur powder (to continue the gradual process of acidifying the soil), several handfuls of organic slow-release fertilizer for acid-loving plants, 6 cubic feet of peat moss, and 100 pounds (1 cubic foot) of sand into the soil.

Tonight, as the sun was setting, I planted out 5 varieties of rabbiteye blueberry bushes (Woodard, Tifblue, Premier, Brightwell, and Powderblue): Two bare root plants received via mail, plus two 3-gallon-pot plants and one 7-gallon-pot plant purchased locally at 3 different places. I’ve been collecting blueberries over the past few months! :)

Each plant has its own mound to help with drainage. I still need to add more soil and peat moss in between the plants to create a continuous raised ridge to give their roots a safely non-waterlogged area to grow. And I need to prune off most of the flowers, to force the plants to invest resources into new roots rather than into reproduction over the next few months.

Photo #1: The new blueberry hedge (in progress)
Photo #2: The 30-foot row of blueberries that I planted today is parallel to the 30-foot row of blackberries that I planted on Thursday
Photo #3: Planting supplies & soil amendments
Photo #4: The largest and most expensive plant (Woodard, 7 gallon pot, $40)
Photo #5: The smallest and least expensive plant (Powderblue, bare root, $8)




can’t ever have too many blueberries!

Posted on 27 Feb 12 (about 6 years ago)

I agree!

Posted on 27 Feb 12 (about 6 years ago)

You are on a roll! Another 30 feet of berries? I am so envious. At least I finally found an elderberry, but it is too wet to plant it or anything else. Your backyard is looking very bountiful, hopeful you won’t have to move again any time soon.

Posted on 27 Feb 12 (about 6 years ago)

I’m not planning to move for decades, at least! I told DH that after all of the moves that we did together for his early career (North Carolina to California to Massachusetts to South Carolina), once we got settled down and I started planting fruit trees and other perennial edibles that we were going to be settled down for GOOD! Hopefully he’ll get tenure and that will turn out to be possible.
You know that you’re talking to a fellow gardener when they look at your photos of planted sticks and they see huge potential harvests. ;)
What are your plans for the elderberry? Can you eat the fresh-picked berries, and do they taste good that way? I’ve heard of elderberry wine, I think.

Posted on 28 Feb 12 (about 6 years ago)


Folia Helper

United Kingdom8b

Youve been busy doing things properly! Nice job!

Posted on 28 Feb 12 (about 6 years ago)

Well, good to hear you may live there long enough to enjoy all the plantings. As someone who was as a child and teenager dragged around the country by her father, I grew to become an adult with NO urge to shift. Skip the altruism of ‘planting for others’, I want to enjoy it too!

Unfortunately elderberry does not set fruit here, from what I’ve been told. It does however flower profusely and I love elderflower cordial. I can see using it in cooking, such an interesting, complex flavour. Funnily enough I had the TV on keeping me company in the kitchen a couple of days ago and Jamie Oliver was rhapsodising about elderflower cordial!

I don’t know how the berries taste, but imagine them to be a little strong tasting for fresh consumption. If I had berries I would probably use them to make a tincture as studies seem to support the folklore of using elderberry for colds and flu I also read recently that Sambucol, a natural product based on elderberries was effective on H5N1, at least in vitro. Even if the home produced tincture was less effective, it would still be worth trying on any virus less lethal than bird flu. As my little tree will not set fruit, I have put Sambucol on the shopping list, ahead of this coming Winter.

Posted on 29 Feb 12 (about 6 years ago)

@LillyPilly: I’m investing in our yard’s future long-term edibility, and definitely not with altruistic intent! :)
I just found a recipe for elderberry cordial that involves simmering the berries with ginger and cloves and then adding lots of honey and brandy. Can elderberry cordial also be made using the flowers? I like the idea of a flu-fighting fruiting plant!

Posted on 03 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

Elderflower cordial is from the flowers and has no medicinal value that I’ve read about. I can’t quite describe the flavour, but my husband dislikes it claiming, “It tastes like tropical fruit.”, whatever that means! I guess that would be a compliment from someone who liked tropical fruit. I haven’t seen the berries used for cordial, they seem to often be made into wine. I don’t know if the wine has medicinal value, but that would be nice ;)

I bought some Sambucol at the pharmacy to try it as a prophylactic. As soon as the next lot of colds/flu hits town I’ll start a maintenance dose. I bought the liquid, but it comes in capsules as well. It has tested well for influenza B, but since no others are mentioned I wonder if it failed on those? Still, worth a try.

Elderberry would definitely fruit in your climate and is usually a multistemmed, suckering shrub to maybe 2 meters. As it is still very warm, I had to take the plant I just picked up from a nursery into a class I was attending and one of the other students told me she could have given me all I wanted from her suckers, so might be worth asking around?

Posted on 05 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

Just on a hunch, I looked up growing elderberry in boggy soil and it seems they actually prefer it. Might suit your front ‘trouble spot’ and you can keep it low by allowing it to sucker into a fine stand of virus fighting goodness!

Posted on 05 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

@LillyPilly: “A fine stand of virus fighting goodness!” I love it!! Especially the boggy soil compatible part!
The local branch of the South Carolina Native Plant Society has its spring native plant sale in a couple of weeks, and I looked at their plant list and they aren’t offering elderberries (but they are offering a bunch of other delightful plants including Lonicera sempervirens, aka coral honeysuckle). Spring Island, which is a fancy homeowners association with an environmentally-conscious orientation that is located about an hour-and-a-half drive south from here, has a non-profit native plant group, and they ARE offering elderberries at their April plant sale. I asked around, and none of my local gardening friends have elderberry on their property, so I was glad to find a source of locally propagated plants for sale!
How does the Sambucol taste? Like tropical fruit, too, or just medicinal? ;)

Posted on 05 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

The Sambucol tastes rather good, if very sweet. I don’t think any child would refuse it. The native elderberry was used by the original inhabitants for colds, but it is not the one Sambucol is based on. S. nigra is the European elderberry on which all the research is based. I have read that the US native is similar, but not quite as effective. I don’t know what that actually means, possibly you need to use more? The flavour is reputedly very similar.

That coral honeysuckle is gorgeous, especially the unopened flowers, what a great colour. Your garden is going to be fabulous.

Posted on 08 Mar 12 (about 6 years ago)

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