Q: What makes the best site for planting blueberries? What are the best varieties for our area?

Answer: Blueberries (Vaccinium ahei) are an excellent crop for our area, and people shopping farmers markets are always looking for local fruit sources. Blueberries are full of antioxidants, which are good for you. There are several considerations when choosing a site for planting blueberry bushes. Soil pH is critical to successful blueberry production. All blueberries require an acid pH of 5.3 or less. Make sure that the soil is well drained, and do not plant in low areas where water will collect. Our clay soils must be amended with pine bark to improve drainage, or blueberries may be planted in raised beds. If there is not at least 3% organic matter content to the soil, add organic matter such as finished compost or rotted pine bark. Blueberries will not tolerate heavy shade. For best fruit production, select a site with 6 to 10 hours of daily full sun and good air flow. Blueberries are pollinated by insects and it is recommended that more than one cultivar be planted to ensure cross-pollination and good fruit set. The most dependable type of blueberry for our area is a Rabbiteye type. Early blueberry varieties to choose from are Climax and Premier, which usually ripen in mid- to late June depending on our weather. Varieties for later ripening are Powderblue and Tifblue.

Q: I am beginning to think about next spring’s garden. What seed catalogs would you recommend?

Answer: There are many good seed catalogs available for gardeners. I know many gardeners enjoy curling up on a cold evening with a hot cup of tea and a good seed catalog. You can learn something you did not know and get inspired to try a new flower or vegetable in your garden. Here are some of my favorite seed catalogs: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Pinetree Garden Seeds, Baker Creek, Park Seed, Johnny’s Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, and Sow True Seeds. Many are available online for downloading. When choosing what to grow in your garden, consider what you like to eat, the size of your garden, and the amount of care you want to devote to your garden. Sketch your garden on paper after you have done your catalog dreaming. On the sketch of your garden, determine what will grow, and where to plant it. That way, you may order the amount of seed you need to provide for the size of your garden. We have an excellent leaflet available on the Forsyth Community Gardening website: http://www.forsythcommunitygardening.com/Documents/Vegetable_Planting_Guide.pdf

Also, if you end up with more seeds than you can use, consider donating your extras to Extension’s Growing Gardens Seed bank for community gardens in Forsyth County.

Mary Jac Brennan is the agent for fruit and vegetable horticulture for small farms and local food for the Forsyth Cooperative Extension. Contact Mary Jac about commercial production, local foods, and sustainable agriculture questions. For information on home and gardening issues, contact the Forsyth Cooperative Extension office at maryjac_

brennan@ncsu.edu or call 336-703-2850.

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