Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blueberries, and the Spring Project

We had a relatively warm day today so I picked up some blueberries at Lowe's to replace the ones that died last year. Turned out only two had died, so now I'm up three new plants.

Last year was the beginning of the Big Blueberry Project. Blueberries went to $7.99 a pint locally, and I decided I'd grow my own. They're easy to grow - all they need is 6 hours of sun a day, acidic soil, and a LOT of water. I had the sun, I added pine needles to the mulch, and that meant all I had left to figure out was the water.

Of course last year was the second year of drought conditions in our county, so having blueberries meant designing a water collection system. I installed the first rain barrels late last spring, then a couple more, then it became an obsession, eventually leading to a system of nine barrels.

In a 15-minute, light summer shower, those nine barrels will collect almost 500 gallons of water.


500 gallons.

Turns out that was enough for one small garden up by the house, plus the big fountains, and the hollyhock beds along the side of Chewy's yard.

Then came the blueberries. By the end of summer, the blueberries really needed more water than I could collect. The more water they get, the more blueberries I get.

Of course, the plants that were producing the most berries were the older plants (the three-year-olds), but more importantly those plants were at the top of the slope, while the two plants that had died were were at the bottom of the patch.

So this spring's project is an expanded rain barrel system. We are going mega-collecting.

The idea is to dig out a small pond in a dirt pile at the top of the yard slope, filling it with water plants to naturally filter the water. The rain barrels will continue to fill, and empty into the pond. The lower side of the pond will be connected to an underground pipe that connects with an underground drip water hose that runs up and down the rows of blueberries.

It's about a 30 degree slope from the pond site down to the blueberries. If the gravity-feed works sufficiently, we'll expand the drip hosing to the rest of the garden. Currently, there is underground soaker hose for the rest of the garden beds, but they're connected to the town water system. Considering we spent 3 weeks last summer on water rationing, plus the cost of the water, it would be great if we could collect enough water for the whole garden.

In light of needing either a pond form, a pond liner, or a really big piece of heavy-duty plastic, while I was at Lowe's today, getting blueberries, I found the the last pond form left from last year, for 60% off, so made the decision to go that route.

Now we'll start digging out the pond, as soon as there's another relatively warm day. Updates to follow.


  1. Have you ever read "Food Not Lawns" by HC Flores?? Reading this book has gotten me really re-examining the way I am looking at my yard and what I can do with it.
    We just moved two little blueberry bushes the other day. We have one that does OK in it's spot .. but the other spot, only a couple feet awat is a no-go. The soil should be ok, there is sunlight, there is water (though I probably need to make a more concerted effort there), but a no-go. Sometimes those gals can be picky ole biddies!

  2. Looking for the book now, sound slike something I'd like.

    With your blueberries, they love acidic soil.
    I planted my first ones within 6 ft of a black walnut tree -they died. But the current patch is maybe 15 feet downhill from that same black walnut, and they thrive there. So apparently there's such a thing as TOO acidic, even for them. But a foot one way or the other could make all the difference.