Blueberries in the Desert

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In my last post I mentioned that hubby and I were going to plant blueberries and shared a “future blueberry site” photo with you…

Our blueberry raised bed is now complete and our blueberries have been planted!  The only thing left to do is hook up the permanent irrigation.  Before we do that, there’s a lot of work to do to trench and lay in pvc pipe for not only the blueberries, but our orchard as well. Yup, I’m still hand watering… well, only the back orchard.  Hubby setup a temporary watering system up front so all I have to do is turn the water on, turn a valve and watch as my front orchard fruit trees enjoy their sip of semi-automated water 🙂 For the time being, hubby is going to set up a temporary irrigation solution for the blueberries until we can get the other work completed.

Now, as raised beds go… there’s about as many ways to build and setup a raised bed as there are creative minds in this world (just check out You Tube or Google).  Some better than others.  It’s uncertain as to where our raised bed falls into the whole “rating” scale, but all I know is it’s solid, square, level and hubby built and installed it to last for many years to come.  He’s a perfectionist that way. My vote… two thumbs up and an “expert” rating.  One thing to keep in mind when planting blueberries is that they can be productive for 20+ years.  With the desert sun being as brutal as it is, I’ll be a happy camper  if my raised bed  lasts between 5-7 years before it needs repair.  It would be unrealistic to think that it can last the entire 20+ years.

For those of you interested, here’s how hubby built and setup the raised bed for our blueberries…

Obviously, our first step was to select an appropriate site for our bushes. A location that would provide great morning sun and a bit of shade in the afternoon.  The back of our house faces North, so we decided to place the blueberries up against the west wall of the property.  A great morning sun location and the wall and fruit trees will help to shade our blueberries from the searing afternoon sun.  We also needed to determine the size of our raised bed and settled on 4′ wide x 9′ long x 2′ high based on the mature sizes of our bushes and what we were trying to ultimately accomplish with their growth.

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Next, we needed some nutrient filled dirt to fill our raised bed.  Not just any dirt… acidic compost.  Blueberries require acidity in their soil to do their best and crank out those lovely little blue gems 🙂  They like their soil pH to be between 5 to 6 and they like actively decomposing organic matter. With this in mind, we ordered about two yards of acidified compost to fill our 4′ x 9′ raised bed and amended it with organic peat moss.

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Then we sketched out our raised bed design and determined what materials we had to buy and calculated how much lumber we needed in order to build it.  We purchased the following:

  • (4) – 2′ x 12′ x 12′ untreated lumber (sides, front, and back) – we had the home center cut the pieces to size for us 🙂
  • (4) – 4′ x 4′ x 8′ untreated lumber (posts) – hubby had to cut these
  • 3″ Deck screws
  • About 1/2 ton of “rough” pea gravel – sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t
  • PVC pipe, fittings and glue to set up the irrigation
  • Drip manifold (4 outputs) and drip tubing

011213_Blueberries_18With all the materials now at hand, hubby cut the posts to size and assembled the sides, front and back of the raised bed.

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We wanted the posts to go into the ground (about 12″ deep) for more stability, so hubby pulled out his trusty little jack hammer and dug six oversized holes to accommodate the posts and a bed of gravel in each (to help with drainage). Fully assembled, the raised bed is quite heavy and I’m certain that it won’t budge an inch with or without the added support.

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It took some time to get it level, but when everything was said and done, the raised bed is level and looked great!011213_Blueberries_5

Notice the color change from light raw wood (photo above) to a darker tone (photo below)?  Hubby found a great non-toxic product to protect the wood from the elements without the grief of using “chemically treated” lumber.  It’s called Vallhalla LifeTime Wood Treatment.  It’s super easy to apply, very economical and a little goes a l-o-n-g way.  Once applied, the product dries very quickly, but we let it sit for a couple of days before filling the raised bed with soil.  I’m rather fond of the aged and weathered look 🙂011213_Blueberries_14

Once the bed was all ready to go, hubby installed the blueberry portion of our irrigation system and capped it off to finish at a later date.  He also laid in a 4″-6″ layer of gravel on the entire bottom of the bed to help with drainage.

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Next, the soil. We filled the raised bed with the acidified compost (amended with peat moss) about 4″ from the top edge of the bed, then leveled the soil to get ready for planting.  In the picture below, you can see the three drip manifolds hubby installed.  From these, he’ll run a couple of lines with drips to each blueberry bush.  As they grow, he has room to increase the number of drips to each bush to four.021613_Blueberries_2

In the photo below, you can see the “high-tech” tool we used to mark the placement for each blueberry bush… rocks 😉021613_Blueberries_3

After a little digging, a little water and a little organic bone meal, the blueberries were placed into their permanent location. In the next few months, we plan to put up some 30% shade cloth to use during the middle of summer. After planting, I watered the blueberries thoroughly and came back a couple of days later and pruned off all the flowers and twiggy and broken branches.021613_Blueberries_4

When planting blueberries in your garden, there’s one important thing to remember.  Have patience.  Growing blueberries requires the same amount of patience as growing fruit trees.  Left on their own, the blueberries will probably start producing berries fairly quickly, but for the health of the plant and to obtain the best quality fruit, it is best to remove the flowers each year for the first 3 years.

Check out these Dave Wilson Nursery videos about growing blueberries in your own backyard!

God Bless,

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2 Comments

Filed under Blueberries

2 responses to “Blueberries in the Desert

  1. Pat

    Thank you for your information on planting buleberries, I have three I need to plant out, was going to put them into the ground but, think I’ll plant them into pots, as they have been in pots since last year, but they need more room, as I did replant after I got them int a larger sized pot, after watching Dave Wilson, I’ll just pot them up, as he’s got his in pots and said they can last many years in the pots with regular feeding of cause.

    • Hi Pat,

      You’re very welcome. I adore blueberries! They are so delicious and excellent for our health. Growing blueberries in pots should work out beautifully for you. As long as you have a couple of different varieties, they should cross-pollinate well for a a productive crop 😀

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