Blueberry Harvesting Season: Tips On Harvesting Blueberries
The summer months are when most people start harvesting their blueberries. But before you begin your harvest, there are some tips that will make your life easier and give you better chances of getting the best quality berries from your crop. You may have already heard about the “best” times to pick your berries, but now you’ll learn why those times don’t always apply.
What’s the Best Time To Pick Blueberries?
When picking blueberries, it’s not just about the size or color of the fruit; it’s also about its flavor. When choosing a time to harvest your crops, consider these factors:
How many days until frost?
If you’re planning to pick your blueberries during the last week of June, then you’ll want to pick them before the first frost. If you plan to harvest them in early July, then they won’t be ready until late August or September. (You might even get lucky and see a few berries pop up right after the first frost.)
How cold is it outside? How hot is it inside? Does it feel like 100 degrees inside today?
If so, the outside is probably around 95 degrees. It’s best to pick your blueberries during cooler times so that the inside of the house doesn’t turn into a giant furnace.
Do you have time to check on your berries every day or even several times a day?
People with full-time jobs often don’t have the luxury of being able to pick their crops at just the right time. If you don’t have the time to check your crop every day, then your only other option is to harvest all of the ripe berries and throw away any damaged ones.
If you don’t have the time to pick every berry, is it okay to leave some on the vine?
If you need to leave some berries on the vine, you may risk having them get sunburned. On the other hand, if you pick every berry, you may have to waste time sorting through them all and throwing away the less desirable ones.
How long does it take for the frost to hit your area?
In some areas, frost can come as late as October. If you wait until the last week of September to harvest your berries, then they’ll spend one to three weeks in your home.
What happens if you have a late frost? Will you still want to go outside and pick berries?
Blueberry plants are very tolerant of extreme temperatures. If it’s too cold, the plant may shut down for a day or two. If it’s too hot, it will shed some of its leaves and go dormant for a period of time. Either way, the plant is able to survive.
How long does it take for you to get your crop off your property?
If you aren’t able to sell your berries quickly, then you may have a problem with mold. Blueberry mold is fairly easy to spot on the plant, but it can be more difficult to spot within the fruit. Be sure to wash and dry each berry before placing them in containers or plastic bags.
How much does it cost to have your berries picked?
A farm or a U-pick place may charge by the container, by the pound or maybe even by the piece. It’s usually less expensive to pick your own. If you’re paying someone else to do it, then you need to figure out how much it’s going to cost you.
Do you have room to store your buckets of blueberries?
Buckets of berries can quickly take up a lot of room. You might need to build additional shelves or cabinets and then find a cool, dry place to store them. If you’re growing your own berries, but don’t want to store them, you might want to find someone who is willing to purchase them from you right away.
How much do you want to spend on containers and other equipment?
Containers, drying trays, an electric dehydrator and other equipment can add up in cost. If you don’t already have this equipment, then your costs will be higher.
Your blueberry plants are going to live for many years. You won’t need to repurchase most of your annual gardening supplies, such as potting soil and fertilizer. However, you will need to replace many items every few years or so.
How much time do you have to devote to blueberries?
Gardening requires a lot of time and maintenance. If you’re not willing or able to put in the required time, then it may not be a good fit for you.
Are you willing to learn how to care for your plants?
If you’ve never gardened before, there’s going to be a learning curve. You’ll need to learn how to prepare the soil, plant your seeds, give them the right amount of water and nutrients, protect them from bugs, weeds, and diseases and harvest them at the right time.
Do you have enough space in your yard for blueberries?
Blueberries need a lot of space. They can grow up to 15 feet tall and spread out 6 to 7 feet. They also need a lot of sun so they can develop their delicious berries. Expect to devote at least 30 square feet for each bush. You may be able to get away with planting only one or two bushes, but you’re going to get more than one harvest.
Blueberries need a well-drained soil and acidic level of 4.0 to 5.0 pH. If you don’t want to test the soil yourself, seek out a nursery that sells blueberry bushes and have them do it for you.
They should also be able to help you with what type of soil to use and what to mix it with to get the right acidity level.
How much is this going to cost?
Before you spend any money, sit down with a pencil and paper and make a list all the things you’re going to need to get started. This will give you a better idea of how much this is going to cost you.
What about Pests and Diseases?
Gardening is hard work, but can be very rewarding. However, it does involve a lot of diligence on your part to keep the weeds pulled, the soil tested and amended, and the plants fed and watered. Most of all, it requires vigilance to keep the pests and diseases away!
While there aren’t a lot of insects that love to eat blueberries, you still need to be on the lookout for the few that do. The good news is that they’re not as prone to disease and infection like other plants can be. If you keep your plants healthy and remove any weeds and grass within three to four feet of the base of the bush, then you should avoid most pests and diseases.
It’s also a good idea to carefully wash any purchase of blueberry bushes before you plant them. This will help you remove any insects that may have come along for the ride.
Now that you know what you’re getting into, are you ready to begin?
Next: Part 3: Setting Up Your Garden
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Sources & references used in this article:
Estimates of mechanization effects on fresh blueberry quality by GK Brown, NL Schulte, EJ Timm… – Applied engineering …, 1996 – elibrary.asabe.org
Oscillating blueberry stripper by HE Mckibben, PF Jones – US Patent 3,023,565, 1962 – Google Patents
Commercial blueberry production in Florida by JG Williamson, PM Lyrene – 1995 – crec.ifas.ufl.edu
Foliar boron increases berry number and yield of two highbush blueberry cultivars in Missouri by DG Blevins, CL Scrivner, TM Reinbott… – Journal of plant …, 1996 – Taylor & Francis