Nothing can compare to bush ripened blueberries, and ones from the store are always picked under-ripe. The only answer for all blueberry lovers is to grow your own, and although they might not be quite as easy as some other fruits, it is really not difficult to have your own blueberry crop right at your fingertips – ripened to perfection. Blueberries are so versatile, from pancakes to muffins and pies, or simply eaten fresh, alone or over cereal. No matter how you enjoy them, you will enjoy them so much more when they come from your own garden. As well, there is never any waste with blueberries, because berries you don’t use can be put straight into the freezer without washing, and they will last for months.
Growing Premier Blueberry Bushes
If you live in warmer parts of the country you need to be careful in choosing the blueberry bush to grow, as many of them only do well in cooler climates. For zones 7, 8 and 9 you need to grow a variety of the rabbiteye blueberry, which grows wild in southern states. A selected form of this species should be your choice, and the Premier Blueberry is a superb variety, and the top choice of gardeners and commercial growers alike. If you live in the area from Virginia south into Florida and west into Texas and Arkansas, then the Premier Blueberry is the variety for you.
It has other advantages too: it is one of the hardiest, and it will crop well in sheltered places in zone 6; and it is less particular about acid soil, so if your soil is on the borderline – pH 6.0 to 6.5 – then this variety is your best chance for success. Most important of all, Premier is a great-tasting blueberry, producing a big crop of large berries on vigorous plants.
The Premier Blueberry should be grown in a sunny or partially shaded place, avoiding low-lying and wet areas. It does need a good supply of water, but the soil should be well-drained. If in doubt, plant on a raised mound of soil. In the garden you can plant a row, spacing your plants 5 to 7 feet apart, and the rows 12 feet apart. The bushes take several years to reach their full height of 6 to 8 feet, but they will begin to bear berries almost immediately. In spring you will see clusters of bell-shaped white flowers, on stems that grew in the previous year. These will develop quickly into berries, and by May or June you will be harvesting your first berries. They ripen over several weeks, so you have a long cropping period, and of course you can simply freeze the surplus to enjoy later in the year.
The Premier Blueberry needs acidic soil, with a pH reading of between 4.0 and 6.0, although this variety will tolerate a reading up to 6.5, which most other varieties won’t do. If you don’t have acid soil, don’t bother with the often-unsuccessful work of trying to make your soil acidic, just grow your plants in pots or boxes. Use potting soil for acid-loving plants and you are all set for success. Both in the ground and even more in pots, you need to fertilize your bushes, and since blueberries are sensitive to some fertilizers, we recommend you feed them organically, using cottonseed, alfalfa or soya-bean meals. Sprinkle a ¼ cup over the root zone in spring, increasing the amount a little each year until you are using 2 cups on a mature bush. When planting in the garden, even if you have acidic soil, blend about a bushel of peat moss into the soil for each bush when planting. Add a 4 to 6-inch layer of mulch over the root zone (but not on the stems). Use pine bark, peat moss, pine needles, leaves or grass clippings for mulch, and renew it each spring. This will keep your soil acidic, control weeds, and conserve moisture.
Care and Maintenance
The crop is so heavy on this bush you may need to use some stakes or wires to hold the stems up while the crop is ripening. Apart from that, the only care needed is a light pruning in spring, to remove any crowded older stems, and encourage new growth for future crops.
History and Origins of the Premier Blueberry
The Rabbiteye Blueberry (Vaccinium ashei) is a native blueberry that comes from the southeast, growing naturally from Texas to North Carolina and down into Florida. Wild plants have small berries, so it is best to grow a selected form, and the variety called ‘Premier’ is the top choice for vigor, and for producing a big crop of large berries of excellent color and flavor. It was released in 1978, after being developed in a breeding program at South Carolina State University, with the assistance of the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture. Our plants are carefully grown, and they are true to the variety. Avoid cheaper plants simply labelled ‘Blueberry’, as these will be of unknown origin, and inevitably of much poorer quality in every way. The demand for to top blueberry varieties is always huge, so if you want the best, order your Premier Blueberry bushes now, before the ‘sold out’ sign goes up.