Dear Gardening Editor:
How do I keep the birds from eating all of the berries on my blueberry bushes?
L.A. Jackson: Plant enough to share.
L.A. Jackson was the editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine when I got hired on as an editorial assistant just a couple of years after graduating from college, and he was a force to be reckoned with in the gardening world. An avid garden writer and sought-after speaker on the gardening symposium circuit, L.A. was full of wisdom, and also had a great sense of humor.
I learned quite a few things from L.A., but for some reason that blueberry bush advice really stuck with me. I’ve shared it with others quite a few times over the years. And this year I experienced it first-hand.
I now have four blueberry bushes on the edge of my garden. They started out as two seedlings from Fletcher’s Blueberry Farm. The kids and I used to go there to pick blueberries in the summer, and when Mr. Fletcher made the decision to retire, he sold seedlings so his loyal customers could continue to get the blueberries they loved.
Now, those original two bushes are as tall as me, and we’ve planted some more seedlings to grow our little plot.
In the winter I dutifully pruned the blueberry bushes just like the NC Cooperative Extension recommends, to encourage bountiful fruit.
In the spring, I watched with excitement as the bushes filled with blooms, promising a great harvest. I even lucked out that the proximity to our woods kept them protected from the late freeze that could have burned all the delicate blooms right off.
In the early summer, I could see the bunches of berries turn from green to bright red. My bushes are a late variety, so they don’t fully ripen until late July. I began to dream of all the blueberries I would get, enough to make pie, and have plenty of smoothies, and hopefully freeze a few pints.
In the middle of July, I started noticing something. Some of the branches were completely cleaned off with no leaves, others were picked over. The big bunches of berries seemed to be getting smaller.
Unlike that gardener who wrote into Carolina Gardener magazine years ago, it wasn’t the birds that were my problem. Or at least, it wasn’t just the birds. The many different animals in my garden eating my blueberries (and tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, and squash) have included rabbits, deer, and Japanese beetles.
Yet even with all those visitors, I’ve picked a pint or two of blueberries every week since the middle of July. Enough for blueberry muffins, blueberry smoothies, and blueberries every morning on my Cheerios or oatmeal.
Maybe I didn’t get as many blueberries as I could have. But really, did I need any more? My garden is not big. I don’t can tomatoes or freeze zucchini. We just like having fresh fruits and vegetables for a few months during the summer. And this year, even with the deer snacking every other night or so, I still got to enjoy a pretty good harvest.
Plant enough to share. Share with the deer, share with your neighbors, share with those in your community that are hungry through great programs like Plant a Row for the Hungry.
Why waste a lot of time and energy getting mad about something that is totally out of your control? Take a page from L.A.’s advice book, and look at the issue at hand with a new perspective. Good advice, in or out of the garden.