"You Can't Grow That There!"


Sherry SmithLiving on the Gulf Coast, in the subtropical zone 9, I am constantly told that I can’t grow various things. The horticulture major side of me just nods and smiles, the plant nerd side of me says “but I want to try anyway”, and the redhead side of me says “just watch me!” The fact is, gardeners know about the heat zone map, minimum and maximum temperatures and the necessary number of chill hours for various crops. What many gardeners, particularly beginners, don’t know is that these factors are more like guidelines than hard and fast rules.

My husband loves blueberries. I personally have a fondness for warm blueberry muffins fresh from the oven. We are all quite fond of homemade blueberry jelly. Store bought blueberries are nice, but nothing compares to fat ripe blueberries picked at their peak. Living in an area that is more predisposed to growing citrus and bananas, blueberries seem like an impossible dream. I, however, believe that nothing is impossible.

When I first started looking into planting blueberries, I was told repeatedly that it wasn’t possible. Our summers are too brutal. Our soil is too alkaline. Our winters are too mild. I’ve never dealt well with being told that I can’t do something. My father always said it was my red hair. Whatever the case, I saw blueberry bushes for sale and I was determined to try.

Winter before last, I did my research. I discovered there are different types of blueberries. Rabbiteyes (Vaccinium ashei) grow in the south. Awesome. I continued my research. They require a soil pH of 4.0-5.5. Okay. I can mix my own soil. They require at least half a day of full sun. Cool. I can do that. Irrigation water should have little to no calcium bicarbonate, so tap water isn’t healthy for them. No problem. We harvest rainwater. I can use that to water them. Blueberries have shallow fibrous roots. Again, no problem. I mulch everything anyway because of our summer droughts. So my project began.

Building a raised bed

Building the blueberry bed

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