For some, blueberry picking is a laid-back, fun activity. For my family, it’s a competitive sport — the winner being the one who picks the most and biggest berries in the least amount of time.
tect your berries by not building or landscaping over them. Trust me, it’s easier to maintain a blueberry patch than a lawn and a lot yummier, too.
I asked Pat Holloway, professor emeritus of horticulture at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, what her thoughts were on the rake. Among other things, she is an expert on berries. In an email, she responded, “Blueberry rakes can cause an enormous amount of damage if people are in a hurry to fill their buckets.” If you are going to use the rake, she admonishes, “Very slowly comb the bush from the bottom up, and when you encounter resistance, don’t rip the rake through the plant, use your hands to push through the foliage.” She said that a rake with flexible wire loops is better than one with wooden tines and that lingonberries are better suited to raking since they’re firmer.
Now how do you keep a backyard blueberry patch productive? There’s several easy things you can do in a privately owned patch to increase production and ensure they keep producing:
• Selectively clear brush that threatens to outcompete blueberries — willows, alders, birch trees, spruce trees, etc.
• Raise bees to improve pollination and fruit set.
• Prune half of your bushes each year, when they’re dormant in late fall after a killing frost and the leaves have dropped or in early spring before the leaves have emerged. I pruned my backyard blueberries with hedge shears, which improved production and ease of picking.
Unfortunately, we don’t have well-researched guidelines on cultivating lowbush blueberries in Alaska. You can use other blueberry production guides like this one, http://bit.ly/2bfRaZu, as a general guide. Just keep in mind that you’re dealing with a different species, a different climate, and a different growing season. In Maine, it’s possible to produce 10,000 pounds per acre. It makes me wonder — how many pounds of lowbush blueberries could you produce on an acre?