“It’s sad and it’s cold at the bottom of the sea but at least I’ve got my blueberries with me.” – Blueberry Boat by The Fiery Furnaces.
Well it finally happened. The inventible blight has struck at the plot. With weeks of wet and warm weather the tomatoes have finally succumbed to the dreaded blight. As we do not spray, trying to be as organic as possible, blight unfortunately is an inevitable fate for our doomed outdoor tomatoes.The 2012 growing season so far certainly hasn’t been a contender for the best season ever, however not everything has been moping down at 18a. Non non, the blueberries and black currants in particular have been quietly fruiting modestly in the soft fruit bed. I might even go as far to say their the best blueberries we’ve ever grown.
It’s their third season growing at the plot and like many things it’s often not til their third season that they really start to hit their fruiting stride. We have three bushes of different varieties , an early (Duke), mid (Bluecrop) and late season (Brigitta) so we’ve been enjoying handfuls of sweet homegrown blueberries on our breakfast muesli and hopefully will continue well into August.
The season started a little tricky for the blueberries during the early drought and heat but once the deluge of rain we’ve been having here in the UK began (and never seemed to stop) the blueberries seem to have been loving it! After an iffy spell during flowering where the leaves began to redden prematurely feared I may loose any berries for this season. But they soon responded to a regular feed with an ericaceous seaweed based feed with added iron (Thank you @Saralimback for your wonderful Horticultural knowledge). The problem was despite planting my bushes direct into the ground in root control bags, I still needed to maintain the right acidic Ph. A mulch with ericaceous Compost at the start of the season just wasn’t enough. With roots close to the surface they have creeped over the top of the bags and into the native soil. Our plot may naturally err on the side of the acidic but not enough for the blueberries. So regular feeds and the odd mulch with spent coffee grounds ( not too much as these tend to have a neutral Ph.) seem to have done the job.
So for next season it will all be about maintaining that low Ph. There are many old wife’s tales about adding old rusty iron nails and horseshoes (It was common practice for Victorian gardeners to plant their hydrangeas with a mix of rusty nails or old horse shoes) to the soil but in reality this does very little to raise the acid levels. What I really need to find is some composted pin needles. So a trip to woods is on the cards! A good mulch and feed feed feed is the blueberry mantra!
To celebrate the beauty of the blueberry why not try this Blueberry & Lavender Jam. Now I cheated a little here, my allotment blueberries aren’t quite all ripe at the same time to make up the quantity needed to make a jam. So I bulked it out with some British grown blueberries from the shops to make up the numbers. Blueberries and Lavender make gorgeous dark and silky floral almost savoury jam. Lovely on a buttermilk crumpets, phwoar-yeah!
Blueberry and Lavender Jam
2 Tablespoon of culinary lavender dried flowers (or 1 tablespoon if your after a more subtle taste)
500g granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon
- Measure your lavender and place in a square of muslin tied with string or spice bag and sit in your sugar. Cover bowl with an upturned plate and allow the lavender to infuse in the sugar for up to 24 hours. (overnight will do if your pushed for time)
- Remove the lavender sachet from the sugar and place in a teacup with boiling water (approx 200 ml) and leave to infuse for around 5 minutes.
- Add the blueberries and lemon juice to your pan pouring over the lavender infusion and heat until the fruit has soften but retains their shape.
- Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Attach jam thermometer if using. Increase heat and bring to a fierce boil.
- After around 5 minutes test for setting. Once setting point achieved (around 104c) remove from heat and fill your warm sterilised jars, apply wax disc and seal.