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This spring I aim to streamline my blueberry strategy. Although only three O’Neil highbush reside here in my central Virginia (zone 7A) garden, they have produced dozens of pounds of blueberries over the years…much to the delight of my blueberry customers. One year each shrub yielded ten pounds, yes each! This year two women already reserved as many pounds as I can harvest.

The biggest challenge to a successful blueberry harvest is running critter interference. Birds are the least of of my my concerns, and I learned years ago NOT to use traditional bird netting. Too many bird tangles and even one stuck hummingbird. Snakes can also die a horrible death when encountering standard bird netting. My advice…NEVER USE IT!! For two years, I used eleven yards of organza, stitched together by hand, a task never to be revisited. The nosey raccoons and squirrels made quick shreds of that material. SO, this year I found on AMZN a netting that fits my needs. Arriving in a tidy box, this 33’X33′ netting had its full reveal yesterday.

Below are assembly photographs of 2022’s strategy.

Step One: 8′ plant posts will stand in 12″ PVC pipes driven 6″ into the ground.
These 8′ stakes have lasted three seasons. The PVC shafts are an addition this year to help stabilize the stakes. The nice guy at Lowe’s cut 12″ sections from a 10′ pipe, as I waited. Easy peasy.

Many thanks to the hungry bumblebees who pollinated the blossoms. Despite ten freezing nights in April, when berries reach this stage it is time to protect them from birds and nocturnal four-leggers.

PVC shafts were pounded into the ground 6″ using a rubber mallet, then the 8′ stake stands at attention without wobbling. I will spray paint these shafts to match the ground, as I think they will remain in place year round.
Finished blueberry cover. Clips were used to secure the netting to the stakes. Old window sash weights were placed on the ground to keep the netting settled during breezy conditions. Access to the “tent” is at the lower end. Quart deli containers were placed, inverted, on the top of the stakes to prevent netting snags. With the help from a dear neighbor, we hoisted the netting over the stakes in merely a few minutes! The 7mm netting aperture is high tensile strength, UV stabilized, and reusable. No critter will get caught in this!
Cozy for the time being. Fingers crossed that this system will deter damage from wildlife. The PVC ground sleeves will stabilize the upright stakes.

Over the years, I looked at so many online ideas for protecting blueberries, and by far this is the best solution…my very own design. Since these shrubs are part of the landscape, I never wanted a permanent structure erected. This variety of blueberry has glorious fall color, so when berry harvest is complete off comes the netting, and both the stakes and the netting go into storage until next season.

In the weeks ahead, I expect these nickel-sized berries to delight.
O’Neil Highbush blueberry variety is my favorite by far. Before I planted any, I visited a nearby berry farm and tasted all the varieties. Now, this large, juicy fruit greets me every day for nearly one month in June.
Finally, a thought to garden by…did you learn anything?

Postscript: The ground shafts were tested with heavy rains and wind since installation, and while the netting is holding up beautifully, the shafts and poles were bent. The poles broke off at the top of the shaft and the shaft went off center in the wet ground. I adjust when needed. The berries are huge this season and plentiful and oh! so tasty. Well worth the exercise. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Copyright 2022 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved.