With continuing interest in all things gardening, some people are taking vegetable gardening to a new level by planting fruit trees and shrubs. Being able to pick fresh cherries, peaches, apples or pears is a joy for home gardeners, for sure. Bramble
fruits such as raspberries and blackberries are even easier to grow, with harvests available the first year from planting. Breeders have developed new varieties of fruiting plants that are perfect for smaller spaces and patio pots.
One delicious fruit that is almost certain to fail to grow well in Central Indiana is the blueberry. Growing up in Northwestern Indiana, blueberry farms were common and my friends and I would find wild blueberries on our hikes and bike rides. This is because of the dark black peaty soil with a low pH needed by acid-loving blueberries. Our local alkaline clay soils might be great for corn and beans, but not blueberries. I’ve known determined gardeners that plant blueberry bushes in pure peat with limited success. Invariably, the (very) few berries that managed to grow were quickly eaten by birds.
There is a delicious, hardy, easy to grow fruiting bush which thrives in our native soil, is free of pests and diseases, and produces abundant fruit that look like elongated blueberries, with a taste of raspberry sweetness and just a hint of pleasant tartness. This is the Japanese haskap (Lonicera caerulea), marketed by Proven Winners as “yezberries”. They bloom in very early spring, a welcome to pollinators when little else is available. The green berries turn blue as they ripen in summer. No special soil, pruning, or spraying is required to grow them!
There are many varieties available, some of which get quite large. More manageable varieties that grow to just 5’ x 5’ are perfect for the home garden. As with many fruiting plants, although they are self-pollinating, planting two different varieties within a few yards of each other will result in more and bigger fruit on each.
Haskaps aka “yezberries” are sold online or at garden centers, even big box stores. So, don’t court disappointment trying to grow blueberries. Try haskaps!