Have you ever been curious about how blueberries are made? Well here at Brandywine Farms we work year-round to make the tastiest berries in all of Rolla. Our process starts in the fall when we plant, fertilize, water, and tend our plants. In the winter, we prune them. Then, in the spring, we let the bees go from one delicate blueberry blossom to the other until our plants begin to grow berries. Our blueberries then grow plump in the sun until they are ready for picking season around mid-June through July. That’s our favorite time, especially for Doc, because we finally get to eat them!
In the fall we begin to lay out the new patch for the plants, carefully measuring to the exact inch in order to keep the plants exactly four feet apart. Throughout the fall these plants grow and become strong to withstand the cold Missouri winter.
Over the years thousands of plants, an equipment shed, and a checkout facility have been added. Today there are over three acres of blueberry plants, primarily planted in sturdy Bluecrop and Blueray varieties that grow well in Missouri’s difficult soil.
We love our blueberries and we want to make sure it is safe for our customers to eat berries right off the bush. In order to keep all chemicals off the actual plant, we fertilize the base of our plants on our hands and knees with a trowel.
In the fall we also cover new plants with a blanket of rotted sawdust for moisture retention. This helps shallow roots keep cool in Missouri’s burning summers. Replenishing the sawdust mulch around the base of the plants takes two months and it is accomplished primarily by scoop shovel, tractor, and truck.
Blueberries are very water sensitive because they do not have root hairs to search for water. While vegetables droop as a sign they need water, blueberries simply begin to die when confronted with dry conditions. Blueberries need one inch of water per week to maintain their growth without stressing the plant.
Here at Brandywine farm we use drip irrigation to minimize fungus on the plants. The emitters give the plants one gallon of well water per hour, which help a lot with droughty periods in the Ozarks.
Once the plants are in the ground, the chore of tending the young bush swings into high gear. You must carefully analyze soil pH, rain and irrigation moisture, and fertilize the plants three times per year.
During the winter we go from plant to plant in order to hand-prune each bush. By doing this, we get rid of old wood and diseased areas on the plant and open the canopy of the bush to let sunlight and air into the interior. These pruning’s are then collected and taken down to a large brush pile where they are burned to eliminate any disease from the farm.
The arrival of spring is an exciting turning point in the season. During this time we hold our breath hoping that delicate blueberry flowers will survive the late spring freezes.
For the next three weeks bees will busily pollinate the white, bell-shaped flowers on the blueberry plant. This fertilization begins the process of forming a small, greenish berry. Then we sit back and let Mother Nature provide rain to plump the berries and sun to carry the sugar from the leaves into the ripening berry.
Summer is our favorite time because we finally get to eat our blueberries!