The lighted sign “Why buy blueberries when you can grown your own?” on Hwy 466A captured my attention and prompted me to make a U-turn back to the nursery. I love blueberries better than Snickers candy bars and not because they are healthier either. Fresh blueberries remind me of visiting my grandmother as a child. We’d pick those sweet nuggets for the next morning’s breakfast, and I didn’t even need the cereal. Blueberries in milk were just fine.
Buying blueberries at today’s prices is almost a luxury, so the encouragement to grow my own was too hard to resist. Did I mention that I’m an advertiser’s dream? I will believe anything, even that I have a smidgen of ability to overcome a persistent black thumb.
My husband, Tony, and I come from long lines of planting and gardening enthusiasts. Both of our grandfathers cultivated fresh vegetables for their families. One of Tony’s earliest memories is getting yelled at in Italian when his Connecticut grandfather caught him sitting in the middle of the tomato patch with salt shaker in hand taking bites of the biggest and ripest tomatoes. I remember holding my grandfather’s hand as we walked through rows of Mississippi butterbeans and then sitting on my grandmother’s front porch to help her shell them.
Unfortunately, the horticulture gene skipped both of us. Before Tony and I married, we probably should have discussed who was going to be in charge of the planting and weeding. Looking back, I’d have rewritten the vows to say, “love, honor, and do the gardening.”
We both love beautifully landscaped yards with colorful flowers and healthy, thriving plants. Ours has even looked like that a couple of times—right after the landscaper left. Give us a couple of weeks, and we’re back to normal with a proliferation of weeds and shell-shocked plants.
We’ve had some minor successes along the way. A few years ago, we nursed a cherry tomato plant for several drought-stricken weeks. Each night we would get one small tomato from it; a good night rendered two so that we could each have one in our salad. What satisfaction it was to say that we were eating the fruit of our labor. Finally, the spindly plant looked like it was about to produce a sizeable crop the week before we went on vacation. My mother, who was cat-sitting the week we were gone, said she had a bountiful supply of tomatoes from the plant every evening at supper. It never produced another tomato after that week. While happy for her, we were so disheartened that we never tried to grow tomatoes again.
Not this year, though. We are inspired by all the cooking shows and news programs that are encouraging folks to get back to growing their own produce. Even First Lady Michelle Obama broke ground for a garden on the South Lawn of the White House. If you don’t have a yard, that’s not a problem. Container gardening can be just as fertile as a patch of dirt, or so the gardening books and articles say.
So with notebook in hand, I marched into Central Florida Nursery and Landscaping where I quizzed the young man behind the counter about tips to be a successful blueberry grower. Even I knew that Florida’s hot climate would parch a blueberry plant faster than the birds could land for an easy snack. He convinced me that the new Springwide variety produced by the University of Florida would tolerate the heat.
And so it has. I can count on one blueberry tomorrow for my cereal.