Every year in the garden seems to teach a lesson about how things change. This year, I've been disappointed in my blueberries.
I wrote a post a few years ago about my blueberries and how I always manage to harvest lots of them despite giving them no protection from birds (and there are lots of birds around). Last year I lost a few more berries than usual, enough that I decided this spring to hang up some bird-scare tape, the shiny red-and-silver kind that's supposed to make birds think your plants are on fire. Well, I guess my birds are daredevils, or attracted to flashy things, and certainly extra hungry, because they've been taking ALL the berries from the day the first ones got close to ripe - in fact since then I have not seen a single berry looking anything like blue.
Blueberry harvest this year = absolutely zero. Down from weeks of decent harvest last year, plenty to eat fresh and freeze. So why the sudden change? My neighbor, a Master Naturalist, says she's seen a lot more jays, catbirds, and other large birds that enjoy and can handle the size of blueberries. We have many large trees in the neighborhood, and lots of food for birds, between insects, other berry and seed plants, and supplemental birdfeeders. Maybe the population is up and they have finally figured out - after 15 years or more! - that the blueberries are available.
I will also confess that I haven't pruned my blueberries properly in a while, and I plan to do that this coming late winter (and will remember to post about it then!). This should make the crop heavier next year - but will it be enough? A few flowers might have succumbed to the late freezes this spring, which decreased the fruit setting. However, I still should have been able to harvest some!
It's particularly infuriating to lose the harvest this year, because I've just planted six new blueberry plants in the space where we took out a useless privet hedge. However, the cleared space does allow me to put up some kind of structure around the new bed - something attractive, since it's a prominent part of our landscaping - that can be covered with bird netting while the plants are bearing. I won't be able to do that with the original four plants, unfortunately.
I also plan to create a structure around my newly redesigned black raspberry planting, since I have not harvested any of those either this year - and again, we are used to sharing with the birds, but always get plenty for both fresh eating and preserving a bit.
And who knows - maybe next year the birds will find something else to snack on, and the harvest will go back to normal. Anyone who's been gardening for a while can tell you that each year is different - the year you get no tomatoes, or no squash, or no beans, and the years that those crops are super-abundant - and the patterns are not necessarily predictable.
And luckily, the local farms have plenty of blueberries to pick - so my husband was still able to start his planned blueberry wine, and we've had snacks and cereal toppings and desserts. It's just not June and July without blueberries!