Blueberries not ripening? Birds are to blame!

Irregular ripening is normal for blueberries. But if you never find ripe fruit, birds may be picking it before you get there. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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Irregular ripening is normal for blueberries. But if you never find ripe fruit, birds may be picking it before you get there. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: For several years, my blueberry bushes quit ripening berries right after July 4th. The bushes are loaded but there are no ripe berries. What could be the problem? Renee Horne, Holly Springs

A: Keep in mind that other creatures enjoy blueberries as much as you do and they might be arising earlier than you do each day. Birds are the likely cause of your problems. They recognize ripe fruit better than you and they start picking at sunrise each day. The only sure way to control them is with bird netting. Don’t simply drape netting onto the bush. Netting that’s tangled into stems is tedious to remove. Instead, construct a big “box” from PVC plumbing pipe to cover the bush and keep the netting away from fruit and twigs. Make sure the netting goes down to the ground on all sides. Check the netting each day to be sure no birds have become caught. I think you’ll find that the berries are ripening after all.

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Q: Four years ago, we built a large raised bed and planted Asian lilies, canna lilies and other perennials. Now the level of the soil mix is 4 inches lower. Is there a way to bring the soil level back up without taking all the plants out? Bill Lee, Nashville, Tennessee

A: Some bulbs have the ability to move themselves down in the soil, using contractile roots, but I don’t know of any that can move upward. Too much soil on top of plant roots will suffocate them. You might get by if you add a soil mix that is very sandy and breathable. But frankly, removing the plants after they bloom, adding soil, and replanting would be your best route to raise the soil level.

Q: Where can I get Meyer zoysia seed? I already have Meyer sod in my backyard, but want to overseed it in the rest of my yard because it spreads over the Bermuda and weeds. M. Henry, email

A: ‘Meyer’ zoysia is a selected form of “regular” zoysia. It is very difficult to collect seed from it, so you won’t find ‘Meyer’ zoysia seed for sale. Moving forward, ‘Zenith’ zoysia is an improved form of ‘Meyer’ zoysia. Seeds are not quite so hard to collect, so you can find ‘Zenith’ zoysia seed for sale at most nurseries. I would recommend you use ‘Zenith’ but I’m not sure it will spread over Bermuda grass. Usually they come to an uneasy detente and you’ll have two patches of different grass growing side by side.

Walter’s email address is georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener.