This week, my husband and I decided on a whim to plant a blueberry bush at our house. We saw some on sale at Whole Foods, but I ended up going to a local garden center and found a “Bountiful Blue” bush that already had tiny green berries starting to ripen. I did some research and was determined to plant this bush correctly. In ideal conditions, blueberry bushes can produce for 30 years, so how disappointing would it be if I failed on the first try? I bought the bush, some peat moss to mix into our soil (blueberries like acidic soil), and even spread a layer of mulch over the entire side yard since it was recommended. I was set!!! But then it dawned on me: do I need to build a fence around this thing?
I quickly went to google and tried to figure out if bunnies like blueberries. My very first search result revealed that that bigger blueberry-stealing critters are birds. Uh oh. Not only do I need to build a fence, it has to be covered! I find building fences difficult and expensive, and I’m really not that great at it. So what were my options? There were three things I considered:
1. Physical barrier- this includes any type of fence or contraption I decided to piece together or special netting made to keep birds out. I almost bought the netting, but I was being cheap and didn’t feel like paying a bunch of money for something I’d still have to go home and try to “build” around four posts. I’d also have to find a way to secure the edges in the ground so nothing could sneak underneath. Whatever I came up with was bound to be ugly.
2. Table sugar- Apparently mixing a solution of sugar and water and spraying your fruit will deter the birds. While they can digest the sugar in fruits, they can’t digest sucrose…. This seemed like an awesome option to me, but I don’t trust it. My husband reminded me that my mom’s hummingbird feeder is filled with sugar water and those birds go nuts. I’m sure different birds have different nutritional requirements, but the hummingbird can’t be the only bird on the planet that likes sugar.
3. Grape Koolaid- This was the winner. It was the cheapest option ($0.80 for four packets) and the easiest. It seems to have some good results based on forums and posts with people who have tried it online. All you do is mix four packets of unsweetened Grape Koolaid with a gallon of water and spray it onto the bush. If you have rain or heavy dew, reapply as needed. Why does it work? The Koolaid contains a grape compound called methyl anthranilate that birds hate the taste of.
My fingers are crossed that this method actually works for us. If I were trying to grow a million blueberries for a specific purpose or had a lot of robins in the area (robins love blueberries), I might combine this with another method such as the netting. Until then, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and look forward to eating those fresh ripe berries in a matter of weeks.