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Children with disabilities learn at the Blueberry patch.

For children with learning and developmental challenges grasping concepts needed to progress socially and academically can be difficult. Well a well planned visit to the blueberry patch can prove helpful.

Many children with developmental delays have sensory difficulties. This means their senses can easily become overwhelmed and Inhibit learning . Sensory input can be extremely distracting and often very irritating to Children with autism, developmental difficulties and learning disabilities. For example a flashing light on a printer may attract an autistic child’s focus to such an extent that he is unable to attend to anything else.

For children with sensory difficulties to learn it is important to manage both the learning environment and how information is presented.

Research suggest learning for most children occurs best where temperatures are not extreme , lighting is not bright and sounds are not loud.

Additionally one of the most successful teaching approaches for children with disabilities – the Orton- Gillingham method recommend presentIng information through as many sensory modes as possible to help children with disabilities learn. This Approach has helped children learn to read who had been unable to learn using traditional methods.

At the Blueberry patch the atmosphere is perfect for learning. Blueberry berry season occurs in the spring – when temperatures are neither hot or cold. There are gentle breezes, soft rustle of leaves and the occasional song bird. Also there are ample opportunities for kids to learn by seeing, hearing, touching and even tasting.

Here are a categorized list of sensory items available at Berrinatural – my blueberry patch:

Smells: Pollinator plants – lavender, rosemary, Jasmine.

Sights: Tall bushes, Dwarf bushes, Blue fruit, pink fruit, purple flowers, butterflies, lady bugs, beetles, ‘bad’ bugs, bumble bees, mason bees, honey bees, red leaves, orange leaves, yellow leaves.

Sounds: Bees buzzing, leaves rustling , birds chirping.

Tastes: Spearmint leaves, sweet berries, tart berries, green berries, ripe berries and limes.

Lessons taught

At the blueberry patch there are so much that can be taught. As a Parent, Speech-language pathologist and educator, I will mention a few concepts that can be taught to school aged children and toddlers.

School aged children

Concept : Comparing

Step 1. Find/identify 2 good and 2 bad bugs; step 2. Name all good bugs; Step 3. Tell 2 features of good bugs. Step 4. Explain why certain bugs are good and other bad.

Concept : Sequencing

Step 1. Identify the various colored berries. Step 2. Describe the taste of each. Step 3. Associate each berry with time/ stage. Step 4. Sequence stages of blueberry development.

Concept : Directions

1 step direction – measure circumference of a blueberry; 2 step direction – measure circumference, then estimate how fast a berry might travel across your palm; 3 Step direction – select a classmate, gather blueberries, then record weight of what you have gathered.


Concept : description- name berry colors or describe 2 flower shapes.

Concept : descriiption – Describe berry taste, shape & texture.

Concept : Naming – name 2 ‘good’ bugs

Concept : Comprehension of WH questions – Answer Who grows blueberries? When can I find them on the trees? Where can I buy them? What do blueberries need to grow? What at home smell like the lavender plant?

As we can see there are many concepts that can be taught or even just re-enforced at the blueberry patch – and it can be done in an environment without sensory overload and with opportunity to present information via various sensory modes.

As a parent of a child with learning challenges and a Speech language pathologist I have found my blueberry patch very helpful in increasing my child’s engagement, maintaining attention and understanding many fundamental concepts. I recommend parents, educators and therapists of various disciplines consider visits to a blueberry patch of the like as a means to help their children, students and clients in progressing with their social skills and academic development.

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Reducing pH for blueberries – the easy way.

The main requirement for growing blueberries is that the soil have a low pH. But how can this be done easily.

Well first we must define pH. pH is a chemistry term that describes a solution (soil) where there is either a greater amount of H+ ions (acid molecules) or OH- (basic molecules). For blueberries we want the soil to have a greater amount of H+ ions (acid molecules). When there are more acid molecules reactions happens that convert elements like iron, potassium and nitrogen into the right formulations and amounts needed by the plant. In fact blue berry bushes are unable to absorb needed iron without a greater concentration of acid molecules. This is often seen in the plants as yellowing of the leaves – which if left uncorrected will lead to the death of the plant.

In order to achieve a higher amount of H+ ions we have to add amendments. The 3 most effective amendments are Sulfuric acid (battery acid), elemental sulfur and aluminum sulfate.

It is possible to use Sulfuric acid – but it is dangerous to handle and if the correct dilution is not used your bushes will die a quick and painful death! It is used by experienced horticulturalists to quickly lower pH around large established bushes.

Elemental sulfur is the cheapest option. Elemental sulfur is acted upon by the bacteria in the soil and produce a safe concentration/dilution of sulfuric acid. This is an easy way to reduce pH when growing blueberries. Elemental sulfur can be applied to established plants but is most effective when added to soil – 1-2 months prior to the planting of blueberries. Add 1-2 lbs of elemental sulfur per plant area. Usually on elemental sulfur packaging recommended amount of sulfur per plant or planting area is stated. Elemental is best for larger planting areas.

Aluminum sulfate works similar to elemental sulfur where soil bacteria act upon the sulfur in aluminum sulfate to produce plant safe sulfuric acid. Aluminum sulfate is more soluble( mixes easily with water in soil) than elemental sulfur. Because aluminum sulfate mixes so easily with water it lowers pH quicker. Aluminum sulfate is most effective for smaller soil solutions (i.e. container planting). Aluminum sulfate packaging will recommend amount of aluminum sulfur to apply according to plant size and planting situation (i.e containers vs. raised bed)

So the easy way to reduce soil pH is to use Elemental sulfur for large planting areas and aluminum sulfate for blueberry container planting. Elemental sulfur is best when applied 1-2 months prior to planting. However both amendments can be used immediately on established plants. Always follow package recommendations. Note: It is also important to add organic items like pine bark and peat moss to soil bed when planting blueberries. These also help with increasing soil acidity.

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5 easy tips for a productive blueberry bush

Cultivating a blueberry bush can seem like a daunting task. However here are 5 easy ways to get your blueberry bush off to a great start!

  1. Get good soil acidity by using a combination of pine bark fines and peat moss – a proportion of 3 to 1 is ideal. That would be 3 pounds pine bark fines to 1 pound peat moss. Once thoroughly mixed the bush will do fine growing in this medium.
  2. Use a container with very good drainage. It would be wise to add extra holes to the bottom of a 15 gallon pot – as blueberry bushes are very susceptible to root rot. The excess water more often than not will lead to soil diseases like root rot – which will cause your bush to die!
  3. Do not Fertilize until 2 months of growth. Fertilizing early or use of too much fertilizer will get you a luscious green bush with very little fruit.
  4. Place the bush in full sun. Bushes need the sun to help the leaves manufacture fruit.
  5. Leave the bush alone! Nature- once given the proper conditions and time will amaze you.

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Florida blueberries – side by side

Southern Highbush blueberryRabbiteye blueberry
grow 4-6 feet tallgrow 8-10 feet tall
flower in februaryflower in March
need frost protectionmay NOT need frost protection
need 3 to 5% organic matter in soilrequire less organic matter in soil
susceptible to some soil diseasessusceptible to less soil diseases
generally larger berriesmedium to large berries
resistant to foliar diseasesresistant to foliar diseases

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