Editor’s note: Kelly R. Jackson takes questions called into his phone recently at the Christian County Extension Office and answers them in the Garden Corner column.
Question. How do I know when to pick blackberries and blueberries at their ripest?
Answer. Blueberries in a cluster do not ripen at the same time, and only fully ripe berries should be picked.
The fruit need at least one to two days after turning blue to develop full flavor and can be left on the bush for up to 10 days without a loss in size. Flavor does not improve once the fruit is picked; consequently, you should leave blueberries on the bush for as long as possible to develop sweetness and flavor.
For best results at harvest, pick carefully, rolling blueberries from the cluster with the thumb into the palm of the hand. Handle as little as possible to avoid rubbing off the bloom (the light waxy finish on the skin) and reduce bruising.
Harvest only when berries are dry. Refrigerate promptly to slow ripening and decay.
Blackberries for commercial sale are picked “firm ripe,” but home growers have the luxury of picking soft, fully ripe and juicy fruit.
Pick fruit twice a week, and during hot rainy weeks, every other day. Harvest after the morning dew has dried.
Pick carefully to avoid bruising the fruit, and as with blueberries, refrigerate quickly to limit fruit rot. The sweetest, best tasting fruit is produced during dry sunny weather when nights are cooler.
Q. At night there are lots of brown beetles flying at my door. What are they and what do I do about them?
A. Southern and northern masked chafers are probably the small tan beetles that you see skimming over turfgrass or flying toward outdoor lights at night. Active from early June through July, the beetles are mating and laying eggs that may lead to turf damage from white grubs in August; however, the beetles themselves do not feed.
Similar in appearance, the two species partition the night: Southern masked chafers fly from around dusk until about 11 p.m.; northern chafers take wing after midnight.
Cruising males make low-level flights over turf to detect sex pheromones released by females waiting on grass blades. Mated females will burrow into the soil to lay their clutches of eggs.
If you are seeing significant beetle flight, there is still time to apply an insecticide for white grub control using commercially available preventive products. However, do not make an application when soil is saturated; allow about 24 hours for the water to percolate through the soil.
Kelly R. Jackson is the Christian County Extension Agent for horticulture. He can be reached at 270-886-6328 or visit Christian County Horticulture online at www.christiancountyextension.com.