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Fast ways to Harvest lots of Blueberries

 
garden master
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I have a lot of blueberry bushes that are really starting to produce more than I can pick by hand. It's a good problem to have, and I would like to maximize my harvest instead of them just falling to the ground.

I was thinking about spreading a blanket or tarp around the bottom of them and shaking the whole bush or branches to drop the ripe fruit. This could also be beneficial in selecting the most ripe fruit that should drop to the ground while leaving the more immature fruit to ripen on the bush.

Has anyone tried this and had success with this method or with other methods?
 
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I have friends that use the tarp method and love it.

My blueberries never last long enough to worry about large harvesting issues.
This year every time some got ripe, wolf took care of picking them, but none ever made it to the house.  
 
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In some areas they use a berry scoop to pick blueberries.
 
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Robins. They know exactly when they are at peak ripeness & don't leave a single one behind. Tried bird netting one year but that caught snakes. Sigh. I think the ultimate solution here is to plant a lot more blueberries. As luck would have it the power company came through today & cleared some thick undergrowth. Looks like a really nice future blueberry, blackberry, & raspberry patch. AND they are going to start bringing big piles of woodchips.  
 
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You can buy blueberry rakes that work good. I have a smaller one, it has a lot of steel ties on it, and is probably a foot wide. I am not sure what the production rate is, maybe 100 pounds an hour???
 
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You can make berry rakes/scoops out of coffee cans with tin snips. Cut off one half of cylinder lengthwise.  Then, starting at mouth of can make lengthwise cuts and inch or so apart half the length of the can.  Roll the sides of the resulting strips to make "claws" that are rounded on the sides.  File down and sharp edges and add a handle to the back.
 
Mike Haasl
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Mk, do you have a picture of that you could share?
 
Steve Thorn
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This is kind of what I was picturing, except this is with mulberries, same basic concept though.

Lay a tarp down, shake a branch, and pour in a bucket. I imagine it could be super fast this way. This would be difficult if the blueberry bush had other plants right beside it though. Maybe holding up an upside down umbrella underneath it in that case could work.


 
Steve Thorn
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I found a video of the umbrella harvesting, again with mulberries, but same concept.

It looks like a lot of berries were wasted in this video. Using a super large umbrella would help I think.

With blueberries, I bet it would be a easier to have more precision with the smaller branches, so almost no berries would fall off of the umbrella.

 
Steve Thorn
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:This year every time some got ripe, wolf took care of picking them, but none ever made it to the house.



I have that problem too.
 
Steve Thorn
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I would use a rake and bucket like mentioned above if my blueberries looked like this every time, ripening at the same time.




They usually ripen at very different times though, like this. I'm glad they do though, because it spreads out the harvest over a longer period of time, providing fresh berries over the span of a few weeks!


 
Mike Haasl
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Hey, what about a big umbrella with one triangle of umbrella fabric removed?  Then you can tuck the umbrella under the plant more with the trunk in that missing triangle.
 
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When I was in Newfoundland, people had very small versions of these rakes, for the smaller blueberries that grow there. I think they also used them on cranberries.
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Travis Johnson
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Are we talking High Bush, or Low Bush Blueberries?

In Maine, we have low bush blueberries if that makes a difference.
 
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There's also this offering from Lee Valley:



But I love the wooden ones, and the coffee can design.

Also, I love the tarp idea. I have this plan I want to try where the berry row supports (which will contain raspberries, high-bush blueberries, low-bush blueberries, currants, and others, and so won't harvest at the same time, nor will one harvest method necessarily do for all of them) have tie-off spots for the attachment of grommeted tarps, so all I have to do is attach the tarps and shake the section of row out over it, empty the ripe fruit into a bucket, rinse and repeat.

I could see this method not work well at all for the low-bush variety (are wild blueberries, the tiny ones, low-bush, or their own distinct variety?), but I like the cut-out umbrella solution. It's the same idea, essentially, but more mobile, and suited to individual plants or clumps.

-CK
 
Steve Thorn
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Mike Jay Haasl wrote:Hey, what about a big umbrella with one triangle of umbrella fabric removed?  Then you can tuck the umbrella under the plant more with the trunk in that missing triangle.



That's a great idea Mike!
 
Steve Thorn
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Travis Johnson wrote:Are we talking High Bush, or Low Bush Blueberries?

In Maine, we have low bush blueberries if that makes a difference.



My blueberry bushes are Rabbiteye blueberries, more similar to highbush blueberries.
 
Steve Thorn
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It seems like to me the small scoop/rake in the pictures above would work well for the lowbush blueberries, and the tarp/ umbrella method would work well with the taller varieties of blueberries.
 
Travis Johnson
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I found our blueberry rake and took a picture of it. It is kind of small, a commercial one is twice as wide.
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All metal blue berry rake
 
Travis Johnson
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Back when teenagers were allowed to work, we as kids would get employed by the blueberry companies. An old school bus would come around the neighborhood and pick up the kids, then off we would go to the blueberry fields.

They would take string and stake out the whole field in these 4 foot wide rows. We would then be assigned a "row" and we would have to rake the row clean. We would rake into 5 gallon buckets, then haul them to the winnowing machine that cleaned the blueberries. Every bucketful we would get our "tickets" punched, and so they would know how many pounds per day we raked. A decent 5 gallon bucket would weigh 18 pounds or so.

This went from July until school started in September.

Up in northern Maine, they start school 2 weeks earlier then us, mid-August. They did that because they had fall vacation in October. Up there that is when the potatoes were harvested and they closed the schools for 2 weeks so that the kids could help get the potatoes in the store house.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:Back when teenagers were allowed to work, we as kids would get employed by the blueberry companies. An old school bus would come around the neighborhood and pick up the kids, then off we would go to the blueberry fields.

They would take string and stake out the whole field in these 4 foot wide rows. We would then be assigned a "row" and we would have to rake the row clean. We would rake into 5 gallon buckets, then haul them to the winnowing machine that cleaned the blueberries. Every bucketful we would get our "tickets" punched, and so they would know how many pounds per day we raked. A decent 5 gallon bucket would weigh 18 pounds or so.

This went from July until school started in September.

Up in northern Maine, they start school 2 weeks earlier then us, mid-August. They did that because they had fall vacation in October. Up there that is when the potatoes were harvested and they closed the schools for 2 weeks so that the kids could help get the potatoes in the store house.



I have heard of this from a neighbor - she and her siblings were regulars. It was hard work, but they also had fun, she always said.
 
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