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    Growing Blueberries

    Blueberries are easy to grow in the home garden or landscape. With healthy soil and proper drainage they will produce for years without pests or disease providing your family with safe, healthy and tasty fruit.

    Where to Plant Blueberries

    Plant blueberries in the home garden or in the landscape. They are beautiful in the spring with white-pink blooms, and in the fall leaves turn a crimson red. Space the plants 3-5 feet apart; consider grouping blueberries with other acid soil loving shrubs like azaleas, camellias or sun tolerant hydrangeas. Blueberries are ideal for an edible hedge or screen.

    Site

    Blueberries prefer a sunny location with good air circulation. Avoid low areas where frost damage is likely to occur. A water source close by is convenient for watering. If possible start preparing the site six months to a year in advance of planting to remove ">weeds and amend soil conditions by adding composted organic matter and adjusting pH level. Get a soil test.

    Soil

    Blueberries grow best in sandy, acid soil with a pH of 4.0 to 5.0. Elemental sulfur can be used to lower pH, or if you need faster results try Iron Sulfate. Adding peat also helps to acidify the soil. If soil ground water level is an issue on your site, plant in hills or raised beds one to one-and-half feet deep by three feet wide. Blueberries love to dip into ground water for a drink but do best when their roots do not sit in water.

    Container Planting

    If your soil conditions can’t be improved enough or you don’t have room in your landscape or garden, consider planting blueberries in large containers. Drill holes in the bottom for drainage. A mixture of pine or fir bark (70%), peat moss (20%) and perlite (10%) or a mix of half peat and half topsoil is recommended.

    Which Blueberries to Plant

    There are three basic species of blueberry plants – lowbush, rabbiteye and highbush.

    • Lowbush blueberries are less than 3’ tall and are grown in the northern states where they are hardy to at least -25 degrees.
    • Rabbiteye blueberries are native to the south and can tolerant heat and drier conditions making them a wise choice for the southern regions of the country.
    • Highbush blueberries are native to the northern regions of the United States and are hardy to -20 degrees. They perform well from the north to the middle sections of the country, and even into some of the southern states at higher elevations with irrigation.

    Pollination: Plant at least two varieties to ensure good cross-pollination and maximum fruit production. Choose early (if not subject to late winter freezes), mid and late season blueberries to extend harvest time. Check with local Ag Extension for the best varieties for your area.

    When to Plant Blueberries

    Plant healthy 2 year old blueberries while they are still dormant (before bud-break). This could mean anytime from November through May depending on where you live.

    How to Plant Blueberries

    Dig a wide and deep enough hole to accommodate all of the roots. Untangle or cut into the roots if the plant is root bound. Fill with peat mixed with part of the soil from the hole. A gallon to a half bushel of added peat per hole is fine. Bury plants an inch or two over top roots, not too deep. Never add fertilizer when planting. Firm the soil around the plants and water.

    Mulch

    After planting apply 4 – 6 inches of rotted sawdust, peat, oak leaves, pine needles or pine bark to control weeds, add organic matter to the soil, and keep moisture in. Add mulch each year and expand the area of mulch around the plant as it grows.

    How many plants do I need?

    This depends on how well you like this fruit and how much space is available. The usual recommendation is one plant for every member of your family and a couple extra for the neighbor and wildlife.

    Caring for Your Plants

     

    Fertilization

    Don’t fertilize until the first growth flush. After that, bud break (when plants start showing signs of life) is a good time to fertilize blueberries on an annual basis. Be careful not to over-fertilize as this can burn the plants. For best results use a fertilizer especially developed for acid loving plants like azaleas and camellias. Get a soil test every couple of years to check pH and plant needs.

    Watering

    It is important that blueberries receive about an inch of rain or supplemented water per week. This is especially important while they are getting established in the first year or two.

    Pruning

    Remove flowers the first two years to encourage vegetative and root growth plus any broken or prostrate branches. After the third year, prune plants every winter for better air circulation, light penetration and to encourage the right amount of berry production. Read more about pruning.

    Pests

    If planted correctly in healthy soil with the correct pH and site conditions you should not have any problems with pests or diseases. Blueberries are easy to grow and maintain organically.

    Harvest

    Usually around the third year you can expect to have blueberries to pick. Blueberries will not ripen all at once (when you reach under the berries and can gently roll them off with your finger tips they are ready). Blueberries are easy to freeze or dry for use later in the year. Read more about preserving.

    TSC Supplies:

    • Weeds
    • Fertilizer
    • Mulch
    • Soil