Ripening blueberries on bush
image by Quacktaculous/Flickr.com
Any gardener who has already gone through the precise process of planting blueberries will find caring for their bushes an easy task. Once the blueberries have the established soil requirements, which is typically the hardest part; maintaining this level, and the other needed care, are uncomplicated.
Specific chores must be done at certain times of the season, but these are similar to most other regular garden or landscape maintenance that you probably do right now.
Irrigating your blueberry bushes varies depending on your locations soil condition and temperatures. Typically providing 1-2 inches of water weekly from spring to fall is sufficient.
Use a drip or trickle irrigation system to water bushes evenly, if rainfall is not adequate. Make use of a water hose or sprinkler system early in the day to allow the plants to dry completely prior to nightfall to prevent diseases, if this is your only means to water.
Apply either ammonium sulfate or 10-10-10 fertilizer to blueberries early in the spring and again in 4 to 6 weeks. This amount increases each year, until the plant reaches 6 years old. See Resources for a table that indicates the necessary amounts, or contact your nearest university or local horticultural center.
Use pruning shears to remove only dead or diseased branches during the first 3 years. Get rid of any flower buds during the first 2 years also.
Prune blueberry bushes in the middle of March of the fourth year. Cut all weak, dead or thin branches and any that cross the center of the blueberry bush. Cut older branches each following year to generate more growth of younger ones. Leave about six or seven 2- to 5-year-old canes along with two or three 1-year canes on each bush.
Use shovel to add mulch yearly to blueberry bushes or when the older mulch begins to break down. Add at least 1 inch per year, or as needed, to keep a total depth of 2 to 4 inches. Remove any weeds by hand that are seen growing near the bushes.
Watch for ripened blueberries towards the end of July through the middle of August. Pick berries no sooner than 3 days after they turn blue. Cover with plant netting to prevent birds from eating it, if this is a problem in your area.