Blueberries are a summertime treat that can be eaten fresh or frozen whole for enjoying throughout the year. With their antioxidant properties, they are not only sweet to eat, but healthy, too. Native to North America, blueberries require relatively little space, making them a good choice for growing in a home garden. Once they are planted in a location with full sun and acidic soil (pH of 4.5 to 5.0), maintaining them takes very little effort, and by the third season you will begin reaping the benefits of fresh berries. Blueberries come into full fruit production around the sixth to 10th year after planting, and by planting several varieties for cross-pollination, you can maintain a constant supply of berries throughout the summer.
Apply a 4-inch layer of mulch, such as sawdust or shredded bark, under your blueberry plants. Spread the mulch out to cover a 2-foot-wide area under your bushes to control weeds, keep grass down and help retain moisture in the soil. Blueberry plants have shallow root systems, and the mulch helps protect them, especially during winter.
Water your blueberries well to maintain a healthy root system, which in turn will yield a large fruit crop. Use a drip irrigation or soaker hose to water deeply, giving your blueberries about 1 inch of water weekly. Avoid overhead watering, which does not provide deep watering to the roots. Stop watering in the late fall to prepare your plants for the dormant stage during the winter.
Feed your blueberry plants in the spring after the last frost and again in the fall by applying a 2-inch layer of compost around each plant. Compost provides your blueberries with the right amount of nitrogen needed for strong, healthy plants.
Prune your blueberries in late winter when the plant is dormant. Cut out dead or diseased branches, branches that cross and any branches that are smaller than the diameter of a pencil. Pruning is done mostly to clean up the bush and maintain its size and shape.
Protect your blueberries from birds and deer. Garden netting placed over the bushes is the most common method used to keep wildlife from eating the berries. You also could tie brightly colored balloons or reflective tape throughout the bushes to scare the birds and animals away.