Blueberries are great for baking and snacking, and they are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. Buying blueberries at the store can be expensive, and the selection may be poor. One solution is planting blueberry plants in your home garden. As long as you carefully choose a location for your plants, you should get a healthy crop of blueberries each summer after allowing the plants a few years to become established.
Dozens of blueberry cultivars are available, and each has specific requirements for climate. Before purchasing your plants, make sure you choose cultivars that are suitable for your area. When planting blueberries, keep in mind that they need full sun to grow and thrive. It's also best to choose a location that is free of trees and other large plants.
Blueberry plants are particular about soil. They grow best in sandy loams that are rich in organic matter. A well-draining soil is also important. Optimal soil pH for growing blueberries is between 4.5 and 5.5. If your soil is not ideal for growing blueberries, you can add organic matter to make it more suitable. To make the soil more acidic, sulfur can be added. Changing soil pH takes months, though, and should be done the season before you plan to plant blueberries.
Blueberries can be planted either in the fall or early spring. It's best to plant blueberry plants that are two or three years old. Plants can be either bare root or container grown. Blueberry plants should be placed in the ground at the same depth they were grown at the nursery. If you are planting multiple plants, space them 4 feet to 5 feet apart. Rows should be 8 feet to 10 feet apart.
Immediately after planting, the plants should be watered thoroughly so they can begin to establish their roots. It's also important to prune the branches by 30 percent to 40 percent to encourage new growth and remove blossoms as they appear during the first season. Place mulch around the base of the plants to discourage weed growth and help the plants retain moisture. In addition, keep an area about 4 feet in diameter free of weeds to help the plants grow.
Once established, blueberry plants often grow well without much maintenance. However, fertilizing can help produce a more abundant harvest. Use an acidic 10-20-10 fertilizer in early spring and late spring each year to encourage growth. Regular pruning is also beneficial. Dead wood should be removed at the end of each growing season and thin out the plant so it appears balanced.