How to Grow & Care for New Blueberry Plants
The blueberry bush requires extra care and maintenance for proper growth and fruit production in the home garden. The bush will not grow well in heavy or alkaline soils. According to Penn State University's College of Agricultural Sciences, blueberries are hardy to -20 degrees and actually require at least 750 hours of chilling below 45 degrees. Plant two to three bushes to provide an adequate amount of berries for a family of four people.
Select a planting location that has a well draining, acidic soil for the blueberries. The area should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight for the plants.
Prepare the area the year prior to planting blueberries, advises Penn State. Test the soil pH as blueberry bushes require a pH of 4.8 to 5.2 for best results. Work ground rock sulfur and 3 to 4 inches of organic compost into the soil to lower the pH and increase nutrient value.
Set the blueberry bush in a hole enough deep so the top of the root ball is even with the ground. Mix organic compost or peat moss into the removed soil and gently pack the amended soil around the root ball.
Water the bush after planting by generously soaking the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Provide supplemental water during the growing season so the bush receives at least 2 inches of water each week. Do not allow water to pool around the plant as this could cause root rot.
Apply 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch, Penn State recommends rotted sawdust around the blueberry bush to assist with moisture retention. Refresh the mulch each year to maintain an adequate level around the plant. Fabric weed barrier is also effective, but according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, you should avoid black plastic mulch film.
Prune 50 percent of the blueberry bush branches after planting to promote new branch growth. Remove the flower blossoms that form during the first two years of growth to force growth instead of fruit production.
Fertilize the bush with ammonium sulfate in the fall after the first year of growth to keep the soil acidic. Apply ammonium-sulfate fertilizer to established bushes in early spring. Blueberry bushes may also require regular applications of nitrogen fertilizer, according to Penn State.
Place bird netting over blueberry bushes once the fruit begins to form to prevent a loss of berries to birds, recommends the University of Illinois Extension.
- Soil pH test
- Ground rock sulfur
- Organic compost
- Organic mulch
- Pruning clipper
- Ammonium sulfate
- Bird netting