Western Michigan is a large commercial blueberry production area, but home gardens through out the state also enjoy growing the plant. Blueberries are a popular berry cultivar, but the plant is not low maintenance; additional soil preparation and continued maintenance is required to keep the planting soil acidic. Plant two to four blueberry bushes in a home garden to produce enough harvested berries for a family of four to five to enjoy eating fresh, baking and processing.
Choose a full sunlight planting location for the blueberry bushes that has a nutrient rich, well-draining soil with a pH of 4.8 to 5.2. Add ground rock sulfur to the soil and work it to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Water the soil well and let it rest for at least two weeks before planting blueberry bushes.
Dig a hole that is two times as wide and the same depth as the root ball of the blueberry bush. Add equal portions of organic compost to the removed soil to increase the water draining ability of the soil. Set the bush into the hole and fill with amended soil.
Apply 1 to 2 inches of water to the blueberry bushes each week during the growing season. Blueberry bushes require a moist but not wet soil--the roots are shallow and can rot if the soil is saturated for long periods.
Fertilize the blueberry bushes with a 5-10-10 fertilizer each spring after one year of growth. Apply ammonium sulfate each May to maintain soil acidity if the pH number is higher that 5.2. Apply water to the soil after each fertilizer application.
Place a 2- to 3-inch layer of bark mulch around the blueberry bushes to decrease weed growth and increase moisture retention. Add more mulch to the area each spring if the layer is less than 2 inches.
Drape bird netting over the blueberry plants once the flowers form to prevent blossom and fruit loss to birds. Build a wired fence around the bushes if rabbits or rodents cause damage to the plants.
Things You Will Need
- Soil pH test
- Ground rock sulfur
- 5-10-10 fertilizer
- Ammonium sulfate
- Bird netting
- Remove blueberry blossoms during the first two years of growth to increase branch and foliage growth.
- Harvest blueberries once the color becomes uniform and the berries take little effort to pull off the branch. Store the berries immediately after picking by placing in a refrigerator set to 35 degrees F.
- Blueberry varieties recommended for Michigan are Bluejay, Bluecrop, Duke, Elliot, Jersey and Rubel.
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