Blueberries are one of the easiest berries to grow in the home garden. Plant them in soil that is on the acid side; blueberries grow best in the same type of soil as evergreens, rhododendrons and azaleas. Although they won’t begin producing berries until their third year of growth in your garden, properly planted and cared for blueberry bushes will produce berries for 12 to 15 years or more.
Choose a site for blueberries that receives full sunlight. A minimum of 8 hours of sun per day is required for fruit production.
Test your soil to determine its pH. Contact your County Extension Office for instructions and soil testing kits. They will also have recommendations for amendments to lower the pH to a level that is best for growing acid-loving plants like blueberries. Your local County Extension Office is the best place for learning this because they are familiar with the properties of the soil in your area.
Improve the soil with the addition of organic matter to lighten up its structure. Add as much compost as you can, covering the bed with at least an inch, along with an inch of peat moss. Dig the compost and peat moss into the soil with a shovel or rototiller.
Dig a hole that is 1 to 1½ feet wide and the same depth. Mix a gallon-size bucket of peat moss with the soil removed from the planting hole. Put a small amount of the soil back in the hole. Carefully put the root ball into the hole and back fill with the improved soil. Gently firm the surface of the soil with your foot, but do not compress it. Plant blueberries 5 feet apart in rows that are 10 feet apart.
Water them well to settle the roots. Provide blueberries with the equivalent of 1- to 2-inches of rainfall per week.
Mulch with wood chips, shredded bark or pine needles to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Keep the mulch about 2 inches away from the base of the plant; this will keep slugs and other pests from taking up residence there.
Apply ammonium sulfate fertilizer at the rate of ½ pound for every 100 feet of row about 4 weeks after planting. Do not spread it within 6 inches of the base of the plants.
Remove blossoms during the first and second years the blueberry plants are growing in your garden to encourage vigorous growth and ultimately increase berry production.
Apply ammonium sulfate fertilizer each year at the rate of 1 lb. for each 100 feet of row. Apply half this amount when the blossoms form and the remaining half 4 to 6 weeks later.
Prune in the fourth year of growth. Remove dead, weak and thin branches. Prune out any branches that cross over others.
For winter protection, mound 1- to 2-feet of fallen autumn leaves or hay around the base of the plants to protect their roots from freezing and thawing during winter.
Things You Will Need
- Peat moss
- Shovel or rototiller
- Organic mulch
- Ammonium sulfate fertilizer
- Pruning clippers
- Plant more than one variety of blueberries to increase yields.
- Plant highbush blueberries in areas north of Zone 7; plant rabbiteye and southern highbush varieties in Zone 7 and further south.
- Birds love blueberries; protect your crop by covering the plants completely with black plastic netting, available at garden supply stores.
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