Versatile and nutritious, blueberries can be used fresh or frozen. Popular in pies and jellies or whipped into a smoothie, antioxidant-rich blueberries are among the healthiest of the berry fruits. According to the University of Michigan, research conducted at the Experimental Biology convention in New Orleans suggests the “potential of blueberries in reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.”
Test your soil. Blueberries need acid soil (pH between 4 to 4.5) for best production, flavor and growth. Soil tests are available in home and garden supply stores, or your local county agricultural extension can provide supplies and advice.
Provide adequate sun. Blueberries need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day but prefer cooler, early morning sun. In hotter reaches of its growing zone, blueberries prefer light afternoon shade.
Mulch heavily. Blueberries have shallow roots and benefit from a thick layer of sawdust or peat moss mulch. This protects the roots, controls weeks and retains water.
Water frequently. Provide at least 1 inch of water each week. In early to mid-September, taper off watering. Stop watering completely by November 1.
Fertilize with ammonium sulfate. Blueberries need acidic soil. Apply ½ lb. of ammonium sulfate when plants bloom and again 4 to 6 weeks later. Apply fertilizer around the base of the plant but do not let fertilizer come in contact with the trunk.
Prune carefully. During the two years of growth, pinch off all flower buds to strengthen the plant. Prune off any dead or damaged branches. Beginning in the third year, lightly prune blueberries in early March. Remove dead or damaged branches and thin, weak branches with small buds. Remove less robust interior branches to allow sunlight and air to penetrate the plant.
Protect from birds and deer. Garden netting (5/8 inch weave) can protect your plants from birds. If your blueberries are not in a well-fenced enclosure (at least 7 feet high), consider spraying plants with a non-toxic, food use repellent.
Be patient. Blueberries will not produce fruit during their first 2 or 3 years of growth. Full productivity occurs in 6 to 10 years.