How to Plant Blueberries in Middle Tennessee
Geographically, middle Tennessee includes areas of higher elevations as well as rolling hills and valleys. Three types of blueberries are grown in Tennessee, and selecting the type of blueberry plant to grow in your area will depend on the elevation. Northern high bush blueberries prefer cooler temperatures and are a good choice for higher elevations where the average annual low temperature is below 10 degrees. In warmer areas rabbiteye blueberries, or the relatively new southern high bush blueberries, are a better choice. Rabbiteye blueberries are native to the southeastern United States and require warmer average winter temperatures above 0 degrees, and drier soil conditions. They also bloom earlier and can be damaged by a late frost. Southern high bush blueberries were first developed in the mid 1970s by crossing northern high bush blueberries with rabbiteye cultivars. They bloom later than the rabbiteyes so crop loss due to frost is not common.
Choose a site that receives full sun. No matter what type of blueberries you choose to grow, all blueberries prefer acidic soil with a pH of 4.0 to 4.5. They also prefer soil that is moist but well drained. Blueberries can't tolerate wet feet.
Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball of your blueberry plant and as deep as the container. Mix some organic material (peat moss, leaf mold, manure, or compost) into the soil that has been removed. The ratio should be 50 percent organic matter to 50 percent soil.
Remove the plant from its container. If the roots are a dense mass, score the root ball deeply in three places with the pruning shears. Prune any visibly damaged roots. Place the shrub in the planting hole.
Fill in around the roots with the mix. When you have filled in the hole half way, drench the planting hole with water. As it drains it will settle the planting mix around the roots. Continue filling in the hole and watering again. After planting, spread a 2-inch layer of mulch over the roots.
Check the moisture level of the soil for the next few weeks. Blueberries have shallow root systems and are sensitive to water fluctuations. The soil should be moist but not wet. Blueberries need 1 to 2 inches of water per week during the summer.
Some cultivars require cross pollination to set fruit. Do not water after mid-September to encourage dormancy.
- Some cultivars require cross pollination to set fruit. Do not water after mid-September to encourage dormancy.
- Blueberry plant
- Organic matter
- Pruning shears
- Garden hose