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How to Prepare Blueberry Bushes for Winter

By Heidi Almond ; Updated September 21, 2017

Blueberries make a great addition to any edible landscape. They produce bell-shaped white flowers in the spring, followed by luscious fruit in the summer or fall. Blueberries are high in antioxidants and vitamins, and they may be frozen, canned or dried, or made into jam or jelly. Blueberries are tough plants that are hardy down to 20 degrees below zero, but they do require some protection in preparation for winter.

Cover your blueberries with a thick layer of mulch — approximately six inches — to help retain soil moisture throughout the winter and protect the roots from fluctuations in temperature. Mulches such as bark, peat moss or pine needles will add acidity to the soil, helping to maintain the pH level that blueberries prefer. Straw or hay will also work. Manure and compost are not recommended. Keep mulch around your blueberries year round to improve soil drainage and keep down weeds. Winter mulch should be about six inches thick to provide adequate protection from cold weather, while during the growing season a mulch level of three to four inches is adequate.

Build a permanent fence by installing fence posts around your blueberry patch, then circle the blueberries with at least six feet of chicken wire to keep out rabbits. Bury the chicken wire about six inches deep. Create a temporary enclosure by cutting a length of chicken wire fencing and bending the loose wires together to make a small cage, to place around individual blueberry bushes.

Prune your blueberry bushes late in the winter or early in the spring, when the plants are still completely dormant. Use pruning shears to remove any diseased, weak or spindly branches and any canes that are more than six years old. Blueberry bushes should be pruned once a year to ensure good fruit production.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Blueberry bushes
  • Mulch
  • Chicken wire
  • Burlap
  • Pruning shears

Tip

  • Deer do not normally browse blueberry bushes, although if they get hungry enough they might take a nibble. If deer become a problem, wrap your blueberry bushes in burlap.

Warning

  • Avoid fertilizing your blueberry bushes late in the fall. Fertilization will stimulate new growth, which may be fragile and be damaged by heavy snows and cold winter temperatures.

About the Author

 

Heidi Almond worked in the natural foods industry for more than seven years before becoming a full-time freelancer in 2010. She has been published in "Mother Earth News," "Legacy" magazine and in several local publications in Duluth, Minn. In 2002 Almond graduated cum laude from an environmental liberal arts college with a concentration in writing.