Growing blueberries is easy with the right type of soil acidity and routine care. There are three main types of blueberries and numerous varieties within each type. The Northern Highbush varieties grow well in the northern U.S., while the Southern Highbush and Rabbiteye varieties grow well in the southern states. Blueberry shrubs grow well in acidic, well-drained soils and full sun.
Test the pH, organic content, and nutrient levels of your soil before you plant the blueberry shrubs. Amend your soil as indicated by the soil tests. Blueberries grow best with a soil pH of between 4.5 and 5.0. Add sulfur to lower the pH or lime to raise the pH as necessary. Blueberry shrubs like soil with an organic content greater than 3 percent, because it promotes root growth and good soil drainage. If necessary, add organic material such as mulch, peat or grass clippings. You will use the nutrient level information from your soil test during the fertilizing process, so keep the records on file.
Space your blueberry shrubs 4 to 6 feet apart in rows that are spaced between 8 and 12 feet apart. If your soil is a dense clay or loam that you could not amend to provide better drainage, consider planting your blueberry shrubs in raised beds that are approximately 9 inches high and 4 feet wide. Always follow specific recommendations provided with your blueberry shrubs for optimal growth.
Plant each shrub in a hole that is approximately 4 inches deep. If you did not amend the soil with organic matter, dig your hole 18 inches wide and deep, and then mix peat moss, or other organics, with the soil and refill the hole to within 4 inches of the land surface. Sit the blueberry plant in the hole and cover the roots with soil. Cover the area around the new plants with pine mulch, such as sawdust, wood chips, straw or bark after planting. Apply 2 to 6 inches of mulch to hold in soil moisture around the shrubs.
Pour 1 to 2 inches of water around your blueberry shrubs each week. Blueberry plants have shallow root systems that do not reach into the water table, so it is essential that you provide sufficient water during times of little rain.
Apply fertilizer to your blueberry plants when the leaves reach full size after the initial planting. Use 12-12-12 or 10-10-10 fertilizer applied in a circle around the plant, approximately 12 inches from the base. You may use other fertilizer as indicated by your soil tests as well. For example, if your soil has sufficient or high potassium, you may use ammonium nitrate instead of a fertilizer that contains additional potassium. Follow the fertilizer directions carefully -- too much fertilizer will damage the plants. In subsequent years following initial planting, increase the distance of the fertilizer from the plants to 18 inches in the second year, and up to 3 feet once the plants bear fruit.