Growing Crops: Blueberries

Don’t try to grow blueberry bushes from seed – leave the propagating to the experts. Buy your blueberry bushes live, preferably already a year or two old – and get more than one variety for good cross-pollination. There are a large number of blueberry varieties to choose from, including Arlen, Berkeley, Bluecrop, Blueray, Brunswick, Duke, Earliblue, Jersey, Legacy, Northblue, Northcountry, Northland, Northsky, Patriot, Rancocas, and Tophat.

Nature Hills Nursery carries most of those varieties, and they list the ideal USDA Hardiness Zones for each variety so that you will know which ones will thrive in your climate zone. Pay them a visit by clicking on the banner below:

Your local nursery should carry only varieties that grow well in your area.

Be sure to read Growing Fruit 101 in conjunction with this post.

Best Climate to Grow: That will depend on the variety; be sure to purchase a variety that grows well in your climate zone.

Light Requirements: Full sun.

Soil Requirements: Blueberries need moist (but not wet), acidic soil with a pH level of 5.0 to 5.5. Sulfur or Peat/Sphagnum Moss are ideal amendments for lowering pH.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Fertilize with either hydrolyzed fish, bloodmeal, or bonemeal once a year. Too much or too little water can negatively affect your blueberry bushes. Mulch is a must, as blueberries have a shallow root system. Depending on your climate, you may or may not need drip irrigation to maintain a steady level of soil moisture. Rainwater is best for blueberries, so you would do well to install a rainbarreland attach your irrigation system to it.

When to Plant: Blueberries are best planted during the Spring.

Planting Depth and Spacing: Since you will be transplanting from the container you purchased the plants in, dig a hole that is the same depth but twice the diameter as the container. Add Peat/Sphagnum Moss to the disturbed soil before refilling the hole, and make sure to water thoroughly, then thickly mulch. Larger blueberry varieties should be planted 4-6 feet apart, while the smaller varieties can be planted 2-3 feet apart.

Container Requirements: Blueberries do very well in containers that are at least 18 inches deep. They will likely need to be fertilized more than once a year, and soil moisture is a must – drip irrigation specifically for containers in addition to a thick layer of mulch is essential.

Harvesting and Storage: Pick the berries when they are ripe, about a week to a week-and-a-half after they turn blue. They will not keep fresh for long – less than a week in the refrigerator and less than that if they are stacked deep. They are ideal for baking into muffins or pies or tarts, or canning for preserves. They freeze well. The best way to freeze them is to set them out in a single layer on kitchen towels to dry. Then freeze them in small batches to be thawed and used later.

Pruning: Immediately after planting, prune your blueberry bushes back to no more than 12 inches tall, being sure to remove all buds. Don’t let your bushes fruit the first year. They need to concentrate on filling in with branches and vegetation before producing fruit. Thereafter, simply prune the branch tips every Fall, and remove any damaged or old, non-fruiting branches as needed. Don’t allow the bushes to grow too thick – maintain adequate airflow among the branches.

Pests to Monitor: Aphids, Birds, Blueberry Maggots, Leafhoppers, and Leafrollers. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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