Research has shown that blueberries are one of the best antioxidants that nature provides us with. Fortunately, the plants are easy to grow and they will add a touch of beauty to the garden.
The plants grow five to eight feet tall. Blueberries have shallow root systems. The small white flowers in spring yield a harvest of blueberries that can be picked in summer to early fall.
When planting blueberries, choose a site that offers plenty of sunlight. They will tolerate some shade, but prefer full sun. The plants prefer acidic soil that is rich in organic matter. The plants grow best when the soil has a pH of 4.0 to 4.5. In most cases, you will have to add garden sulfur or aluminum sulfur to lower the pH of the soil. However, it is a good idea to have the soil tested before making any adjustments. If adjustments in pH are needed, it is best to make them a year before planting blueberries.
Blueberries should be planted in late spring when all danger of frost is past. It is up to you to decide whether you want to plant them in individual holes or in a bed. In many situations it can be easier to prepare a whole bed for the plants.
When preparing the soil, be generous with the amount of peat moss or organic compost that you add. Peat moss will help increase the soil acidity.
When choosing plants, you might want to consider planting a couple of varieties for better pollination. Some varieties are self-pollinating, but you should plant a minimum of two plants. This yields a bigger harvest of fruit.
Space the plants six to eight feet apart. Plant the blueberries as deep in the soil as they were when you purchased them. You should be able to see a soil line on the main trunk. Be sure to firmly pack the soil around the roots. Water well. Newly planted blueberries require more water than adult plants. Don’t let them dry out.
Blueberry plants should not be fertilized during their first year of growth because the roots. After that, use ammonium sulfate to fertilize the soil. If you cannot find that, you can use fertilizers made for acid loving plants such as azaleas.
It is beneficial to remove all flowers from the bushes during the first two years of growth. This allows the plants to grow bigger and sturdier. Flowers can be left on the third year, but the harvest will be small.
The bushes should be pruned at the beginning of the fourth year. Remove dead branches and ones that tend to grow across others branches. Strive to open the center of the bush so that the inside gets more light.
Blueberry Pests and Diseases
Birds are a blueberry plants’ worst nightmare. They love the plump berries and will quickly devour all a plant has to offer. One cure for the bird blight is to cover the blueberry bushes with netting, which can be found in garden and hardware stores.
Insects that can damage plants include the blueberry tip borer and cherry and cranberry fruit worms. Treat the pests with commercial sprays from the garden store.
Blueberry plants are susceptible to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew. The best thing is to plant resistant varieties. Clean up any diseased branches and leaves that may fall to the ground. There are commercial fungicides available if the problem is bad.
The blueberry harvest starts in mid-July and can continue until early September. The berries are ripe when they turn blue. There is no need to rush to harvest berries. They will hold on the bush for several days after ripening.
Want to more about growing blueberries?
This article on Home Fruit Production of Blueberries (PDF) explains good ways to grow blueberries at home and even how to use blueberry bushes as part of landscaping.
Organic Gardening Magazine’s article on Blueberries provides helpful tips and advice on growing blueberries and on which varieties of blueberries are the best for you.
Mother Earth News provides and article about Growing Blueberries that discusses which varieties grow best in different parts of the country.