Blueberries bring a unique combination of delicious fruit and striking, year round ornamental beauty to the garden and landscape.
They’re relatively easy to grow and require minimal care. By following just a few basic steps, your blueberry plants will thrive for many decades and provide you with abundant fruit every year.
Below are some basic tips to help ensure your success with blueberries:
Site Selection and Preparation
Select a sunny location with well-drained soil that is free of weeds and is well-worked. It’s best to locate your blueberry plants in an area where irrigation is readily available as best results will be achieved by keeping the root zone moist throughout the growing season.
Where the soil is not ideal or marginally-drained, raised beds are an excellent option. Blueberries also do well in patio containers and offer a great way for apartment and condo dwellers and those with little or no yard to enjoy blueberries.
Blueberries prefer acidic soils. A fail-safe way to grow blueberries in almost any soil is to incorporate peat moss into the planting medium. For planting directly in the ground, work up a planting area approximately 2½ feet in diameter and 1 foot deep for each plant. Remove 1/3 to ½ of the soil. Add an equal amount of pre-moistened peat moss and mix well. (One 4 cubic foot compressed bale will usually be sufficient for 4-5 plants.) For raised beds mix equal volumes peat moss with bark (not cedar or redwood), compost or planting mix. Talk to your local garden center. They’re experts in your area and can best advise you on soil amendments.
Blueberries can be planted as close as 2 – 2½ feet apart to form solid hedgerows or spaced up to 6 feet apart and grown individually. If planted in rows, allow 8 to 10 feet between the rows depending on equipment used for mowing or cultivating.
In most areas, it’s ideal to plant in the fall or spring although in many regions you can plant year round.
If you purchased containerized blueberry plants, remove from pot and lightly roughen up the outside surface of the root ball. Mound the plant’s top soil about 1/2 inch higher than the existing ground and firm around root ball. Then mound soil up along sides of exposed root mass and water in well.
Blueberries do best with 2-4 inches of mulch over the roots to conserve moisture, prevent weeds and add organic matter. Bark mulch, acid compost, sawdust and grass clippings all work well. Repeat every other year. Do not use bark or sawdust from cedar or redwood trees.
It’s a good idea to allow blueberries to get established before allowing them to bear fruit. If you start with smaller plants, simply remove most of the flower blooms as they appear. In future years, blueberry plants should be heavily pruned each year to avoid over-fruiting which results in small fruit or poor growth.
In our three decades of experience at Fall Creek, we know that one of the biggest mistakes home gardeners make with their blueberries is lack of pruning. We assure you that aggressive, annual pruning will result in healthier, more vigorous plants and more prolific fruit production. Here are some simple tips:
Remove low growth around the base.
Remove the dead wood, leaving bright colored lateral branches. Cut out any short, discolored branches.
Continue pruning until you have removed 1/3 to ½ of the wood out your plants each year. Remember, this will promote growth and berry production so prune away!
Once established, blueberries like acid fertilizers such as rhododendron or azalea formulations. (Ask your local garden center for recommendations.) Take care when fertilizing, since blueberries are very sensitive to over-fertilization. Follow label instructions.
It’s ideal to fertilize once in early spring and again in late spring. Be sure to always water thoroughly after fertilizing. For organic fertilizers, blood meal and cottonseed meal work well. Avoid using manures as they can damage the plants.
Text from Fall Creek Nursery