Everyone loves blueberries! We have been asked many times how you can grow your own blueberries to enjoy this sweet treat during the summer months! Your best resource for horticultural information in your area is the Cooperative Extension Service or County Agent. You can also look in your local Yellow Pages and locate nurseries near you who are knowledgeable of blueberries. We wish you luck and hope this whets your appetite to head for the produce and frozen foods section during the months of the year your blueberries are not in season.
Blueberry Growing Essentials
- Sunlight – Fruit need plenty of sunlight, whenever it begins to branch or bramble.
- Soil – Almost all fruits do best in slightly acidic soil, somewhere between a pH of 5.5 and 6.5. Blueberries prefer a soil of even greater acidity of between 4.09 and 5.0.
- Drainage – Adequate drainage is important. Find a suitable site, avoiding low lying areas the collect water or are slow to drain in the spring.
- Pollination – Most fruit trees, including blueberries have both male and female organs on the same flower, but not all are self pollinating. The best bet for blueberries is to have different varieties of blueberries within 100 feet, so bees can travel and cross pollinate. Blueberries cannot be fertilized by their own pollen!
Home Garden Sites
Blueberries bring a unique combination of delicious fruit and striking ornamental beauty to the garden and landscape. Blueberries are easy to grow, require little care, and are seldom bothered by pests. If a few basic steps are followed your blueberry plants can thrive and last a lifetime.
Blueberry varieties are distinguished by their climate suitability and ripening season. Be sure to choose varieties suited to your area. You may want to select varieties that ripen at different times or feature large fruit (best for fresh eating and desserts) or small fruit (best for muffins and pancakes). Bushes with brilliant fall color or different growth habits offer the gardener lots of choices to use throughout the landscape. For blueberry lovers, allow at least two plants per family member.
Select a sunny location in well drained soil free of weeds and well worked. Locate in an area where irrigation water is available as best results will be obtained by keeping the root zone moist throughout the growing season. Where the soil is poor or marginally drained, raised beds 3-4 feet wide and 8-12″ high work very well for blueberries.
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 2-1/2 feet in diameter and one foot deep. Remove 1/3 to 1/2 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 acid compost or planting mix. Blueberries thrive in acidic soils. Your garden center representative can recommend a soil acidifier if necessary for your area.
Blueberries can be planted as close as 2-1/2 feet apart to form solid hedgerows or spaced up to 6 feet apart and grown as individual specimens. If planted in rows, allow 8-10 feet between the rows depending on equipment used for mowing or cultivating.
For container stock, remove from pot and lightly roughen up the outside surface of the root ball. Set the top soil line of the plant about 1-2 inches higher than the existing ground and firm around root ball. Mound soil up along sides of exposed root mass. Watering well. For bare root plants, spread roots out wide and shallow, cover with 1/2″ of soil. Firm soil around roots and water well.
Blueberries do best with a 2-4″ mulch over the roots to conserve moisture, prevent weeds and add organic matter. Bark mulch, acid compost, sawdust, grass clippings, etc. all work well. Repeat every other year.
- It is important that blueberries get established before allowing them to bear fruit. Thereafter, they should be heavily pruned each year to avoid over fruiting which results in small or poor growth.
- Remove all blooms as they appear the first. year. In years thereafter, follow these steps after the leaves have dropped.
- Remove low growth around the base. If it doesn’t grow up, it gets pruned out!
- Remove the dead wood, and non-vigorous twiggy wood. Select for bright colored wood with long (at least 3 inch) laterals. Remove blotchy colored short growth.
- If 1/3 to 1/2 of the wood has not been removed by the above steps, thin out the fruiting laterals and small branches until this balance has been obtained.
Blueberries like acid fertilizers such as Rhody or Azalea formulations. For newly planted stock, use 2 tablespoons of 10-20-10 (or similar fertilizer) in late spring or once plants are established. (Careful! Blueberries are very sensitive to over fertilization!) For subsequent years, use 1 ounce of fertilizer for each year from planting to a total of 8 ounces per plant. Apply in early spring and again in late spring for best results. Always water well after fertilizing.
For organic fertilizers, blood meal and cottonseed meal work well. Avoid using fresh manure.
- Blueberry Plants (2 per family member)
- Peat Moss (4-5 plants per cubic bale)
- Mulch (1 cu. ft. per plant)
- Soil Acidifier