How to Grow Blueberries
How to Grow Blueberries
**There are three main types: (1) Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), which grows best in Maine and Canada; (2) Rabbiteye blueberry (V. ashei), which grows best in southern United States; and (3) Highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum), which grows best in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest of the United States.
**This is such a beautiful plant (changing colors throughout the seasons) that they make wonderful landscaping plants. Each type of blueberry has a different height, however, so make sure you read about your type of plant in detail before planting for landscaping purposes.
***If planted in a suitable sunny site, blueberry bushes are almost completely pest free. However, this plant will not thrive or often even grow in the wrong soils. They must be grown in soils that are highly acidic (pH levels of 4.5-5.5), uniformly moist (not wet), and nutrient-poor. The soils must be high in organic matter because this provides a slow-release of nutrients to the plant.
*The preferred starting plant is a 2 year old bare-root plant. Remove the flowers from this plant so that the plant can become better established. Sacrificing the first year crop in this manner will help establish a plant that can give you fruit for over 50 years if well-maintained.
**Plant blueberries in early spring in cool climates and late fall in mild ones. Place in holes that are 18 inches deep and wide and add compost to the soil and mix thoroughly and then place the plant in the hole. Apply a thick mulch of bark around the plant.
**Berry size is affected by the amount of available nutrients and water when the flower buds are opening in the summer and when the fruit develops in the following summer. Insufficient water will lead to smaller berries but too much water can lead to bland but larger fruit. It is thus important to try to find the right balance of water for your plant. An application of mulch is one of the best ways of helping balance the water needs for your blueberry plant. The best mulch to use is hardwood bark mulch (the basic type used for most landscaping projects).
**Be sure to weed carefully, though the biggest danger from weeds is from dandelions: they may contain a virus that can be transmitted to your blueberry plants.
**If your soil is properly prepared before planting, the only thing you will ever have to do if give your plant a nitrogen fertilizer (like this one) once a year. Do not fertilize in the first year with a straight nitrogen, but instead use a watered-down nitrogen fertilizer to prevent your new plant’s shallow roots from burning. After that, always fertilize with ammonium sulfate (like this one) in March or April. For each plant, apply 4 ounces of ammonium sulfate in year two, 5 oz. in year three, 6 oz. in year four, etc., until 8 oz. in year six. After year six, apply 8 oz. every year.
**If nutrient-deficiency symptoms appear (such as leaf discoloration, poor growth, poor crop amounts, etc.), retest your soil to make sure the pH level is correct. If you do not own a pH tester, here is a suggestion.
**Pruning invigorates the plant and increases fruit quality. When the canes are more than 6 years old, they start to produce less fruit. Thus, pruning back old canes will allow the plant to produce new canes that are more productive. Pruning is best done in late winter or early spring. Fall pruning is not recommended because it might make the plants produce new shoots too early that might be killed by the winter cold.
**The worst pest for this plant is birds. They adore blueberries and netting seems to be the only solution (currently) for controlling the damage.
**A mature blueberry plant will easily produce 7-10 pounds of fruit per year. Berries turn blue 3-4 days BEFORE they are at maximum sweetness and flavor, so let them stay on the branches until a few berries begin to fall from the bush.
**Simply tickle the berry cluster with your hand and place a container underneath. Any blueberries that fall off naturally in this way are ripe and ready to eat.
**If placed immediately in the refrigerator, they will store well for 7-10 days. They can also be put directly into the freezer and made into jams/pies at a later date.