Growing Blueberries

January 28, 2006

The year-round ornamental appeal of blueberry plants was covered in a recent entry, today I’ll look at the specifics of growing blueberries in the home garden. Key considerations when growing blueberries are selecting the right variety for your climate, and ensuring that the acidic PH soil requirements are satisfied.

There are various categories of blueberries including: lowbush, northern highbush, southern highbush, and rabbiteye types. The southern highbush and rabbiteye types are best suited for southern climates. Investigate which varieties are best for your climate before spending money and effort to obtain and plant your berries.

The other critical factor when growing blueberries is your soil. Blueberry plants require an acid soil. In addition the root system isn’t vigorous and will not survive in clay soil, but there’s an easy fix to upgrade your soil to accommodate blueberry plants.

Instead of amending the soil with manures or simply topsoil, use peat moss, which will supply the acid PH that blueberries need in order to thrive.

For each blueberry plant dig a hole that’s two or three feet wide and two or three feet deep. Then fill the hole with a mixture of two-thirds peat moss and one-third of a good quality garden or topsoil. Some growers even use a hundred percent peat moss to grow their blueberries.

I prefer planting blueberries in early spring but they can also be planted during the fall. Adequate water and cooler weather conditions will help the blueberry plants become established before the heat of summer sets in.

It’s not required, but you will get better results from improved pollination and a longer harvest period by planting at least two different varieties of blueberries. You can locate assorted varieties of blueberry plants offering various sizes and flavors of berries on the Internet or through mail order nurseries.

When fertilizing, use an organic fertilizer such as HollyTone that’s designed to maintain or increase the soil’s acidity. Ensure sufficient moisture levels when the berries are maturing and ripening. If you have a problem with birds eating the blueberries, set up a framework covered with a protective netting.

Growing blueberries in your yard with both enhance your home’s landscape and provide you with a source of delicious and healthful organic fruit.





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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Cheryl June 6, 2006 at 11:44 am

I bought a blueberry bush from a garden store a few weeks ago, but left it in it’s pot because we are replacing the fence in July. Will it be alright until then?

Kenny Point June 11, 2006 at 12:30 pm

Hi Cheryl, the blueberry bush will be fine in the container until you have a chance to plant it, just be sure to keep it watered on a regular basis especially if the weather conditions are hot and dry.

Lisa July 24, 2006 at 9:19 am

I bought a self-pollinating blueberry bush which gave me blueberries the first year, and none now for two years in a row. Did I do something to stunt its’ growth? The plant in it’s second year looked dead, it produced leaves without flowers the third year, no flowers, no fruit. I almost dug it up last year because I thought it was dead. Will I ever get blueberries from this plant?

Kenny Point July 24, 2006 at 4:07 pm

The problem growing your blueberry plants is likely related to your soil’s PH not being acidic enough for blueberries. Did you ammend the soil when you planted the blueberry bushes? Do you know how acidic the soil is, blueberries prefer a soil that is on the acidic side to grow well? Ammending the soil with plenty of peat moss during the initial planting will really help. Also fertilize your blueberries with a fertilizer such as Holly Tone that will maintain or increase the soil’s acidity. The other thing to monitor is to ensure that the blueberry bushes are receiving adequate moisture to support healthy growth and fruit production.

Lisa July 24, 2006 at 4:29 pm

I will give my blueberry bush a topping of peat moss and see what that does. It must not be getting enough nutrients in the soil for it not to be able to bloom for the last two years. When I planted the bush I located it in an area beside my rhubarb plants, in the back of my garden, sunlight maybe strong only half a day.
When I wanted a blueberry plant in my garden, I read about blueberry plants and found this self-pollinating one at the garden centre. I thougt I had a plant would take care of itself.
Never-the-less, we are having a fantastic season for wild blueberries in our area, two weeks in advance of their normal ripening, so I am picking lots of wild blueberries, they are very productive this year and I am enjoying this season very much. My little blueberry plant in my garden needs maybe a soil test to see if it has the right soil acidity?

Dan April 8, 2007 at 9:03 pm

Hi Kenny! Great website. I am also an accountant with a passion for gardening. I just ordered several low chill hour varieties of blueberry. I plan to grow them indoors in a “grow chamber” that is lit by 2 250 watt Metal Halide lamps. I can not seem to grow anything outdoors except sagebrush out here in the high mountain desert so that is why I built this box. Now, the question is can I just move the plants outside to give them their “chill” time of 150 -200 hours, and then bring them back under the lights for another crop? I could maybe force them to bloom several times a year with this method, as it is nearly always 45 degrees or below, outside at night, all year long. Also what do you think about a soil mix of 2/3 peat and 1/3 perlite/vermiculite? Oh and will a 5 gallon bucket be sufficient for the plants or do they need a wider more shallow container?

Thanks,
Dan

Kenny Point April 9, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Thanks Dan, I have never tried or heard of anyone growing blueberries indoors and my guess is that it will be a big challenge to persuade the plants to adapt to indoor growing conditions. As far as meeting the chilling requirements you’ll have to experiment but because of the time that it takes to produce and ripen the berries I doubt that you would be able to force multiple crops of fruit from the blueberry plants. The soil mix sounds fine and will provide the acidic PH that blueberries prefer, but I would definitely look for a wider container to grow the plants in. I don’t have much advice to offer on this one, so good luck and let me know the results you see from growing the blueberries indoors in your light chamber.

Michael June 30, 2007 at 11:42 am

Hello Kenny,
Very helpful advice on growing blueberry bushes. Noticed another reader is preparing to put up a fence as I am, and I too would like to grow some blueberries as well as blackberries.
As a kid I remember hiking through the woods and finding an old farm field with the biggest, most delicious and abundant supply of blackberries growing along one particular edge of the field. There were none growing on the other sides. Is there a key to this observation? I will have the north and south sides of my fence available for planting. Will you please let me know about caring for blackberry bushes and if they thrive on a particular side of the yard? Thanks and good fortune to you, Michael

Kenny Point June 30, 2007 at 12:31 pm

Michael, I’m sure there was something to your observation. It could have been the soil or the shelter of a sloping grade that encouraged the growth of wild blackberries, or that area could have been the location of a previous cultivated patch of the berries. I don’t think that a particular side will be critical in the case of planting your blackberries. If one side is a little cooler or just slightly shaded I would plant them there. I’ll try to post more about growing blackberries in the near future.

Brenda October 3, 2007 at 10:31 am

Hi,

My grandparents have recently passed away and they had 25 blueberry bushes. We would like to move some of these to our house as their property will be sold. Could you recommend how we would do this? Do you think it will work? We live in central Massachusetts. And we would have to do this as soon as possible. Thank you for your help.
10/3/07

Kenny Point October 3, 2007 at 4:00 pm

Brenda, I just posted an article about propagating blueberry plants that hopefully will be of help to you.

Aaron May 10, 2010 at 11:27 am

I really got some really helpful tips from this post. Thanks a lot. I’ve had trouble with birds and other animals eating my blueberries. How do I prevent bugs from getting all over the bushes?

Blueberry Boy June 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

What do you think of the little giant blueberry as seen on TV plants? At $10 for 3 plants do you think its a rip off or could this really be legit. It’s so much cheaper than actual nurseries that it seems to good to be true…

Kenny Point June 15, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I would Google “little giant blueberry” before I spent that money… there’s lots of feedback out there to base your buying decision on. I don’t have any personal experience with them or the company but you are the one that said it seems too good to be true!

Serena July 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Hi, I have a question about blueberry health. I bought 6 or so 2 foot blueberry plants from Lowes last Fall. I was thrilled to get them and planted them outside. This spring I have watched, watered, weeded and fertilised lovingly as they grew plenty of baby blueberries but was dismayed when something started to affect the leaves (now branches and berries too). I have looked online and believe it is infected with Anthracnose, which I read is difficult to control without fungicides (and even then, difficult). I believe that is a humidity/moisture influenced problem spread by certain insects. I have them in a mix of top soil and mushroom manure, covered with pine mulch. I was just testing another part of my garden (different soil) and found the ph to be very high – 8. My question is, should I try to take the plants back for a refund or would testing the ph, and if necessary lowering it, help the plants to throw off this disease? In your experience is there any ‘recovery’ once a plant is infected by this stuff or is it best to call it a loss and move on? Sorry for the long explanation!

Kenny Point July 21, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Hi Serena, I don’t have any personal experience dealing with anthracnose on blueberries but I think that planting the plants in a more acidic soil could help resolve your disease issues. I would also research the specific varieties that you intend to plant to ensure that they are appropriate for your growing region. If Lowe’s offers a guarantee on the health of their plants then I would take them up on their offer and try again by replanting in the better location or after testing and amending the soil. If your local suppliers don’t carry the best varieties for your climate then search the Internet for on-line suppliers that can provide the specific varieties of blueberries that work best in your area. Good luck.

David April 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Hi, I Noticed a earlier post about growing in a 5 gal container, did it work or do you have new information?

Thanks for the info.

Shelly May 26, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Hello;
I would love to plant some blueberry plants. Will they grow in high desert?

Chris Lee April 27, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I just bought a small blueberry bush a couple of weeks ago, and there is flowers growing, where I presume the blueberries would grow. Do I pick off the flowers? Or just leave it alone?

Kenny Point April 30, 2012 at 6:45 am

Hi Chris, I would probably remove the flowers and let the bush focus on growth without trying to bear fruit until next season, but it won’t do any harm to just leave the flowers if you prefer.

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