Everybody likes blueberries, but they can be quite expensive in stores. Why not try planting your own? It may take a few years, but eventually you’ll have a hardy plant that can provide you with delicious berries for years to come.
The first thing to know before planting blueberries are your garden conditions. Blueberries require a soil pH of between 4.0 and 5.2, with around 4.6 being ideal. Blueberries do not grow well in soil that has too much clay, or is rocky or poor. They do best in rich loamy ground that’s not too dry or too wet. Soil can be improved by the addition of fertilizer, compost, or peat moss. Planting blueberry bushes in raised beds makes it easier to control pH levels and soil content. Blueberries also need plenty of sun, and about an inch or two of water in a week. A few longer watering sessions is more effective than shorter ones daily. Make sure to choose a variety that is hardy enough to survive in your area. An excellent resource for choosing blueberry varieties is available here: Fall Creek Nursery: Variety Chart.
Wait a couple of weeks after your soil preparation before planting. Four or five bushes should provide plenty for the average family. Bushes should be placed three to six feet apart, depending on their size. Adding a layer of wood shavings or pine needles after planting helps keep the ground moist and discourage weeds. During the first year of growth, you may want to cutting off any blossoms on the plant. This will force the plant to focus on growing itself rather than fruit. Add a little fertilizer every year to keep plants healthy and flourishing. The bush should start producing good berries after three years of growth. After the berries turn blue, sometime around July, wait a few days before harvesting to give the berries time to receive their full flavor. Ripe berries should come off easily just by shaking the branches.
Pruning is a very important aspect of growing blueberries. Pruning reduces the number of berries you’ll be able to harvest, but the remaining ones will be bigger and better. Do your pruning in the winter or spring beforehand. For the first few years, cut away only diseased, dead, or broken branches. Once your bushes reach maturity, you can start cutting back weaker or twiggy branches, but never cut away more than half of the new growth.
Blueberry bushes are fairly hardy and easy to grow, but they can run into a few hazards, so make sure to keep an eye open for these problems. Birds represent a significant threat to your harvest. If you’ve noticed birds eating your crop, bird netting presents the most efficient solution. Try to select a variety of plant that’s resistant to diseases in your area, but if you run into infection or infestation, treat it accordingly. If you find the leaves on your bushes turning yellow, that likely means the soils pH balance is too high. Usually correcting the balance should fix the problem, although you may have to trim back the plant to help it recover.
If you’ve done everything correctly, you should soon start seeing excellent returns on your effort as you start harvesting your delicious blueberries, which can be used for cooking, baking, or snacking. Enjoy.