Growing Blueberries (Vaccinium)

Choosing a site: Blueberries thrive in full sun and in acid soil that is moisture-retentive yet well drained. Because blueberries grow best in soil with a pH between 4–5 (a pH of 5.5 is ideal), we recommend that you have your soil tested before planting your bushes.

Spacing: Allow 4–5′ between Blueberry plants. Cross pollination between varieties results in heavier fruit production.

Planting: Because Blueberries grow best in soil that has an acid pH and is rich in humus, you should cart away about half of the soil dug from the planting hole and replace it with at least as much peat moss. Mix the peat moss thoroughly into the remaining soil before pushing it back into the hole.

Watering and fertilizing: Blueberries require about 1″ of rain or irrigation per week. Surrounding your plants with a 4–5′ circle of mulch helps keep the soil moist and prevents the growth of weeds. Apply a 2–4″ layer of wood chips, shredded bark, or other organic material. The year after planting (and every year thereafter) apply a fertilizer designed for acid-loving plants at flowering time in spring and again about 4 weeks later.

Pruning: Although it may hurt to do so, you should remove all of the flowers produced the first spring after planting. You will be rewarded with healthier, more productive plants. For the next several years, pruning needs will be light—in early spring, remove weak branches and branches that have suffered damage over the winter, and thin interior branches if they are crowding each other. To keep mature plants vigorous and productive, prune in early spring to remove dead wood and low, spreading branches. Limit the number of major branches arising from the base to 8–10. Regularly remove branches that are more than 4–5 years old, and allow younger branches to replace them.

Pests: The most serious pest of Blueberries is birds. They seem to find every berry just as it ripens. The only sure way to protect your crop is to cover your plants—either individually or as a group—with plastic netting (available at most garden centers). Support the netting above the shrubs with wooden posts and tie it at the base to keep the birds from reaching the fruit.

Harvesting: Bushes begin bearing the second year from planting and reach maturity in 6–8 years. Berries are ripe when they fall readily from the stems.

For information on growing Bushel and Berry™ Blueberries click Growing Bushel and Berry™ Blueberries.

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