Being one of our favorite so called super-foods, it’s little wonder so many people want to know how to grow blueberries. Blueberries are fairly enduring plant and can be grown in most parts of Canada and the USA. However, although varieties can and do thrive in the climate of southern California, the blueberry is more closely associated with the more northern states of the USA and into Canada. Indeed some areas of Maine like to consider themselves as the epicenter of all things blueberry, so many of them are grown there.
Preparing the Soil
Blueberry bushes like a light and free draining soil, acidic, with a pH between 4 and 4.5. Also, in order to really thrive, they like to have a lot of organic matter around them. If your earth isn’t naturally acidic, you can give the blueberry plants a good start by adding sulfur chips to it three weeks before you start to plant.
Don’t forget to top up the potash feed once a month or so during the growing season. Also, if you are using planters they need to be deep ones as you need to allow at least a depth of 4 foot for the roots.
Growing just one variety of blueberry will give you a yield of berries, but they will small berries and in a small quantity. Blueberries need to be able to cross pollinate, so you need to plant at least two different varieties, unless a neighbor already has different blueberry plants to the ones you want to grow. Depending on the variety you buy they will at least require light shady conditions, if not actually have a lot of space to themselves in order to get the full effects of the sun.
Plant them out in the garden during the autumn or even the winter if it’s mild. Plant each bush about 5 foot apart, and make sure the root ball is covered, in-fill the hole with a mixture of the excavated earth, an acidic compost/peat and wood-chips; pine needles could be used as an alternative to an acidic compost.
Give them a good watering of rain-water; domestic water supplies are likely to counter the effects of adding acidity to the planting mixture. Using rain water is especially important if you live in a hard-water area, as hard-water is definitely on the alkaline side.
Caring for your Blueberry Plants
When the fruiting season comes use nets to protect the berries form the local bird population, or your harvest will be a very meager one. You can harvest them as soon as the berries go deep blue and can be easily pulled away from the plant. If you can resist the temptation, leaving them on the bush for a few more days will result in an even more intense tasting berry. Mulch them annually in the spring with something that will be acidic like pine chips and needles.
Water the blueberry plants regularly, with rainwater, from when the buds start to appear in the spring through to the leaves coming off in the Fall. For the first year or two you shouldn’t expect any berries at all as the plants produce blueberries from branches that were formed in the previous year. Hence, pruning your blueberry bushes is essential.
After that first year or two you need to regularly prune them not just to keep it tidy – but also to keep it producing better yields of berries. The pruning season for blueberries is when the plant is dormant between November and March.
Remove any twiggy wood on laterals and any dead or diseased branches first; and then take out the oldest ones at their bases. Low lying branches should also be removed as their berries will be wasted.