Blueberries are the perfect fruit for the home garden. I currently have 3 blueberry plants that are growing alongside my raised garden beds.
I grow my vegetable garden in raised beds because my soil is rocky and Georgia clay. For that reason, I decided to create raised rows to plant in. I weed-eated the grass down to the soil and placed cardboard that I wet down over my blueberry garden area. I then mixed topsoil and a special soil for acid loving plants together and created a 2 foot high area to plant my blueberries. I then mulched them heavily with pine needs to decrease the soil pH. You can also backfill the planting hole with peat moss.
Where should blueberries be planted?
- Full sun. At least 6 hours of sun a day. They would grow well in the same area as your vegetable garden. Be sure a building or tree is not shading.
- Blueberries need to planted in well drained soil. They like an acidic soil with a pH between 4-5.5. If you don’t know if your planting area is acidic, you should do a soil test. You can purchase a soil kit at your local nursery or home improvement store and send it off, or you can get a free kit at your local agricultural extension center and mail it off for results. The results will give you instructions on how to amend your soil based on your results. If you need to decrease the soil’s pH, a sulfer based soil acidifier will be mixed into the top six inches of soil across a 3×3 foot area. You can also grab a soil kit here. Just collect the soil as instructed, mail back in the prepaid envelope and you will get your online results in 6-8 days.
- If you are starting fresh, you can grow blueberries in raised beds. Low bush blueberries are better suited to containers than the high bush variety. Your containers need to have drainage and be at least 24 inches wide and 24 inches deep. You could plant in a separate raised bed.
- Mulch heavily with shredded bark or pine needles after planting.
When do you plant blueberries?
- Blueberries can be planted in spring and fall. Plant early enough in the fall that their roots become established and they can withstand winter.
What type of blueberry should I plant?
Visit your local nursery. They will carry the variety best suited for your area. If you purchase your’s online, be sure and read the description carefully to be sure they are suited for your area.
Types of blueberries:
- Lowbush: These are the hardiest types of blueberries and do well in cold climates, tolerating temperatures as low as -3O degrees. The name lowbush comes from the fact they only grow 12 to 36 inches high. They will not grow well in the south.
- Highbush: These will grow up to 7 feet high. They are native to the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern US. This is what you usually find in the grocery store. If you are growing in the south they will require more water over the summer than the southern types.
- Rabbiteye: This type of blueberry is the most heat and drought tolerant. They also are the most forgiving of poor soils and are good for southern gardens. The problem I have seen with my Rabbiteye varieties are they bloom early, then we have a late frost, and they will need to be covered.
- Half-high: These are a cross between highbush and lowbush varieties and grow well in the south.
When trying to decide which variety to grow. Visit your local nursery. They will have what grows best in your area.
Each type of blueberry bush have different varities, and the variety will produce fruit at different times of the year: early season, mid season, and late season beginning as early as April. *Blueberries are self-pollinating, but if you want to increase the pollination rate and the crop harvest you should plant 2 different varieties in close proximity to each other.
I purchased a variety known as SharpBlue. It was developed at the University of Florida and does well in my hot humid North Georgia climate. It is a highbush type and produces fruit in late April and early May. I purchased two of those, and will place a Rabbit-eye variety called Brightwell in between those two. It is another blueberry that performs well in the south. It will produce fruit in June or July. By planting two varieties that produce fruit at different times I will have a steady supply of blueberries for salads, muffins, and smoothies. I want to plant two more bushes this year, and will look for the Half-high locally.
How do you plant and care for blueberries?
- Dig a hole two to three times wider than the rootball of the bush. But only as deep as it was in the pot. You don’t want the plant too deep. The crown should be right at the soil level, with the roots just under the surface. Add peatmoss to the soil that you removed from the hole. Place the bush into the hole and backfill with this mix when planting. Mulch with finely ground pinebark and water well. I am a big fan of compost, but this is one time it is NOT recommended. Blueberries are not fond of compost.
- Space the plants apart according to the plant tag. Those small gallon size plants will soon be 6-7 feet high and as wide.
- Mid season after the first year you plant, you can add an organic nitrogen source fertilizer such as soybean meal, alfala meal, or cottonseed meal. You can also purchase a organic fertilizer for blueberry plants.This is the one I use from Espoma.
- Blueberries like water and will need to be consistently watered until the ground freezes. Don’t allow the soil to become too dry. In the summer especially, aim for 1 inch of water per week. Water at the roots.
- Wait 3 years before pruning your blueberries. After that, in late winter prune away any old wood. Blueberries grow on young, new wood. If you have any over crowded branches, you can prune those even if they have fruit buds. Removing those will give you larger and sweeter berries.
- Birds love blueberries as much as I do. But please don’t use bird netting. They could caught in it and die or become injured. Instead, use a smaller mesh covering such as insect netting.
Everything But The Kitchen Sink Smoothie:
I love to make smoothies. Getting all your recommended daily dose of fruits and vegetables is hard. But one way is to make a smoothie. I say everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in. I use fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, 1/2 banana, peaches, pineapples, a date, some spinach or kale, and a teaspoon of chia seeds! I buy the unsweetened frozen peaches and other fruit, so I add a packet of Splenda to give it a little sweetness. You could also add honey. I like using some frozen fruit because it makes the smoothie thick. I aim for about 2 cups of mixed fruit, and add 3/4 cups cold water and blend. Delicious!
Let me share one of my favorite garden books I received a couple of weeks ago. Some of the information in this blog post was taken from the book “The Vegetable Gardening Book” Your complete guide to growing an edible organic garden from seed to harvest. I pre-ordered mine, but it’s available now. Purchase your’s here.
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