Plant, Grow, and Harvest Blueberries

The increasing popularity of blueberries has spurred many gardeners to try to grow blueberries at home. While blueberries do have some special growing requirements, with adequate preparation and care they can be grown in home gardens across the country.

Wild blueberries grow in areas with acidic soil, such as pine forests. While blueberries prefer the soil pH to be between 4.6 to 4.8, they can grow in soil with a range of 4.0 to 5.2. A soil test performed by your local extension office will tell you the pH of your soil. Adding sulfur or leaf mold will help lower the pH and make it more hospitable to blueberries.

Blueberries like moist soil, but not soggy soil. Before planting a blueberry bush, dig a hole two feet by two feet and add a mixture of loam, sand and compost.

There are many varieties of blueberries, but they can be categorized in three groups: early, mid and late season. In cold areas a mid-season variety is best, while in hot areas an early season variety is more appropriate. Those in temperate areas can choose any of the three types, or a combination of all three for a longer blueberry season.

For best results, purchase bushes that are two years old and plant in the spring time. Blueberries should be planted in full sun in order to have a high yield of fruit. Plant the bush two inches deeper than the pot it was in and fill the hole with the same loam, sand and compost mixture used to prepare the soil. Mulch the plants with straw or wood chips and water in. Multiple plants should be planted 6 to 8 feet apart.

About a month after planting the bushes should be fertilized with one ounce of 10-10-10 fertilizer around the base of the plant. Each spring until the bushes are mature they should be fertilized with an additional ounce of 10-10-10 fertilizer for each year of growth. Once the plants are mature, each bush should receive a half pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer each spring.

Blueberries will need 1 to 2 inches of water each week and weeds should be controlled to ensure that they do not choke out the plants.

Blueberries require yearly pruning to encourage growth and fruit production. Young plants, less than eight years old, should only have dead or broken wood removed each winter or early spring. Mature plants should have one-third of the oldest branches removed each year as well as any broken or dead branches.

Blueberries are susceptible to several diseases that can affect fruit and even kill entire bushes. The worst of the blueberry is a disease called mummy berry. Mummy berry is caused by a fungus that makes the fruit hard and seen mummified. If the berries are allowed to fall to the ground, the fungus overwinters in the berries and continues to attack the plant the following year. All mummified berries should be removed and a 50 percent urea granule should be applied around the base of the plant in the spring.

Other blueberry diseases including twig blight, anthracnose, and botrytis can also affect blueberries but can prevented with proper fertilization, pruning and watering techniques.

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