The Q&A Archives: Growing Blueberries

Question: Back to someone I can trust. I have some blueberries which I have just purchased. I know nothing about their care or growing conditions. When is the harvest, do they have more than one harvest per year? when should you set them into the ground and how do they propagate. As you can guess anything you can tell me will be a help.
Thank You R. Scott

Answer: Glad we've earned your trust! We're happy to help at any time with your gardening questions so be sure to stop by often. Here are some general guidelines for growing blueberries:

Blueberries are typically used in the landscape as hedges for screening purposes, but they can also be used in cluster plantings, or as single specimen plants. You can plant them now. Blueberries are an ideal year round addition to the landscape. They have delicate white or pink flowers in the spring, the summer fruit has an attractive sky blue color, and the fall foliage adds great red and yellow colors to the landscape. In addition, blueberry plants lend themselves to the "organic" approach of gardening, because pesticides are rarely needed in home garden plantings.

Blueberries require a lower pH than many other small fruit crops. Before planting, take a soil test. Apply wettable sulfur (90% S) if pH is above 5.3. Use 1.0 pound (2.5 cups) per 100 square ft on sandy soils to lower pH by 1 unit (for instance, from 6.0 to 5.0). Apply 2.0 pounds per 100 square ft for the same amount of pH lowering on heavier soils containing silt, clay or more than 2% organic matter. Try to achieve a pH of around 4.8; too much reduction can be detrimental to bush growth. If you must plant without an initial soil test, mix 1 cubic ft of peat moss with an equal amount of sand. On a heavy clay soil or a soil that sometimes remains wet, put the peat-sand mixture on the soil surface. If you are certain the soil has good internal drainage, part of the peat-sand mixture can go in a hole or furrow several inches below the soil surface. However, leave enough of the peat-sand mixture to form a mound (single plant) or ridge (row of plants) at least 6 inches above the surrounding soil surface. The mound or ridge will insure against damage from excess water, however, with this planting method, water thoroughly 2 to 3 times per week during dry periods, because the raised peat-sand mix will dry out quickly.

In most seasons and on most soils, irrigation is absolutely essential the year of planting. Hand watering with a hose is possible for several bushes, however, a soaker hose will usually give more uniform wetting. Apply irrigation no more than once every two days to reduce the chances of root rot infection.

Full sun is desirable but up to 50% shade is usually acceptable. However, yield is reduced with increasing shade, so plant in a sunny location to achieve maximum yield.

Blueberries typically do not produce until their third year in the garden. With good care, mature highbush and rabbiteye plants should produce more than 10 lbs each year. Rabbiteye varieties can, on occasion, produce up to 25 lbs per plant.

Blueberries are propagated vegetatively through the use of cuttings. Both hardwood (winter) and softwood (summer) cuttings can be rooted under mist without the use of rooting hormones. While this can be accomplished by the backyard hobbyist or by a local nursery, the best sources of uniform plants for establishing a new planting are nurseries that specialize in blueberry propagation.

Hope this answers all your questions! Best wishes with your blueberries!

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