The Q&A Archives: Blueberries

Question: I have tried to grow blueberries near the foundation of my house and each time they died shortly after planting. Am I doing anything wrong? What can I do to improve my chances if I try again? They were planted with full sun exposure.

Answer: First, get a soil test! Check with your local State University Extension System, phone number 201-305-5742. Very often they have a soil testing service for very reasonable rates. That way you'll know EXACTLY what the soil needs to be properly amended. Blueberries require an acid soil with a pH range of 4.5-5.2 which is a lot different from most of the garden! <br><br>You seem to have the sunlight and protection from strong winds that is required, so there's a good chance it is the soil. Another thing you should remember is that concrete is loaded with lime which may sweeten the soil. Blueberries need ACID soil! (This is why lilacs usually do well as foundation plantings!)<br><br>Blueberries prefer a well-drained, sandy loam soil, rich in organic matter. The addition of the organic matter, such as peatmoss, compost and manure will help amend clay or heavy soils that are often found close to your foundation.<br><br>Early spring is the time to plant blueberries. Get healthy 2-3 year old plants from a reputable nursery for the best results. Space them no closer than 6-8 feet apart. Dig a planting hole about two times the diameter of the root ball. Blend the removed soil with premoistened peatmoss or aged sawdust in a 1:1 ratio. Using thismixture, set the plants slightly deeper than they were in the nursery. Water them thoroughly immediately after planting. Be sure to prune out any dead or weak branches. Apply a 5-6 inch mulch of aged sawdust, woodchips or shavings. Lacking these, you may also use bark, pine needles, straw or leaves. (Be sure that soil has been moistened before adding the mulch!) Add more mulch each spring.<br><br>During this first critical year, keep them well watered--underwatering is a common problem with new plantings. Remove all flower blossoms that appear for the first 2 years to encourage the rest of the PLANT to grow, rather than berries. About a month after planting apply a fertilizer designed for "acid-loving" plants (like rhododendrons) in a circle 15-18 inches from the plant. In later years you can feed them again after bud-break.<br><br>Hopefully, this will get those blueberries back in your garden plan. Before we moved, I used to have blueberries in my foundation plantings. I loved the red branches in winter and the berries were wonderful. <br><br>When you're ready for a "crash course" in pruning come visit us again! <br>

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