The Q&A Archives: Blueberry bushes

Question: How do I prepare a blueberry bush for the spring? I have 5 bushes that were 2 years old when I planted them 3 years ago. They aren't doing very well.

Answer: If your blueberries are not growing well, you may want to check the soil pH. Blueberries have a shallow, fibrous root system, so they're susceptible to drought injury. A uniform and adequate supply of water is essential for optimum growth. On the average, plants need 1 inch of water per week. Check the soil frequently for adequate moisture and irrigate when necessary. Apply 10-10-10 fertilizer annually in the spring at the rate of 2 ounces (1/4 cup, or equivalent rate of another well-balanced fertilizer) per plant the second year after planting, increasing by 1 ounce each year until you reach a total of 6 to 8 ounces (3/4 to 1 cup) per plant. If the soil is quite fertile, an application of 5 ounces of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) per mature plant is sufficient. Apply this fertilizer at the time the buds are swelling. Spread it evenly around the plant, over an area approximately equal to that of the maximum spread of the bush, without touching the base of the canes. Check the soil pH every year or two, especially if growth is poor. If the pH is above 6, you can apply sulfur to the surface of the soil or mulch at the rate of about 1 ounce of elemental sulfur or 6 ounces of aluminum sulfate per plant. Water or lightly rake the sulfur into the soil or mulch. (It's best to delay this sulfur application for about a month after applying fertilizer, to avoid possible burning of blueberry roots.) Ammonium sulfate fertilizers used over a period of years gradually will lower the pH. Blueberries grow best if the soil pH (a measure of acidity) is between 4.5 and 5.5. Hope this information is helpful!

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