We love pretty much anything blueberry in our house; pancakes, smoothies, even just frozen or fresh blueberries for snacking. We knew that in order for us to continue our fruit addiction and not go broke, we just HAD to learn how to plant blueberries.
How to grow blueberries?
Blueberries is one of our favorites fruits. They are delicious, not too terribly difficult to grow, and the actual berry is too cute. Plus, you can use them in all sorts of recipes and freeze blueberries for use in the off season. They are similar in difficulty and process as growing strawberries.
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They are portable, so you can grow them in a movable planter or use them as one plant in your much larger edible landscape. There are several different varieties of blueberries with many different strains within those varieties. We have a few Jerseys and Hurons which are part of a group called Northern High Bush Blueberries.
How to plant blueberries
Blueberries actually take many years to develop, mature, and produce fruit. Typically, you will start seeing berries after 3 to 4 years in age. You can start them on your own and grow them from seeds if you are willing to make that kind of time investment.
What we have always done, and is not too terribly uncommon, is to purchase a started plant that is already around 2 years old. We prefer using this method because we are able to have the confidence that we are getting a strong and healthy plant that will start to produce fruit in about a year (also, we are impatient when it comes to our harvest).
Where to plant blueberries
Like we said, we like to order a started plant and transplant it directly into a container. Container gardening is perfect for these as you can then move them around. You can use a specially made fruit or vegetable container. We just used a food grade 5 gallon plastic bucket.
If you go the bucket route, make sure it has plenty of room for drainage. We drilled holes throughout the bottom of the container so that water would not pool.
In order to start your blueberries in a container, you will need a good healthy soil for it. Similar to when we learned how to grow blackberries and how to grow tomatoes, blueberries like a lot of acidity, so you will want a pH level of around 5.5. If your soil is not very acidic, you can add peat moss, or a peat alternative, to bring the level up.
When we potted our bushed, we used a recommended soil mixture of ⅓ peat moss, ⅓ perlite, and ⅓ compost from our own compost pile. We have also, in the past, used an organic potting soil if we did not have a compost pile that was ready for planting.
You can leave your plant in it's container permanently or you can move it into a more permanent planting location if you like. If you want to leave it in a container, be aware that your bush can become root bound. That just means, the roots have grown to a point that they can no longer fit the container. The bush growth will also start to decline.
Once this happens, simply remove the plant from the container, gently and prudently trim the roots, and replant with fresh soil. Your plant will be back to normal in no time.
Once the bush is strong enough we like to move it into one of our raised beds. Transplanting a blueberry bush is pretty simple. You will use the same soil mixture as if you were putting it into a container.
When you have a spot picked out, you will want to dig a hole that is about a foot wider and 6 inches deeper than the root ball. When then take the plant, gently squeeze the soil around the root ball to break it up and allow it to more easily spread in its new home, and place it into the hole. Cover the root ball with soil and gently pat the dirt to push out any air pockets.
Follow this same process for each of your plants. We like to keep about 4 feet of distance for our blueberry bush spacing. This is a little close but if you keep them pruned, which we'll discuss later, they should be okay.
How much sun do blueberries need?
Blueberries are native to northern, more cool environments. Depending on your gardening zone, you will need to decide how much sun exposure your plants will need. In warmer climates, they will need shade in the heat of the day. In cooler zones, closer to their native climate, they can handle full sun throughout the day.
When to plant blueberries
You will want to wait until your blueberry bushes are in a dormant state before attempting to transplant them. This is typically in the colder months of the year. Typically, we like to wait until AFTER the last frost of the season. That way, they will become active pretty soon and they won't have to deal with any cold snaps.
Blueberry bush care
As we mentioned earlier, we plant our bushes a bit close but like to keep them pruned. Blueberries do not require a lot of pruning. Each new season, blueberry bushes will grow new branches from their base. The new branches will then start production, typically for the following two seasons.
After the third season, you will see a decrease in production while younger branches have an increase. Take note of this cycle when planning your pruning strategy.
Essentially, you will want to prune the older, less productive branches, and leave the younger, more productive ones. Just be frugal with your pruning so that you don't prune any active buds.
How long do blueberries take to grow?
As we mentioned above, a blueberry bush will typically take about 3 or 4 years to mature and start producing fruit.
When to pick blueberries
Wait until the berries are a deep color blue. you should be able to gently pull them from the plant without having to use much pressure at all.
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