Whether you’re growing blueberries in the ground or in a container, here are some easy gardening tips for successful planting and care.
The first step is to have your soil tested for pH. If it’s above the recommended 4-to-5 range for blueberries, you will need to make some amendments.
Choose the Right Plant
If you have a good spot in your garden, you can grow blueberries for years with minimal care. But it’s important to choose the right plant for your soil and climate, and to follow a few basic rules for caring for them.
In general, blueberries need a well-drained soil that’s acidic enough to support the plant’s growth. This can be achieved by adding a small amount of granulated sulfur to the soil before planting.
Once planted, water the roots and surrounding soil thoroughly to promote a healthy root system and encourage growth. Then, apply a mulch of organic material to retain soil moisture, control weeds and prevent winter injury to the plants.
For best results, select two different varieties to increase cross-pollination and maximize fruit size, ripening and yield. Highbush and rabbiteye bushes are ideal for warm-winter areas, while lowbush, half-high and dwarf bushes are preferred in colder climates.
Select a Good Location
Blueberry bushes are long-lived and need to be planted in locations that allow them to remain as part of your landscape. This means choosing a location that receives full sun and has well-drained soil. Avoid planting near trees that block sunlight and suck up moisture in the soil.
Lastly, you must choose a site that is not subject to water stress from extreme heat or cold. Blueberry bushes are sensitive to these conditions and can suffer from root rot and water fungus, such as Phytophthora blight.
Fortunately, there are many plant varieties that do well in areas with moderate climates. You should determine your plant hardiness zone using the USDA map.
Prepare the Soil
When you plant blueberries, make sure your soil is rich in organic matter. If you have sandy soil, mix in 3 inches of Miracle-Gro(r) Performance Organics(r) All Purpose In-Ground Soil and add a 3-inch layer of mulch around the plants to help retain moisture.
If you have heavy clay soil, use peat moss or pine bark as a soil amendment. This will gradually lower the pH of the soil, helping to increase its organic matter content.
Water the roots often to keep the soil consistently moist. Do not allow the plant to dry out, which can cause root rot from Phytophthora.
Feed the plants once a month through the growing season using a liquid fertilizer specifically for ericaceous (lime-hating) soils. Avoid feeding with manures as they can cause root damage.
Blueberries grow well in sunny locations with rich, well-drained soils. They also do best in containers.
To plant blueberries, dig a hole about 4 inches deep and as wide as the stem. Fill it with ericaceous compost.
Then, spread a layer of mulch on top of the soil. This will help maintain soil acidity and protect against pests and diseases.
Once the plants are established, fertilize them once or twice a year with a high-quality granular or liquid acidic fertilizer. This will encourage fruit production and root growth.
In colder areas, pruning in winter is often necessary to promote new stems and berry production. Remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches as well as those that crisscross in the center of the plant to improve airflow.