Our garden is starting to take shape starting with our new blueberry plants. These plants were gifted to us by a wonderful friend. Two of the five are already a few years old and have berries growing. Here’s how to plant blueberries in your garden for the first time.
Choose/ know your variety of blueberry
There are three main types of blueberries: high-bush, rabbit-eye, and southern high-bush. But there are also dwarf varieties which are suitable for growing in containers. The high-bush variety is suitable for colder climates. We have the high-bush here (both already growing in our orchard and these little beauties planted today).
Plant them in late autumn or early spring
Choose 2-3 years old nursery plants, as they transplant well, if you are purchasing them. Make sure you keep the roots moist between digging and planting. Have in mind that blueberries are only marginally self-fertile, so you’ll need to grow at least three plants of compatible varieties. These bushes are already a few years old as they have berries which only start to appear after the second or third year. Most nursery plants sold are around this age.
Blueberries are picky about their soil
Blueberries like loose, acidic and well-drained soil. However, you should keep the soil moist. pH should ideally be between 4 and 5. Choose a sunny, well-drained site for your blueberries, The best way to plant a blueberry in the ground is to dig a hole about 2-1/2 feet wide and 1 foot deep. Coffee grounds can be used as an inexpensive blueberry fertilizer that helps to acidify the soil. Occasionally scatter your used coffee grounds on the soil around your blueberry plants to give them a boost. I keep a can of used coffee grounds in the kitchen specifically for my acidic loving plants 🙂
Planting and Spacing
When planting just a few plants you should space them around 4-5 feet apart. When planting in rows make sure the rows are 9-10 feet apart. Make sure the roots are well spread in the hole and completely covered with soil.
Mulch to keep moist
The shallow blueberries’ roots should be keep moist. Apply a 2-4 inch layer of wood-chips, saw dust or pine needles after planting. Hardwood mulches are sticky and will seal the bed and prevent water infiltration and have a higher pH level. I keep the straw that I clean out of the chicken/goose/duck houses. It’s great for protecting plants and has manure in it that will slowly release into the ground as it’s watered. The best of recycling here on the farm.
Blueberries need deep watering once a week. As they are shallow rooted plants, they need a couple of inches of water weekly especially when it is hot and dry. Two inches of water per week would be ideal.
When to fertilize
Blueberries are easily damaged by too much fertilizer. Don’t fertilize right after the planting of the blueberries. Fertilizer may be needed if your annual growth is less than a foot, or four inches for low bush varieties. Blueberries have tender roots so using organic fertilizers only is recommended.
Prune plants in late winter
You don’t really need to prune blueberry bushes in the first 3-4 years. You will only need to remove small little shoots at planting and blossoms that appear in the year of planting and second year after planting to stimulate vigorous growth. After that every winter remove a few older branches to force new shoot growth from the crown. You should also remove canes with a huge amount of discoloration, and all the lower, small, wimpy growth as well.
Blueberries grow well when planted together with strawberries, as the strawberries provide ground cover to keep the soil cool and damp (just how blueberries like it!). I think I’ll give this a try some time soon. I’ve been planting like crazy the last week!