Blueberries offer a unique combination of delicious fruit and striking ornamental beauty to the garden and landscape. Blueberries are easy to grow, require little care, and are seldom bothered by pests. Follow these few basic steps and your blueberry plants will thrive and last a lifetime.
Choosing a Variety:
The southern highbush varieties do especially well in the Sacramento area. Southern highbush varieties are relatively new and better adapted to mild-winter climates and are even finding success in Southern California. They were hybridized for superior fruit, soil adaptability, heat tolerance and low winter chilling. They ripen their fruit in mid-to-late spring.
Choose from southern highbush varieties like 'Jubilee', 'Misty', 'O'Neal', 'Sharpblue', 'Southmoon', 'Sunshine Blue' & more. One of our favorites is the 'Sunshine Blue' by Monrovia. It is a great low chill & semi dwarf variety perfect for smaller landscapes or patio containers. With blue-green foliage and hot pink flowers you get a beautiful ornamental look out of this fruit bearing plant. They are self-fruitful and provide an abundant crop, but yield better crops when planted with another variety.
Site Selection & Preparation:
Select a sunny location with well drained soil. Blueberries need at least six hours of sun a day. Blueberries prefer moist, acidic soil. Incorporating coir or peat moss can help make any type of soil more agreeable to blueberries.
We heard of a recipe from Farmer Fred which he swears by:
1/3 Peat Moss
1/3 Walk On Bark (small)
1/3 Acidic Soil Mix (Azalea/Rhododendron soil blend)
Blueberries can be planted in the ground or in containers. They may be planted close together. As 2.5' apart they will begin to form hedge like rows. If you'd like to keep them completely separate, grow them 6' apart.
If you are planting from container stock, remove from container and slightly roughen up the sides of the rootball. Set the top soil line about 1.5- 2" higher than the existing ground and firm around the rootball. Mound up soil on the sides of the root ball and water thoroughly.
If you are planting bareroot (during winter season), spread roots out wide and shallow, cover 1/2" of soil. Firm soil around roots and water well.
Add 2-4" of mulch around the roots of the plant to conserve moisture, prevent weeds and feed the soil. Some ideas for mulch include bark mulch, sawdust, grass clippings, acidic compost etc. Repeat every other year.
Blueberries must get established before they are encouraged to bear fruit. After the first year they should be heavily pruned to avoid over-fruiting which results in poor growth or small fruit.
1. Remove all blooms as they appear the first year. In years thereafter, follow these steps after the leaves have dropped.
2. Remove low growth around the base. If it doesn't grow UP it gets pruned.
3. Remove dead wood and non-vigorous twiggy wood. Remove any blotchy colored short growth, but keep any long lateral pieces over 3" with bright colored wood.
If 1/3-1/2 of the wood has not been removed by the above steps then thin out fruiting laterals and small branches until you reach this goal.
Blueberries are acid loving plants and prefer any fertilizer that is specific to Azaleas and Rhododendrons. Feed them in late spring, once they become established. Be aware that blueberries are sensitive to over-fertilization. Try using organic slow release fertilizer like E.B Stone Azalea Rhododendron food, Cottonseed Meal or Blood Meal. Make certain that plants are watered well before and after fertilization. Avoid using fresh manures as they can burn the blueberry roots.
We hope this gives you some helpful information for starting your own blueberries. Don't be afraid to give it a shot this season by planting a few blueberries. If you have any questions at all, we are here to help! At our stores during the month of June, you'll find blueberry plants FILLED with fruit and still for sale. Visit us and come see for yourself!