The arrival of blueberry season in the Northwest is always a highly anticipated event. Those little berries pack many health benefits and are very versatile. For those of you who want to have fresh berries from your own yard, blueberries are simple to grow, and are one of the most productive fruits for the space you give them.
How should I plant my blueberries?
Blueberries like a sunny site, and well-drained soil rich in organic material. If you can’t find a good spot, raised beds work very well. Plant
blueberries in groups to allow for good cross-pollination. Some of the smaller self-fertile types like ‘Sunshine Blue’ can be planted by themselves in
the ground or in containers. Be sure when planting to add plenty of organic material – peat moss works well – and a layer of mulch on top of the
ground to conserve moisture.
What kind of soil do blueberries need?
Acidic and well-drained. Blueberries thrive in very acidic soil, even more acidic than that preferred by other acid-loving plants like rhododendrons
and azaleas. Good drainage is also essential, although blueberries need plenty of moisture during the growing season. The best thing to do is to
add plenty of peat moss at planting time and regularly use a fertilizer for acidic-soil loving plants.
How many plants do I need?
In most cases you will need at least two different varieties to ensure good cross-pollination. Some varieties, like ‘Sunshine Blue’, are self-fertile and
only require one plant to set fruit. Of course, if you really like blueberries, plant more. Keep in mind that a fully-grown blueberry plant will produce a
lot of fruit!
What general care will my blueberries need?
Blueberries are fairly self-sufficient, but a little care goes a long way in improving performance. First of all, adequate water during the growing
season will enhance fruit production and overall health. An acidic fertilizer should be used in late Spring, but go easy on it as blueberries resent
heavy fertilizing. Mulch around the plant every once in a while to conserve moisture and add organic matter in the root area. This can make a lot of
difference because blueberries are very shallowly rooted.
How should I prune my blueberries?
Blueberries should be pruned yearly for the best results. Remove old growth periodically to keep plants productive. When in doubt, favor brightercolored
growth over old woody growth. Also, any weak or spindly branches should be removed. Finally, lightly thin the plants to prevent any
problems that might occur from overbearing. Be careful not to remove too much, as fruit is produced on the previous year’s growth, and heavy
pruning might mean fewer berries.