Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits, mostly because they are so versatile and easy to preserve! It’s high time that I get my own blueberry patch going, follow along with me as I show you “How to Grow Blueberries in Your Backyard”!
Right before we went on vacation, I saw these big blueberry plants at my local nursery. I just couldn’t resist! There wasn’t time to prepare the ground and plant them before we left, so the plants have sat a few weeks on the patio and as you can see, they are looking rather pitiful at this point.
Never fear, I’m back from vacation and it’s time to get these babies in the ground!
Is it Easy to Grow Blueberries?
First, let’s talk about the basics of what a blueberry plant/bush needs:
- Blueberries grow well in Zones 3-10
- Blueberries need full-sun and good drainage
- Blueberries require acidic soil, in the range of 4.9-5.3 pH
- Soil must be rich in organic matter
- Although self-pollinating, combining varieties will increase productivity and stagger harvest times.
- With shallow root systems, blueberries require “deep watering” consistently.
- Plant in cooler temperatures, Spring or Fall.
To be perfectly honest, I haven’t had much luck, in the past, growing blueberries here in Ohio. Blueberries require an acidic soil, with a pH of 4.9-5.3 to grow and produce well. Here’s my soil reading with my handy dandy digital pH meter…
So, herein lies the problem. 7 pH is way too high to grow blueberries to do well, this is why I haven’t been successful in the past.
Did I mention the heavy clay soil here in Ohio?
Yes, I knew that they needed acidic soil, but the mistake I kept making was that I didn’t modify the soil BEFORE putting the plants in. I was doing “damage control” once they were in the ground…..too late.
Although blueberries are self-pollinating, I purchased a variety of Northern high bush blueberry plants, for diversity and staggering harvest times. There are other varieties and I suggest you grow what works bests in your area….
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Preparing your plot is the first order of business!
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Blueberries need full sun and good drainage. I’m planting on a slight slope that gets sun all day long.
I would normally have dug this out with a shovel, however, I had knee replacement this year and so I decided to just use the roto-tiller. My plot is 5 x 25 or so.
Who doesn’t LOVE new garden gloves??? Found these on the sale rack at the farm store, first time using them. Aren’t they fun?
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So with my groovy new gloves, I removed all of the sod and grass clumps from my plot.
Preparing Soil for Blueberries
Since my pH is so far off, I’m going to be using more in the way of acid-producing compounds than might be necessary for your soil. Get a digital pH tester, don’t guess, and adjust as needed.
I’m using 2-3 cubit foot packages of peat moss. Peat moss, mixed with soil can help reduce pH, but doesn’t contain nutrients in and of itself. Well rotted compost is also added to my plot, which does contain nutrients and bio-organisms. Together, they are a great combination! Blueberries love peat moss!
Till the soil again to mix peat moss and compost well.
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Once again, since I have to reduce my soil’s pH by almost 2 full percentage points, I’m throwing a lot at this! If you are within a percentage point or so of 5.o pH, the peat moss and compost would probably be enough. It’s important to note that a gradual reduction of a soil’s pH is recommended.
I used what was left of an open bag of organic soil acidifier (or sulfur), about 3/4 of it and tilled it in as well.
Finally, before I plant the blueberries, I collected a few pine needles to place in the bottom of my holes. I’ve heard “yay” and “nay” about the effects of pine needles on a soil’s acidity levels, but since they’re organic and from my own trees, I’m throwing them in.
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I would suggest watering your plot and letting the soil absorb the amendments for as long as possible before planting, months if possible.
Soil pH doesn’t change overnight, it takes time. Lots of time. Keep adding amendments until you get the acid levels where the blueberries really like it!
When you’re ready to plant the blueberries, dig a hole twice the size of your root ball. This is important and you only get one chance to dig the hole!
Water your plants an hour or so before you remove them from their pots, to reduce shock.
Then place your plant (and pine needles, if you desire) in hole. I like to fill partially with water again and then pack loose soil all around plant, stepping on soil to pack down firmly. We don’t want any air holes down there!
Blueberry plants should be spaced about 4-5 feet part, depending upon what type you purchase.
All the plants are in! But wait, we have a couple of more steps to finish up!
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Blueberry Bush Pruning
Trim about 20% off of your existing plants to promote growth, as well as to remove any brown stems or leaves.
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Finally, we need to mulch our blueberry patch heavily with wood shavings, pine is preferred. DO NOT use cedar chips! This helps to hold in moisture and to contribute to acidity.
Ran out of pine shavings at this point, but I’ll continue to add more next time I’m at the farm store. Several inches of sawdust or shavings is ideal.
To keep the birds at bay, installing T-poles with netting around your plot wouldn’t be a bad idea!
Make sure that your new blueberry plants get consistent watering, they can dry out quickly with their shallow root systems. Continue to add compost, coffee grounds and egg shells to your soil and monitor your pH regularly! It’s a little more work to grow blueberries, but it’s so worth it!