How to Grow Blueberries
The term pH refers to the acidity or alkalinity of soil. The pH level is important to know because it affects a plant’s ability to obtain nutrients from the soil and each type of plant has different soil pH requirements. Soil pH should be between 4.5–4.8 for blueberry plants. A pH of 5.0 is too high!
Caution: Excess sulfur, resulting in a pH that is too low can be toxic! Do a soil test and apply the proper amount of sulfur. Do not guess.
Wood chips can be mixed into the soil prior to planting. Wood chips aerate the soil, increasing drainage and root penetration. This method is good for all types of soil, but most beneficial in heavier, silt loam or clay soils. Put a two to three-inch deep layer of wood chips over your planting row and incorporate it thoroughly into the top six to eight inches of soil. Then you’re ready to plant.
If you use peat moss, thoroughly mix 40 percent peat with 60 percent soil making sure the peat is thoroughly saturated with water before mixing. Place this mixture under and around each plant. Make sure the peat/soil mix is thoroughly covered with ½–1 inch of plain soil after backfilling the hole. This practice is to benefit the first 60-90 days of root development for strong plant establishment. Any peat not covered with soil will quickly wick moisture away from the plant and cause roots to dry out rapidly.
Because of a very shallow, fibrous root system, frequent, short-duration watering is required. Maintain moisture, and do not allow roots to dry out. Water one to three times per week, not every day. Drip irrigation placed between the mulch later is the healthiest and most effective method. Water is applied directly to the root zone where it is needed, while keeping moisture off the plants, thereby reducing disease pressure.
Blueberry plants cannot efficiently draw nutrients from the soil if the pH is not within a certain range. This leads to stressed or malnourished plants which will not produce the best crops possible and will be more susceptible to problems. For long-term, optimum success, measure pH levels every year or two and amend as needed.
First year: To avoid burning the roots, wait four to six weeks after planting before fertilizing, however, do not fertilize after July 1. Apply 1 oz of ammonium sulfate in a circular band around each plant.
Maintain a three to four-inch layer of aged wood chips as mulch to support water retention. Avoid treated or colored wood chips or mulch. Do not use Cedar or Black Walnut chips. Also avoid using leaves or an excessive amount of sawdust, as both can mat down and prevent moisture from reaching the plant's roots. Regular, manual weeding will be necessary. We highly recommend using drip irrigation under the mulch.
BLUEBERRIES QUICK REFERENCE
- Four to five feet between plants.
- Eight to twelve feet between rows.
- Be careful not to plant too deeply.
- Keep soil moist throughout the establishment period.
- For best results, amend pH levels before planting, however, plants can be successfully established without prior pH adjustments if you follow our instructions.
- Measure/maintain pH levels regularly for best success.
- Adding sulfur may be necessary to adjust pH: 4.5–4.8 this is very important.
- Wait four to six weeks after planting before fertilizing to avoid burning roots.
- Year One: one ounce of ammonium sulfate in a circular band around each plant.
- Following years: two ounces per plant at bloom time and again one month later.
- Don't fertilize after July.
- Avoid fertilizers containing potassium chloride.
- Mulch with three to four inches of wood chips.
- Avoid treated or colored bark mulch.
- Regular manual wedding is necessary.
- For best production, at least two blueberry varieties should be used for cross-pollination.